‘Kingers’ reunite at Christ Our King Church for bittersweet closing Mass at Wilmington parish
The following is the text of Bishop Malooly’s homily at the closing Mass of Christ Our King Church, on the closing of the parish on Oct. 30.
(See photos by Don Blake, below the homily text.)
My first exposure to Christ Our King parish was in 1958. In September, I joined three of the recent Kinger graduates – John Grady, Vinnie Canatelli and Fran Kane — in the seminary in Baltimore. They didn’t carry through to the priesthood but each became an outstanding Catholic gentleman. John Grady is here today. He has been a successful lawyer and a trustee for many years at Holy Cross Parish in Dover.
My first week here as diocesan bishop in 2008, I joined them and their classmates for their 50th anniversary party.
In December 1958, I met your third pastor, Bishop Michael Hyle, then Coadjutor Bishop of Wilmington. He would visit his family in Baltimore after Christmas Masses for several days. I was the phone-sitter at my home parish where he would stay during his visits. We became friends and he would greet me as a high school student when he visited his own seminarians at St. Charles College in Catonsville. Four years later in 1962 he was one of the three bishops who consecrated my uncle, Bishop Austin Murphy, who had been appointed auxiliary bishop of Baltimore. They had been good friends for many years.
Today at this Mass I used the crozier, which he used during his years here as pastor and as Bishop of Wilmington.
At the conclusion of the 1925 Holy Year, Pope Pius IX, to counter what was becoming a very secular society, created the feast of Christ the King. Within several months of that, this parish was established by the bishop and entrusted to Monsignor [John J.] Lynch, who would be pastor for 29 years. His first request as the pastor was that the name not be Christ the King but to personalize it and make it Christ Our King.
There is certainly sadness today, especially for the small group of parishioners who have continued to worship here right up to the present time. Their own faith and the faith of so many of you who are Kingers was established by your families here in the 9th ward over 90 years by many priests, by 151 Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill. During the 71 years of the school history the result has been well over 100 religious vocations from this parish.
As you know, better than I, this was the parish in the city for many decades. When you look at the history of Christ Our King Parish, the parish excelled in everything – spirit, faith, service, athletics. That spirit is still alive and will stay alive in the hearts of all those who were touched in some way by this parish.
In moving to the suburbs, your faith developed here enhanced those communities that you joined. Kingers have been a significant resource over the decades and the new parishes developed in the suburbs of the city of Wilmington.
In recent years the one thing that has continued with the small and faithful group of parishioners here is the generosity and consistent outreach to the poor. You have done this through the parish St. Vincent de Paul Society and through the ministry of the Sullivan Food Pantry. Both ministries continue to thrive here today and will continue into the future.
You also, in recent years, have been most generous to the Annual Catholic Appeal, which primarily reaches out to the poor and needy. You are usually the first parish over goal in the diocese.
But let me return to our feast today. We celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Probably in 1926, when it was first celebrated universally in the Catholic Church, we were the only parish with that name.
We know Jesus is not a distant king – who wants to be our shepherd – in the first reading from 2nd Samuel we hear how David is called to shepherd his people – the Lord said, “shepherd my people Israel” — and they anointed him king of Israel.
Over the years you have supported your shepherds here and their staffs. Each of us in our own way is to be a shepherd for others also. Through our baptismal call we are challenged to witness the faith, to talk about Jesus Christ to others, to lead them to Christ. Likewise, we are to be the disciples, to walk through life as if we were walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and responding to people as he did during his public ministry.
St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians reminds his brothers and sisters to give thanks to the Father who has made them fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
Today, we give thanks to the Father for his initiative in providing his Son to redeem us. We also give thanks for this initiative in inspiring past leaders to establish this parish community and to follow faithfully and develop it so well.
Finally, in today’s Gospel from St. Luke, we hear one of my favorite Scripture conversations: The good thief, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
Jesus is all about mercy and forgiveness. There is no condemnation of the thief in his tone.
Pope Francis has made clear during this entire year that same theme. In the last moments of life, the good thief clings to the crucified Lord. For us it is so important not to wait until the last minute to ask for the Lord to remember us. Reach out to the Lord every day. Stay connected with him every day. Have a conversation with him each day.
Finally, today we gather around this eucharistic table for the last time. Most of you here have found eucharistic tables over the years in moving to other locations. The final gift that we should give in honor of those who have led us, walked with us, and part of our parish community, part of what was our school community over the past 90 years is to be sure that we continue to gather around the eucharistic table.
Most of you over the years have already found new eucharistic tables; for some, you might still be searching. Possibly some of you have lost that connection even though you gather with us today to remember the past.
One final great tribute to all of those who found their strength in leading and living out in this parish would be to commit to maintain that closeness to the Lord who always invites us with open arms to come to this table to celebrate the Eucharist. Over the years it was celebrated gloriously here at Christ our King. During those same years it also was celebrated at times in communist prisons, in war zones, in areas where people were persecuted for doing so. The Lord was and is always present.
Let us once again be thankful for all that has been part of Christ Our King Parish and School. And let us stay committed to that Lord who has made all so proud of the heritage you have shared.