On March 18, 1927, Archbishop John Joseph Glennon appointed Father Daniel J. Ryan to establish a new parish in University City to serve the growing number of Catholics in the community. That parish would be dedicated to Christ the King. Father Ryan celebrated the first Mass on Easter Sunday in his apartment on Amherst Avenue. Property on Balson Avenue was purchased in May and ground was broken in July, 1927, for a building which would house both the church and a school, as well as living quarters for the pastor.
Father Ryan hired the Religious Sisters of Mercy, an order founded in Dublin in the 19th Century, to staff the new school. When the school opened in 1928, there were forty-eight students in two classrooms. By 1935, two wings had been added to the school building and the enrollment reached 185 students.
The young parish continued to grow and the need for a separate church building became evident. Ground was broken for the new church and rectory on May 2, 1940 and Archbishop Glennon laid the cornerstone in September of that year. The new church was dedicated on May 21, 1941. Our Romanesque church is based on the plan of the Roman basilica which was a public meeting place in ancient Rome, with a strong Hibernian influence.
The church was renovated in the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council to accommodate the changes in the Liturgy. In 2002, the church was renovated again. The altar rail was removed and the marble used to create a new baptismal font and a new ambo. The choir loft was refitted to better serve the musicians and made safer by the addition of a higher and more attractive railing. The addition of a ramp off the front portico and the opening of some pews were made to accommodate those with disabilities.
Msgr. Ryan retired in 1963 at the age of 81. He died in 1973. He was succeeded by Rev. Edwin L. Holle who was forced to resign the following year because of poor health. Rev. Raymond C. Schuermann was appointed pastor and served Christ the King for the next twenty-four years.
It was up to Father Schuermann to carry out the plans for the new school mandated by the Building Commission of the Archdiocese. The new building, which was completed in 1966, blends with the church and rectory. The building houses ten classrooms including pre-school, a science lab, a library, a gymnasium, a computer lab, a cafeteria with complete institutional kitchen and a large hall for parish events. The entire facility is centrally air-conditioned.
It was during Father Schuermann’s tenure that Christ the King underwent the changes of Vatican II and University City experienced racial integration. White flight had an effect on the parish. Decreasing enrollments forced other Catholic Schools that served the community to close. Christ the King survived despite financial problems. Father Schuermann died Nov. 1, 1988. He was succeeded by Rev. Michael J. Sheridan.
Father Sheridan brought the parish onto sounder financial footing than it had been for a long time. He oversaw much needed renovation to the rectory. His greatest legacy to Christ the King was the establishment of the superior music program that we have today. Father Sheridan left in 1993 to become pastor at Immacolata Parish in Richmond Heights. He was elevated to bishop in 1997. He now serves as Bishop of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, CO.
Rev. John Ditenhafer served as pastor from July,1993 through June, 2005. During his time at Christ the King two neighboring parishes St. Catherine of Siena to the north and St. Patrick to the west were dissolved. The eastern portion of St. Patrick’s and all of the territory that encompassed St. Catherine’s was added to Christ the King. As a result the church sits in the extreme southeastern corner of this vast expanse. He led the effort that resulted in the renovation of the church in 2002. Father Ditenhafer retired in 2005.
Rev. Timothy Foley served as pastor from July, 2005 through June, 2015. During his time here, he put the parish on sound financial footing. One of his first tasks was overseeing the hiring of a new principal for the school. He encouraged parish participation in Christian outreach programs (i.e. Room At The Inn). Fr. Tim maintained the upkeep of aging facilities with work on the church roof, windows, and church steps and a major rebuild of the Wicks Pipe Organ.
Monsignor Mike Turek came to Christ the King in June, 2015. We look forward to the blessings Msgr. Mike will bring.