Christ the King Church is 50 - Catholic Courier

Christ the King Church is 50

Norbert Rappl said he most clearly saw the community at Christ the King Church when his daughter tragically fell off a balcony, seriously injuring her back.

Members immediately rallied around the family as they went through the recovery process, and that’s one of the reasons why Rappl has been attending the church at 445 Kings Highway South for a half-century.
“We just received so much support for that, that it was just a very, very caring community,” he said.

Rappl and other founding members of the church are helping Christ the King celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Upcoming anniversary events include a jubilee Mass at 11 a.m. Nov. 26 with Bishop Matthew H. Clark and a concert of Christmas music at 3 p.m. Dec. 17 that will feature the Irondequoit Chorale and a steel-drum ensemble. Details are being finalized for a music ministry “By Request” concert featuring liturgical music from the past 50 years,and a night of memory sharing is being planned that will feature former parish priests and founding parishioners. A 1950s-style sock hop, a gala dinner, and a 5K race and fitness walk on the streets around the parish have already taken place.

The parish was formed by Bishop James E. Kearney, who saw the transformation of Irondequoit from a quiet farming town into a suburban bedroom community. Bishop Kearney created Christ the King by redrawing the parish lines of four existing Irondequoit parishes: St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Margaret Mary, St. Salome and St. Cecilia.

The first members had the task of convincing those belonging to the other four churches to switch to Christ the King. Although there was some initial resistance, eventually the new church gained acceptance, parishioners said. Next, the church began a fund drive for its new building. One of the first fundraisers asked people to pledge $300 — a large sum at the time — to become a founding member of the parish.

During the Feast of Christ the King on Oct. 28, 1956, the parish celebrated its first Mass in a portion of the unfinished structure on its property that now houses the school’s classrooms, Rappl said. Parishioners sat in folding chairs on the concrete slab floor and kneeled on mats. Windows had not yet been installed, so the Mass was quite cold.

“But it was Mass, and that was the most important thing,” said founding member Arnold J. Eckert. “The rest of the things were temporary, but it was just the beginning.”

The first Mass in the auditorium of the still-uncompleted building was
during the Feast of the Resurrection, April 21, 1957. Members dedicated the school and church on Oct. 27, 1957, the Feast of Christ the King.
“It was a labor of love, because very quickly the people identified with the new parish,” Rappl said.

The church’s first priest was diocesan schools superintendent Msgr. Charles J. Mahoney, who during his tenure as superintendent oversaw the foundation of four new Catholic high schools, including the nearby Bishop Kearney High School. He died at age 55 nearly five years after he became Christ the King’s pastor. He was replaced by Father William Schifferli, who built a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught at the school.
In 1976, the church’s administration was turned over to the Congregation of St. Basil, which this year marks its 30th anniversary at Christ the King, said Basilian Father Norman Tanck, pastor. The Basilians were known for their educational work at Aquinas Institute and St. John Fisher College, and had long wanted to staff a diocesan church, Father Tanck said.

One of the first Basilians to lead the church was Father Thomas B. Mailloux, an Eastman School of Music graduate who encouraged the church to install a new organ and put in stained-glass windows. Members remember Father Mailloux for his custom of visiting parishioners at their homes.
Beatrice “Bea” Genese said she first started going to Christ the King when she moved to the area with her young family. She was very impressed, she said, when Msgr. Mahoney went to another church to witness the baptism of her middle child before Christ the King was built.
She remembers some of the first fundraisers and festivals that the church took part in, such as May Fair, which was first held across the street from its building. The church hosted Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, socials, a men’s club, the Rosary Society, and German, Polish and Italian nights.
One of the largest fundraisers conducted was in 1958 when two Cadillacs and a furnished model home in Irondequoit were raffled. The person who won the home decided to instead take the cash prize, and the church sold the home and its contents to cover the fundraiser costs.

This year, stories like that have been recorded in an anniversary DVD called “We remember, We celebrate and We Believe,” which is being sold for $10 as a parish fundraiser. The unscripted video includes interviews with founding members of the parish, video of some of the events happening at the church and a look at some of the church’s ministries.

“There are so many different facets in the community that we are involved in, that so many people didn’t know about them,” said June Bounds, a parishioner since the mid-1990s whose video-production company helped coordinate the project.

She said many people were surprised to learn that the church loans canes, crutches and walkers as part of its health ministry.
As Irondequoit parishes go through the pastoral-planning process, Eckert said it is fitting that Christ the King, which was split off from the four other parishes, is now exploring ways to collaborate with them.

Father Tanck said the church is unique in that its community is so strong and includes so many founding members who are still so active in the church.
“They are still active, and from the beginning they wanted a strong sense of community,” he said. “For a lot of people, this is their community.”

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