The celebration of Mass on July 19, 1864, marked the beginning of St. Charles Borromeo Parish. The parish has operated continuously since the mid-19th century.
The coming of the railroad to Indiana was important for the establishment of the Catholic Church. Many Irish, German, and other European Catholic immigrants began to settle in the Bloomington area in about 1850 to build the railroad.
Originally from France, the Rev. Charles J. Maugin pf Crawfordsville became the visiting pastor in 1864. He was appointed to the Greencastle mission to visit the faithful via the Monon Railroad to stations in Bainbridge, Carpentersville, Putnamville, Cloverdale, Quincy, Gosport, Stinesville, Elletsville, Bloomington, and Bedford.
Under his direction, the parish purchased a church for $600 on the southeast corner of Fourth and Madison streets and named it after St. Charles Borromeo. This church had been built by the Methodists in 1826 and sold to the Baptists in the 1860s.
On January 1, 1865, the congregation of St. Charles became independent of Greencastle when the proper books of record were duly provided and kept by the pastor.
The Rev. Peter Julius Clement of Greencastle succeeded Father Maugin. To provide for a resident pastor, the congregation built a rectory on the church lot in 1868.
On November 4, 1868, the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, the newly ordained Rev. Henry H. Kessing became the first resident priest. The Rev. Leopold M. Burkhardt followed Father Kessing as pastor serving from July 29, 1877, until fall 1879.
By now the old church, which had served three different faiths for more than half a century, was unsafe for further use. Members of the congregation razed the building with their own hands to make way for a new church.
The cornerstone of the new church was laid on June 16 and dedicated September 12, 1878. The 35-by-60 foot, Gothic-style church was built of brick and stone for $5,600. Father Burkhardt celebrated the first Mass on December 4, and St. Charles Borromeo was named the patron saint.
The first endeavor of the new pastor was to secure a site on the East Third and Dunn streets for a combination church and school. A rectory and convent for the Sister of Providence also were planned.
After the new church was dedicated on June 25, 1922, St. Charles School opened for the school year 1922-23 with an enrollment of 75 pupils from grades one through six. Two more grades were added: grade seven in 1923 and grade eight in 1924.
The Rev. Paul A. Deery was appointed pastor of St. Charles Church on September 1, 1927. In 1928, he organized the Indiana University Chapter of the National Newman Club with more than 200 students affiliated.
On April 10, 1938, the Rev. Thomas J. Kilfoil began 36 years of service as pastor. At this time, the congregation grew to 1,000 souls with more than 600 Catholic students also attending services.
To accommodate the ever-increasing congregation, a new church was needed. The present 15-acre site of St. Charles Borromeo Parish was purchased in 1950. Dedication ceremonies for the new church were held May 5, 1952.
The current building housing St. Charles School was completed in 1957. That year the students gathered up their books and supplies and marched along Third Street to their new school.
The Rev. Robert Borchertmeyer, an assistant pastor, was appointed co-pastor on July 5, 1973, until Monsignor Kilfoil retired on July 8, 1975. Father Borchertmeyer served as pastor until July 10, 1985.
During this time, St. Paul Catholic Center was established in 1969 to meet the needs of IU students. In 1970 St. John the Apostle Catholic Church was built to serve the Catholic community on the west side of Bloomington.
The Rev. Ronald M. Ashmore was named pastor on July 10, 1985, and celebrated his first Mass at St. Charles on the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. A capital campaign was conducted in 1990 for the maintenance and improvement of the parish buildings and grounds.
The parish also received two generous bequests in 1992-93 from the estates of Frances Dunn and Cecile Waldron. The Dunn-Waldron Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo Parish Empowerment is administered by the Catholic Community Foundation of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
With these funds, the former rectory was renovated to become the Parish Center, which contains administrative offices for the pastor and staff. A house located near the parish was purchased and refurbished to become the present rectory. The church also was air conditioned for the first time.
St. Charles again offered grade seven in 1992 and grade eight in 1993, which were discontinued in the late 1960s. Kindergarten, which was first offered in 1980, was expanded to an all-day program in 1989. The preschool opened in 1990. The daycare ministry, independent of the school, started in 1993.