Tucked away in a diverse neighborhood in the heart of University City, Christ the King Parish considers itself a well-kept secret of the neighborhood.
Parishioner Mary Fox, who was born and raised here, described the parish as "an extended part of my family." Fox, who went on to raise her own family in University City, noted that the people are "very supportive in your time of need. The people turn to you before you ask."
The parish, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, will host the next St. Louis Mass Mob on Sunday, Nov. 26. Bishop Michael Sheridan, a St. Louis native, former Christ the King pastor and now bishop of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo., will celebrate the Mass on the parish's namesake feast.
Since the spring of 2015, Mass Mobs have been hosted at parishes across the Archdiocese of St. Louis to people together for worship and to raise awareness and appreciation for the city's historic churches. The gatherings have drawn about 400-500 people on average.
"We have a very dynamic, diverse community," said Msgr. Michael Turek, pastor since 2015. "There are black, white, Latino, Vietnamese, Filipino people represented here. And University City is like that. A lot of folks here feel a desire to be welcoming and accepting of people."
Christ the King was founded in 1927, when Archbishop John Glennon asked Father Daniel Ryan to begin a new parish on the western edge of University City. Two other parishes — All Saints and Our Lady of Lourdes — were already in existence by that time. A month later, property was purchased on Balson Avenue for the first church and school. The Sisters of Mercy staffed the school, which opened in 1928.
Father Ryan chose the name Christ the King just 15 months after Pope Pius XI established the feast. The parish became only the second in the United States to bear the name. Reflecting on his decision in an article in the St. Louis Register (the Review's predecessor), Father Ryan noted that Christ is referred to as a king in the Old and New Testaments.
The current church building was dedicated in 1941. Parishioners held fund-raisers, including an Easter bake sale, rummage sales, penny raffles and small card parties to help support the parish. The architecture reflects a Romanesque style from between the eighth and eleventh centuries, and is based on a basilica model, which was long ago designated as a hall of justice and public meeting place of ancient Romans. One of the most unusual features of the church is its large crucifix in the sanctuary, which depicts Christ as a triumphant king, rather than a suffering man.
Today, the church has about 400 registered households. The school has 245 students in preschool through eighth grade. The church has an active social justice committee. Parishioners are involved in numerous efforts, including Room at the Inn, a temporary emergency shelter; and an active St. Vincent de Paul conference, including a Mini Vinnies club for young people.
Third-generation parishioner Karen Dille is looking forward to welcoming visitors for the Mass Mob and showing them the neighborhood feel of the community.
"This is our home," she said. "My family have returned for many things here, and I have walked to Mass. This is such a neighborhood church, and even those who live here who aren't Catholic see us that way."
>> Mass Mob XVI
WHERE: Christ the King Church, 7316 Balson Ave. in University City
WHEN: 10 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 26. St. Louis native Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colo., and former pastor of Christ the King will be the main celebrant. A reception will take place after Mass.
MORE INFO: St. Louis Mass Mob is on Facebook. Christ the King's website is www.ctkstl.com