About Christ The King Detroit
In 1927 when Christ the King was founded, Grand River Avenue cut through farmland and wilderness from Redford to the town of Brighton. Fr. Leo Gaffney was sent to found a new parish at the end of the streetcar line. On Christmas Day, the first mass was offered in Redford High School.
About 300 families joined the parish, and we built our first church in 1928. A year later, the bottom fell out of the world economy and we could hardly pay the light bill, much less the bank loan. We had to take out a second loan just to pay the interest on the first.
When Fr. Joseph Marshke arrived in 1932, it is said that he uttered a prayer of desperation over the unfinished building, surrounded by frog ponds. The parishioners resolved to build a temporary chapel for Sunday Mass, so that plans could go forward to establish a school. They built the new church "brick by brick, with their own hands." Those first buildings still stand, now incorporated into the school.
The school opened on September 12, 1938, but the building was not finished. Classes met in the four corners of the gymnasium. Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters from Monroe rose to the challenge of teaching 134 squirming students over the noise of road crews paving Trinity. Sr. Ann Fix, IHM, founding principal of the school, served until 1944.
In addition to teaching in our own school, the sisters and parish volunteers reached out to the larger community. They organized a catechism brigade to teach boys at the Wayne County Training School for Delinquent Youth in Northville. The tradition of service to the community is a legacy that we sustain to the present day.
People of all ages participated in softball teams, circuses, bazaars, drama and choral groups. In the fall of 1947, with a new wing of the school partly constructed, Fr. Marshke became ill and died. The new pastor, Fr. Henry Koelzer led the parish as we completed building the school, convent, church, social hall, rectory and parish offices. Fr. Koelzer's memory is preserved in the hall named in his honor.
In January, 1968, Msgr. Arthur Karey was installed as pastor. The Second Vatican Council had just ended, and for the next decade there would be unbelivable liturgical renewal in a Church that had prided itself on being "always the same." As in all other Catholic parishes, a variety of committees and commissions sprouted and blossomed, preparing for a harvest of lay leadership in the Church.
This inclusive approach to parish ministry is still the hallmark of Christ the King. We were one of the first to have a lay School Board, and our Christian Service Commission had a reputation city-wide for relating the parish to the surrounding community.
There were human relations groups, block clubs, alliances with neighboring Protestant churches, and an ecumenical food program.
In the summer of 1980, Fr. Victor Clore was assigned as pastor to Christ the King along with Fr. Kenneth Kaucheck as his Associate. A year later, the pastoral staff was expanded to include religious sisters: Sr. Fiorentina D'Amore, HVM, Sr. Ellen Rinke, IHM, and Sr. Patricia Guthrie, IHM, as the school Principal. In subsequent years, the parish and school ministerial staff included married lay persons as we accepted the mission to "empower the laity." Though Fr. Clore and Sr. Fiorentina remain a part of the parish staff today, our school principal has changed. A young lay woman who began as a teacher at Christ the King in 1973 took over as Principal in 1992. Mrs. Margaret Pic-Kell was a tremendous asset to our Christ the King team and we were truly saddened by her sudden death in 1999. For the last eight years, we have been blessed with a vibrant, enthusiastic Principal in the person of Mrs. Rosanne Jodway.
In a small but vibrant parish, the co-workers in the ministry get accustomed to wearing more than one hat. Fr. Clore is now not only pastor but is teaching at several local Universities. Sr. Fiorentina is a "general practitioner" of several aspects of ministry, including Religious Education and Evangelization. Mrs. Andi Kovach who manages our parish office also coordinates our Christian Service activities. The parish is smaller today than in previous years, but parishioners participate even more fully in worship, faith formation, decision-making and social service. Today Christ the King is breaking new ground by forming a "collaborative ministry" that crosses cultural, vicariate and geographic boundaries. Our relationship with St. Fabian in Farmington Hills serves to enrich the worship and outreach experience of both parishes and while it is still a work in progress, we hope that it can be a model for the future.
Christ the King still faces challenges with courage and optimism, leading the way into the Twenty-First Century Catholic Church. You may have seen the "portrait" of Jesus that is composed of dozens of small pictures of many people. That picture is aptly named "In His Image." This parish is like that. All these faces of Christ the King Parishioners make up the face of Christ in this Community.
Fr. Victor Clore, Pastor