Local Schools

CTK reunion Mass draws former students, native sons

Parishioners, former students and educators gather after Mass to talk and reminisce about the 85-year history of Christ the King School in Kansas City, Kansas, at the school’s closing Mass on May 25. Financial difficulties forced the school to close. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sadness didn’t dominate at the Mass in thanksgiving for the now-closed Christ the King School here. It was a time to celebrate the good that was accomplished during its 85-year history.

The last day of class was May 22.

The pastor, Father Nick Blaha, said it best before the closing prayer.

“We have many plans for the time to come,” he said. “This is not a funeral for this school. And it’s not a funeral for the parish. This is an act of thanks, and adoration, and praise.”

He asked that the Christ the King community “not allow the past or the future to rule over us, but for the present moment enjoy this time together.”

Father Nick Blaha addresses those gathered for the Mass celebrating Christ the King School in Kansas City, Kansas on May 25. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The Mass of thanksgiving on May 25, the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, was followed by a celebration called “Christ the King Family Reunion,” featuring a parish and school classic: a sloppy Joe feast.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann was the main celebrant and homilist at the Mass. Concelebrants included Father Blaha, St. Patrick Parish pastor and former Christ the King pastor Father Mark Mertes, and hospital chaplain and priest-in-residence Father Damian Beyuo Kuukole.

Also present were parish native Deacon George Karnaze, with Deacon Will Carey as deacon of the Word, and Deacon Dan Mauro as master of ceremonies — the latter two ordained on May 18.

As Mass ended, attendees stuck around for an outdoor dinner and time to reminisce on memories from Christ the King School. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

The choir included several individuals who either attended the school or were faculty members, notably the Choral Scholars of Christ the King School. The Mass settings were composed by parish and school alumnus Father Ronald F. Krisman, now a priest of the Diocese of Orlando, Florida.

“Today, we give thanks for all who served as teachers at Christ the King [School],” said Archbishop Naumann in his homily, “all who were witnesses of God’s love to their students, who helped their students know their dignity as beloved sons and daughters of God . . . and used their gifts and talents to assist their students to develop the talents God gave to each of them.”

He expressed thanks and gratitude for the parents, principals, benefactors and the students who began their educational journey at Christ the King School and went on to be leaders in the community.

“In some ways today, we are saddened because of the closing of the chapter of this community of Christ the King School,” said the archbishop. “But at the same time, we must give thanks for the blessings so many have received through this school’s existence.”

Father Nick Blaha talks with Deacon George Karnaze at Christ the King School in Kansas City, Kansas, following the Mass celebrating the school community. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Among those touring the school to reminisce were the very youngest to the very oldest alumni.

First grader Hazel Hormann, who will attend St. Patrick School in Kansas City, Kansas, next year, was among the youngest. Was she a little sad?

“Yes, I was sad some of my friends are going to different schools,” said Hazel. She might see some of them at church, but not “my best-friend-forever Juliana,” who will go to another church and school.

Leo Mills and John Klein, both 92, were among the very oldest alumni wandering the hallways. Mills transferred from Blessed Sacrament School, and Klein from St. Anthony School, both in Kansas City, Kansas, and long closed.

“We were here when they first opened the school [in 1940],” said Mills, a member of St. Patrick Parish. “The church was [downstairs] and upstairs were three classrooms. We didn’t have all this fancy stuff.”

John Klein, left, andn Leo Mills, both 92, were among the very oldest alumni wandering the hallways of Christ the King School in Kansas City, Kansas, on May 25. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Back then, the western city limit was 34th Street. There weren’t a lot of houses around.

Among their favorite memories was playing softball with the Benedictine Sisters, who taught at the school, and the pastor. The Sisters were pretty good, Klein recalled.

“If you hit a ball over to where the church is now, there was a septic field with fluid that came up,” said Mills. “You had to leave it.”

Angie Shinn toured the school with other graduates of the class of 1981. 

“My favorite memory was of a friend of ours who went to a different school and got out earlier than we did,” said Shinn. “It was the end of the year. He rode his bike down the bottom hallway with the Sisters chasing him. He grabbed [the bike] and ran back up the stairs. We thought it was the funniest thing ever.”

Father Blaha said that the school “will not lie fallow” but will continue to be a place of education, although in different ways. Various ideas and proposals will be explored.

“We want to let the Lord guide us in these new steps that we are taking,” he said. “Wyandotte County, I’ve learned, is resilient and it’s often underestimated, so you haven’t heard the last of us.”

To view more photos from the Mass and celebration, click here.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

Leave a Comment