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Diocese to close Wilmington’s Christ Our King Parish in the fall

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Dialog Editor

Bishop Malooly announced at a May 17 meeting with parishioners of Christ Our King Church that the parish would be closed in the fall.

Christ Our King Church was founded by the Diocese of Wilmington 90 years ago. (Dialog file)
Christ Our King Church was founded by the Diocese of Wilmington 90 years ago. (Dialog file)

“It is always sad to announce the closure of a parish, especially one like Christ Our King,” Bishop Malooly said in a statement. “For 90 years, Christ Our King has been a part of the neighborhood and a tremendous part of the spiritual life of so many people. Unfortunately, the demographics have changed to the point that the remaining 115 Catholic families in the parish cannot support a church and related parish physical plant that was built to serve 2,000 families.”

Parish deficits in 14 of the last 15 years, averaging $96,000 a year, were also cited as reason for the closure.

Currently, an average of 157 people attend Christ Our King’s three weekend Masses, Bishop Malooly noted. “It’s come to the point where I think we need to make a transition.”

The bishop said there are eight parishes within three miles of Christ Our King, four of them within two miles. He said he would discuss with Oblate Father Joseph Brennan, Christ Our King’s pastor, the possibility of having neighboring pastors meet with Christ Our King parishioners to discuss parish life in their churches.

Joseph Corsini, the diocese’s chief financial officer, said at the meeting that the money banked for Christ Our King when the parish’s school building was sold has helped pay its bills over the years. Now, about $123,000 is left with a $93,000 deficit anticipated this fiscal year.

In addition, Corsini said, an estimate to repair the roof of the former convent is $250,000, and full restoration of the building for possible sale could run as high as $1 million.

Other normal maintenance work that has been delayed due to the financial situation could run as high as $250,000 Corsini added, noting the church still runs its original HVAC system.

Corsini said Christ Our King’s financial council report on the parish budget last November “highlighted the difference between what comes in and goes out. It’s come to a point where we need to make a tough decision.”

Msgr. Steven P. Hurley, vicar general and moderator of the curia, said that during the last seven years there have been seven first Communions, seven confirmations and 51 baptisms at Christ Our King.

“Numbers don’t tell the whole story,” Msgr. Hurley said, “but when you see these kinds of numbers, it shows the demographic story.”

Bishop Malooly praised the work of the Oblate priests who ministered at the parish during the last three years, especially the pastor, Father Brennan. The pastor received a standing ovation from parishioners when the bishop cited his leadership.

Father James J. Greenfield, provincial of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, said May 17 that he “totally” supports Bishop Malooly in the painful decision to close the parish.

“This parish is not viable,” Father Greenfield said, noting Father Brennan and his assistant priests worked hard to “revivify” the parish but “it didn’t happen.”

Marie and Jim Parks, “Kingers” for about 20 years, said they might start attending separate parishes after the closing.

Both have often attended a monthly breakfast at nearby St. Helena’s, but Marie, who has been active in Christ Our King’s St. Vincent de Paul Society, is thinking about attending Holy Child Church, while her husband Jim, who was hoping Christ Our King would be linked with St. Joseph’s Church on French Street, is thinking about going to St. Anthony’s.

Gwyn Miller, a Christ Our King parishioner for 32 years, said after the church meeting that “we expected it would be for a closing announcement.”

She called parishioners a happy and “very warm church. It’s such a family.”

Miller said her granddaughter’s non-Catholic husband has said, “he will only have their new baby baptized” by Father Brennan.

Una Muzzi, who has attended Christ Our King for 52 years, said that the closing left her heartbroken.

“I live north of Wilmington but still came here all the time and loved it. They’re a great community. They reach to everybody. Father Brennan has been super great. It’s very sad, but it can’t be helped. People who are coming here see what it’s like. We know it couldn’t be helped now.”