Christ the King Church was founded in 1940 to serve the African-American Catholics in High Point, and has since become a multi-ethnic parish celebrating both the diversity and unity of the Catholic faith and tradition. Then-Bishop Eugene F. McGuinness of Raleigh invited the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement of Graymoor, NY to staff the new mission in High Point in 1940. Father Bernardine Watson served as the first pastor, originally celebrating Mass in a funeral home. Through the generosity and perseverance of Father Watson and several benefactors, a clothing shop was acquired for use by the mission. While Mass continued to be celebrated there during much of 1941, the mission community members also turned their attention to building a new church and rectory on Kivett Drive. The new colonial-style church was dedicated by Bishop McGuinness Dec. 14, 1941.
During the 1940s and into the ’50s, the Christ the King parish community continued to grow. A school building and convent were built in 1949, and in 1950 the Franciscan Handmaids arrived from New York City to staff the school. The African-American communities, both Catholic and non-Catholic, of High Point, Thomasville and Greensboro were served by the new Christ the King School, which opened its doors to 50 students in September 1950. The friars continued their pastorate in High Point for the next several decades, cultivating a faith community that became continually more culturally diverse over time. A stained-glass window behind the church’s choir loft depicts that diversity, with Jesus surrounded by four individuals representing the African, Asian, European and Indian bloodlines that make up much of the parish community today.
Lowering enrollment, financial difficulties and the recalling of the sisters to New York forced Christ the King School to close in 1981. The diocesan office of education converted the school for use as a day care center, which began its operation in August 1981. That same year, Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement arrived at Christ the King Church to conduct the religious education program and other ministerial work, including assisting at the day care center. The center, still located on parish grounds, is now privately operated and continues to serve the area.
Upon the friars’ leaving High Point in 1991, Christ the King Church became a diocesan parish in December of that year. Fathers Martin Madison and John Hoover served the parish until December 1994, when Father Philip Kollithanath, was appointed to Christ the King Church. Assisting in the advancing growth of the Christ the King community have been many commissions and ministries focusing on the spiritual , educational, multicultural and evangelical dimensions of the parish. Parishioners gather to engage in Bible study , to learn English as a Second Language, to put their faith into action in the local community and to celebrate their ethnicity. A Hispanic center and bilingual religious education program provide sharing and learning opportunities for English and Spanish speaking parishioners, and the parish African-American Ministry offers outreach programs benefiting the local region. The Women’s Guild, Altar Guild, 55+ Club and Young & Spirited Group are active in parish and community services, and the evangelization commission provides for the spiritual needs of homebound parishioners through its Visitation Ministry. The community of Christ the King Church looks ahead to expansion and renovation projects that will accommodate the needs of a growing parish. One hundred and sixty-one households currently make up the parish registry.
Last Sunday we completed a five-week series on the topic of the Bread of Life from John’s gospel, chapter 6. Today’s Gospel brings up another concern related to our faith. Jesus criticized the Scribes and Pharisees: “You hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandments but cling to human traditions” (Mark 7:6-8).
The real problem of the Scribes and Pharisees is that they focused their energies on themselves as an expression of religion while they ignored the needs of those around them. As a result they became spiritually arrogant, hypocrites. They thought that they were perfect because of their exact fundamental following of the Jewish laws. They indeed did not have love in their hearts for others. Their method of following God could not bear fruit because they were more concerned with themselves than with finding God in others.
We would be the same if we are to use our energies to judge others, not to build up our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters. We should often ask ourselves this question “How are we to bear fruit in our Christian life?” This is important since we are called to conversion constantly in our life. And we should not forget that conversion is a process, not an emotional event. The beauty of our faith is that we profoundly recognize that we are human beings tempted to make bad as well as good choices and we are in need of having the Lord to renew and restore us. We believe that the Lord established the sacrament of reconciliation, not because we are so good but because we all have tendencies to be so bad.
Yes, what we are interested in is our relationship with the Lord. Being tied to God, that is what the word religion means. Being with God and reaching out to others with love and compassion is what we strive to do. That is true religion as St. James stated in the second reading: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
This Sunday we pray that we have courage to come to the Lord, the source of our life and to be with others, to sacrifice ourselves for others. If we do so, we are to take steps out of our own selfishness and leap into the Love of God.
May God bless us all! Happy Labor Day!