About Our Parish
Christ the King Parish was founded on August 31, 1961.
On August 31, 1960, Bishop Martin McNamara founded Christ the King Parish with 300 families. Fr. James Gilbride was appointed its founding pastor, and established the rectory at 1540 South Highland Avenue on the corner at 16th street.
Father Gilbride founded a Holy Name Society and Council of Catholic Women, who threw a shower for him to furnish the kitchen of the new rectory. The new pastor served for only 72 days when he died suddenly from a strep infection, the morning after attending a CCW meeting.
Fr. John Mayer was appointed pastor just before the Feast of Christ the King, which used to be celebrated on the last Sunday in October, rather than the end of November as it is today. The new pastor was just in time for the first parish dance, held at a nearby firehouse. The men of the parish presented a fashion show as entertainment.
Initially, Sunday Mass was celebrated at Glenbard East High School, and on weekdays at the rectory. During Fr. John Mayer's pastorate, the people of Christ the King raised $350,000 and built the first church and school. The church later was used as the school gym and parish social center.
Christ the King School opened in 1963 with only four grades, third through sixth grade. One grade was then added each year until we had a full grade school. The Order of Felician Sisters staffed our school, beginning in 1963 until the early 1980s. Their convent was at 1520 S. Highland Ave., which later was used by the Ray Graham Association for special needs children and adults.
One of Christ the King’s early parishioners was Mike Ditka, who built a home in the 1960s in the subdivision just south of Glenbard East High School and lived there about five years. The new Chicago Bears player and his wife were active parishioners and helped with many fundraising projects. Ditka and teammate Johnny Morris served as announcers at a parish fashion show and luncheon sponsored by the CCW at Elmhurst Country Club. Several of the Bears’ wives were models, as well as Ditka’s 3-year -old son, Michael, who paraded down the runway.
A collection of ‘firsts’
The first baptism at Christ the King was to welcome Kimberly Ann Kohler as
a member of the church on Sept. 4, 1960.
On May 30, 1963, the initial First Communion class of 35 students received the
Eucharist, followed by a class of 44 students on Oct. 26.
The first wedding at Christ the King was the marriage of Arlene Sabadoth
and Ronald Ceasario in the parish rectory on Feb. 4, 1961 with Father John
The first Confirmation class received the sacrament and became soldiers of
Christ on June 9, 1963 with Auxiliary BishopVincent Brizgys presiding.
Soon after the school and first church building were completed in 1963, water problems began to plague the new complex when it rained. Father John Mayer and subsequent pastors tried many solutions without great success until 2007 with construction of our new Parish Life Center and appropriate grading of the property. The school children often referred to the large lake that formed in our parking lot and playground when it rained heavily, as “Lake Louise” after the first Principal, Sister Mary Louise.
While Father John Mayer was pastor, Father James Lynn was named as the first associate pastor. When Father Lynn was transferred, Father John Prello succeeded him and spearheaded the addition of first- and second-grade classes to expand the grade school to include all eight grades. The new primary grades attended class in a new addition, which was later used as the school library.
When Fr. John Mayer died in 1967, Fr. Frederick Golden was appointed pastor. Under his leadership, the people of Christ the King paid off the parish mortgage, despite a fire that nearly burned down the first rectory on Highland Avenue in the late 1960s. Associate pastors under Father Mayer included Father Edward Stefanich and then Father John Ryan.
In 1975 when Father Frederick Golden became ill, Father John Ryan was appointed administrator and then was named Christ the King’s fourth pastor in 1976. During that time of transition, Robert Schoenstene came to serve as a deacon while studying for the priesthood and was ordained in 1975. Father Bob celebrated his First Mass at Christ the King and afterwards, more than 1,200 parishioners came to a pot-luck to celebrate the occasion.
Soon after Father John Ryan was named pastor in 1976, he shared the rectory on Highland Avenue and 16th Street with the newly ordained Father Robert Schoenstene. A third priest moved in, Father Felix Perel, a French missionary priest, who came to study at the nearby National College of Chiropractic.
Tight quarters in the rectory and a request from the bishop prompted construction of a new rectory on Main Street. Father Felix later was sent to serve in Africa once he completed his studies. Other priests assigned as assistants at Christ the King have included Fathers Tony Taschetta, Donald Craig, Victor Reuden, Ambrose German, OSF, Michael Intoccia and John Denenrlein through the 1980s.
The grounds of Christ the King parish didn’t always look like a park. Much of the 10-acre tract wasn’t landscaped until after Father John Ryan was named pastor in 1976. Father Ryan teamed with parishioner Al Pospischil to develop the park-like setting. Pospischil built the grotto near the school, and it was dedicated with an outdoor Mass.
After the rectory was finished, Father Ryan began plans to build a new church next door on Main Street. A pledge drive with a goal of $850,000 was launched. Designed by the architectural firm of Arthur Kefer and Associates, the new church was dedicated by Bishop Joseph Imesch on Dec. 19, 1981.
In 1979, Philip Gavin was ordained as the parish’s first permanent deacon and served the parish until his retirement in 1998. Deacon Phil soon was joined by Richard Yarshen, Thomas Grady and Harry Pusateri. Other deacons who followed are John Lamon, Edward Zimmerman, Frank Lillig, Wayne Storrs, Fred Francl and John Freund. Our newest deacon at Christ the King is Peter Robinson, who was ordained on Aug. 22, 2010.
In 1988, Fr. Michael Valente was appointed pastor, and he served until 1994. During his pastorate, a kindergarten addition was built onto our school, which survived the great freeze of 1994 that shut down the school for six weeks. We received a new main altar, which Bishop Roger Kaffer dedicated on the occasion of our parish's 35th anniversary.
Fr. David Hankus was assigned associate pastor in 1989 and served for eight years before becoming pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in Bolingbrook.
In 1992, a young Lombard woman gave birth to quadruplets. One of our parishioners knew of the birth and asked for help for the family. A group of 22 women and a few very good men at Christ the King volunteered to help the mother. For several years these wonderful people went to her home five days a week, two in the morning and two in the afternoon and provided loving hands helping with the four boys. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were baptized in our church Nov. 7, 1993. It was a beautiful example of Christian service by the people of Christ the King Church.
Father James Dvorscak was assigned as pastor in 1994. Under his administration, the parish debt was again paid off, and many improvements were made to the parish buildings and grounds. The church was renovated with new pews, new carpeting and a more prominent tabernacle. Father Jim started plans to build a new parish center around 2000, before he was assigned as pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Mokena in 2002.
Father Jim developed a good relationship with the Rabbi at Congregation Etz Chaim through our parish’s participation in the PADS program. Christ the King members would provide a meal and staff the overnight shelter the third Sunday of the month at the synagogue. During a renovation project at Etz Chaim, Father Jim allowed the Congregation to use our church for celebrating their high holiday services. On one occasion Father Jim even sang in Hebrew at Congregation Etz Chaim. Our parish was invited one Friday night for Sabbath.
Father Peter Jarosz was appointed pastor in June, 2002. Father Peter served the parish for 12 years along with Deacons Frank Lillig, Wayne Storrs, Fred Francl and Peter Robinson. Father Bob continues assisting us on weekends while serving as a professor of Old Testament studies at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein. Father John Guiney, who was hardly retired, also helped during the week and on some weekends until just a few years before he died in 2014.
Fr. Peter continued planning and raising funds for the Parish Life Center project, which first was envisioned as a building behind the rectory. As the project evolved under the Building Commission’s leadership over seven years, a two-story addition was designed for the east side of the church, eliminating the steep climb from the parking lot below. Ground was broken on Palm Sunday in 2006.
The $3.1 million project, designed by Plunkett Raysich Architects LLP from Milwaukee, Wis., added 7,000 square feet of new space and 11,000 square feet of renovated space. An elevator, entrances on two levels, new restrooms and a large kitchen were included. Extensive site work was completed the following year to regrade and replace the parking lot, along with revising the traffic pattern and creating the storm water storage area and wetland. The new Parish Life Center was dedicated in May, 2007.
In June, 2014, Bishop Daniel James Conlon determined an exchange of pastors would be beneficial. He assigned Father Peter to St. Ann’s Parish in Channahon and brought Father Jeff Stoneberg to serve as Christ the King’s new pastor. Father Jeff was formally installed by Bishop Conlon at a Mass on Aug. 31.
In 2010, we had approximately 1,450 families at "The Church on a Hill, in a Park, where Christ is King."
As the parish buildings and grounds took shape, a number of parish organizations were founded and flourished.
About four years after the CCW was started when the parish began, the tradition of Martha’s Circle was introduced to provide a luncheon after funerals. Women of the parish donated salads, desserts and side dishes and served the meal with the main dish provided by the council.
The White Elephant Sale was introduced in 1970, along with a cookie walk and craft sale at Christmas. An outdoor event with kids’ games, bingo and hot dogs led to the start of the first Italianfest in the mid-1970s with tasty fried bread and Italian beef sandwiches with peppers. The first fest netted $6,000, which was used to finish the kitchen of the new rectory on Main Street in the late 1970s.
Heavy rains the first year of Italianfest in June prompted organizers to move back the date until Aug. 15 the following year, and dryer weather was heaven-sent. As the festival grew, some years up to $35,000 was made to help with parish expenses.
Other notable CCW projects were the planting of the rose garden in honor of the pro-life movement, the Living Rosary in October and childcare provided during Mass. The council also helped with the St. Joseph’s Table, a meal to raise money for the poor held on the Sunday closest to St. Joseph’s feast day on March 19. The event began in 1989 with a procession after the noon Mass from the church to the school gym, which was set up with tables of food donated by parishioners.
Two of Christ the King’s earliest music ministers were Ernie Burmeister, who started the choir, and Margaret Rehmer, church organist. In 1985, Sharon Roberts supervised the adult choir for the 25th anniversary Mass. Jim and Patty Gorski led the guitar group at the 9 a.m. Mass. Sister Helen Svancarek was the organist and choir director in 1995.
Bill Runge started as organist for the 7:30 a.m. Mass in 1988 and became the music director in 1997. Bill led the adult choir, teen ensemble, adult ensemble, women’s schola vocal group and a children’s choir until he took a new position in 2014. He also served as the Director of Liturgy, organizing all our liturgical ministries.
Father Jeff named Vince Zaprzal as the parish’s new part-time music director in August, 2014. In July of 2015, Vince was also named as Coordinator of Liturgy.
The Our Lady of Fatima Holy Trinity Prayer Group was founded 27 years ago.
Simbang Gabi, the Filipino tradition and novena of nine masses before Christmas, was introduced at Christ the King after Father James Dvorscak became pastor in 1994 by Sister Jocelyn Valdez, director of religious education. After two years, Rory Villamin, with the help of the late Deacon Rudy Molano, formed the DuPage Simbang Gabi Cluster, involving the Filipino communities from different area churches. Bishop Joseph Imesch approved the novena, celebrated in the evening, instead of at dawn as in the Philippines, as a yearly event in the Diocese of Joliet. Today, the Filipino community of Christ the King Parish is committed to this wonderful yearly tradition as part of the Advent season and preparation for the birth of the Prince of Peace.
The Christmas season has always been special at Christ the King, and everyone became less sleep deprived in 1994. Soon after Father James Dvorscak was named pastor, he moved up the celebration of Midnight Mass to 10:30 p.m. with Christmas carols and sacred music beginning at 10 p.m. Father Jim also replaced the large creche on the altar. In 2009, it seemed Pope Benedict XVI caught on to the Christ the King tradition!
In 1999, fifth- and sixth-grade students began presenting the Passion Play on the last Sunday of class before Easter. Carrying on the tradition of Christ the King School eighth-graders, eighth-graders of the parish and other students present the Living Stations of the Cross at 3 p.m. on Good Friday.
Second-graders preparing for First Communion toured the church and enjoyed a special day of preparation on retreats beginning in 2002.
The Generations of Faith program was introduced in 2007 so that older and younger members of the parish could share their faith and learn from one another several times a year.
Religious education classes meet on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings with a monthly prayer service that includes parents. In 2008, eighth-grade students began attending a series of retreats, rather than weekly classroom sessions, to prepare for Confirmation.
A Living Nativity program helps children of the parish experience the setting and more fully prepare for the birth of Jesus.
Over the years, the teen group has conducted service projects and fundraisers to finance various mission trips, as well as a pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Denver to see Pope John Paul II in 1993. Four teens from the parish attended the National Catholic Youth Conference in November of 2007, 2009 and 2013. Teens meet on Sunday mornings at 11am in the Academy for Sunday Cafe planning service, activities and outings.
Three groups are offered. Break Open the Word meets on Thursdays to study the readings for the coming Sunday. A Bible study gathers on Wednesdays evenings, and a third group focusing on the Seven Steps to Financial Freedom program has met in the past.