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Delphos, Ohio grew up along the Miami Erie Canal because the town's founder, an immigrant German Catholic priest named John Bredeicke, had the foresight to buy the land the town sits on before the canal was even built. Bredeicke formed St. John the Evangelist parish, held the first mass in 1844 and built the town's first church. 180 years later this is the magnificent face of the parish.

“It's one of those places where your kid can jump on a bike and ride down to the city pool and be with his friends and neighbors,” says St. John's priest Dennis Walsh.

St. John the Evangelist church deserves its listing on the National Registry of Historic Places. It's magnificent ivory colored vaulted ceiling lords over a stunning sanctuary embellished with beautiful murals, all bathed in red and green hues streaming down from stained glass windows. This is one of the most magnificent houses of worship in 21 Country but it's more than a pretty face.

“As a Catholic community we're pretty much a central part of this community,” says Walsh, “whether it's the business community. Really the parish community is the heart of this civic community.”

Father Walsh says the church's deep involvement in the community began generations ago expressed by the building of St. John's school, today one of just two remaining parish based schools in the Toledo Diocese. Thousands of students graduated St. John's over the years, each required to perform charitable works as part of their education, keeping their church relevant.

“There's a big commitment to taking care of those who are on the margins of society,” says Walsh, “not only the parish community but also the Delphos community at large.”

A thrift store and food kitchen remain part of St. John's response to the changing needs of its congregation, and certainly part of its unwritten charter penned nearly two centuries ago by a farsighted man who worked to change the world, and left us a stunning calling card while doing it. This is Eric Olson reporting.

Eric Olson

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