Catholic Schools in the Lima Community
For nearly 150 years, Catholic education in Lima has played an integral part in the spiritual, academic and personal development of students in our community. This opportunity for growth and learning has been provided because of the vision, generosity and commitment of dedicated priests, sisters, lay faculty and caring parish families. It is important to look back and respect the vision, hard work and sacrifices made over the years that have been so instrumental in making our Catholic schools a source of pride in our community.
The city of Lima, OH was officially founded in 1842 as the center of government for Allen County and quickly established itself as a railroad center. Much of the muscle for building these railroads was supplied by Irish Catholic immigrants. In the 1850’s, a pocket of Irish Catholic families, residing in the north end of Lima, established the first Catholic congregation called Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Fr. Mathias Kreusch of Minster, OH was responsible for this Catholic community. He rode his horse 25 miles to Lima each month to offer a mass held in a home located on North West Street, just a few blocks north of the present St. Rose parish. Soon after, Fr. Kreusch began raising funds for a permanent church and in 1858 the first Catholic Church in Lima, Ohio was completed and named after St. Rose of Lima, Peru.
The middle of the 19th century saw increasing Catholic interest in education in tandem with increasing Catholic immigration. To serve their growing communities, Catholics began opening their own schools. Lima’s Catholic community followed this national trend by opening St. Rose School and staffing it with two lay teachers in 1865. The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary assumed teaching duties there in 1868. In 1888, a 3 story brick school was built next to the church on North West Street. 1906 saw the addition of a brand new high school that included a gymnasium and even a swimming pool. The building was considered state of the art and much of it is still in use today. In 1954, a brand new two story school was dedicated.
In 1899, the Bishop granted permission for 72 Catholic families to begin a new Catholic parish in south Lima. They purchased property on South Main St and named it St. Johns the Evangelist Church. Fr. Fredrick Rupert was named the first pastor and he helped to lay the cornerstone of the new Catholic Church and school in 1901. In the beginning, masses were held on the third floor of the new school. In 1910, St. Johns began the construction of a new church. From 1912 until 1924, masses were held in the basement of the new church while construction continued above. On Thanksgiving Day, 1924, the first mass was held in the present St. Johns Church. A new school building was built and dedicated in 1959 and operated until its closing in 1973.
The Catholic community of Lima continued to grow with many Catholics settling in the north end of town. With St. Rose Parish and school bulging at the seams, Bishop Shrends of Toledo asked the Redemptorists order of Priests if they would be interested in beginning a new parish in north Lima. The Redemptorists agreed and in 1916 the first parish mass was held in the Klaus family home located on the present St. Gerard Property. On July 15, 1917 the cornerstone for the St. Gerard Parish church and school was laid. Fr. John Mare was named the first pastor and the Ursuline Order of Sisters as faculty. In 1953, the St. Gerard Parish laid the cornerstone for a new High School building.
In the 1950’s, following a nationwide trend to centralize high schools, Bishop George J. Rehring directed the three Catholic high schools (St. Rose, St. Johns and St. Gerard) to consolidate their parish schools into one central high school. The consolidation began in 1956 with St. Rose and St. Johns high schools merging. St. Gerard High School, having recently completed building a new high school was not eager to join the others and remained independent. The new high school was named Lima Central Catholic High School and housed students on two campuses, the former St. Rose High School building and the former St. Gerard High School building. Sister Mary Patrice was named the first principal. The nickname for the new school was the Lancers and their colors were red and gold. That first year, St. Gerard High School played LCC in a basketball game and St. Gerard came away with the win.
In LCC’s second year of existence, Bishop Rehring appointed Fr. E. C. Herr as the new principal and ordered St. Gerard High School to join the consolidation. Bringing these 3 separate communities into one high school presented many difficult challenges. Controversies arose over everything including the location, school colors and the nickname for the athletic teams. Merging three schools that had previously been intense rivals into one true community would not have been possible without the strong leadership of Fr. Herr. He quickly announced changes and put his imprint on the new high school changing the name to Lima Central Catholic High School. While traveling in the southwest on vacation during the summer before he began as principal, Fr. Herr bought an Indian blanket and became enamored with its art work. The scarlet and turquoise colors on the blanket became LCC’s official colors and the Thunderbird woven into its fabric was the inspiration for the athletic nickname of the new high school.
Fr. Herr met every challenge with his indomitable style. The short, fiery principal became legendary for his foresight, vision, temper and compassion for those less fortunate; especially troubled students. He was a one man show handling virtually every duty from principal to dean of students to athletic director. Fr. Herr demanded excellence at every level. He insisted that LCC offer a first class academic program while also demanded the same level of excellence in the areas of arts, music and athletics. His vision was for Lima Central Catholic to be recognized as a truly great Catholic high school.
Initially, classes were held on two campuses with the freshmen and sophomores attending school at St. Gerard and the juniors and seniors attending school at the St. Rose location. A capital campaign began with the goal of building a brand new Catholic high school in Lima. The location for this high school was also controversial; St. Gerard parishioners favored a north end location, St. Rose parishioners favored a central city sight and St. Charles parishioners favored a property on Lima’s west side. Ultimately, property was purchased on South Cable road, just a few blocks south of the new St. Charles parish. In 1960, the new school was opened and just two years later two additional wings were added to the growing school. Fr. Herr dedicated the school and our chapel, the heart of the school, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima; as depicted in the chapel’s stained glass windows. The statue of Our Lady of Fatima was dedicated and placed in the front of the new school. It now resides in front of the new athletic convocation center which was named after Fr. Herr.
Fr. Herr led Lima Central Catholic for twenty five years until failing health forced him to step down. He continued to support the school from his home, located next door to the school, until his death on October 18, 1986. Fr. Herr’s spirit, drive for excellence and call for resiliency live on and are evident in the success of our students, past and present.
In 1980, Dan Rupert was named Principal of Lima Central Catholic and guided the school until his resignation in December of 1997. Rupert was the first lay principal to guide LCC and continued to emphasize three areas of importance: a strong religious curriculum, academic excellence and a school community where discipline and respect were emphasized. Upon his resignation, Bill Clark, a very popular and long time faculty member, was lured from retirement to handle the principal’s duties until a successor could be named.
In the spring of 1998, Fr. Dennis Hartigan was introduced to the students and faculty as their new principal and would remain at the helm until 2004. Fr. Hartigan was instrumental in introducing numerous changes to Lima Central Catholic including block scheduling, college on campus and a new, stricter dress code for students. He was also responsible for an ambitious capital campaign that resulted in the construction of a new science and technology wing and athletic and convocation center.
In 2004, Fr. Todd Dominique took the reins of the school for two years. He was followed by Richard Mitterholzer who was hired in 2006. In 2011, Walt Klimaski was hired by the LCC Board of Trustees as President. The following year, the board acted to change the administrative structure of the school to a President/Principal model where the President acts as the head of the school and works closely with the board to bring the school forward in the areas of strategic direction and development, while the Principal handles most day-to-day operations, including academics. At that time, Dr. Kathleen Herpich was hired to assume the new role of Principal.
Today, Lima Central Catholic High School boasts a population of approximately 320 students with a diverse student body from 8 local school districts. While the majority of students are Catholic, Lima Central Catholic continues its long tradition of welcoming students of every faith.