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Nonprofits consider purchase of Christ Our King in Wilmington

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Christ Our King will close next fall. The parish opened 90 years ago//Photo by Fred Bourdon.

Christ Our King will close next fall. The parish opened 90 years ago//Photo by Fred Bourdon.

By Kathy Canavan

The city block that houses Christ Our King’s church, rectory and convent may change hands after the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington shuts down the 90-year-old parish next fall.

The parish, which produced three Wilmington mayors, two speakers of the house, a Wilmington fire chief, a college president and numerous gubernatorial cabinet members, is a tight-knit one whose members are known as “kingers.”

Diocesan spokesman Bob Krebs said parishioners are still in the process of working through the grief of closing their church following Bishop W. Francis Malooly’s May 17 announcement, but there has been interest in purchasing the block bordered by Monroe, Madison, 28th and 29th Streets.

“There are a few interested. We’re not really at liberty to say who, but there are a few,” Krebs said.  “Obviously, we would love to see the property purchased and used.”

He said it’s premature to set a price. The church and rectory are in good shape, he said, but the convent roof needs an estimated $250,000 in repairs.

The church has been running a large deficit in recent years, Krebs said. An average of only 157 people attend weekend Mass in a church built for 2,000 families.

The property actually belongs to the parish, not the diocese, Krebs said.

The parish is separately incorporated, but it is run by a five-person board that includes the pastor, the bishop, the diocesan chancellor and two lay members, so the diocese has the deciding vote in any sale.

Joseph P. Corsini, chief financial officer for the diocese, said the bishop timed the announcement to give parishioners sufficient notice. The church has been running deficits averaging $96,000 a year but was able to stay afloat on the proceeds from selling its school in 2008, according to the Dialog, the diocesan newspaper.

“They’ve tried hard, but the money is running out. You can’t wait until there’s a dollar left and then tell people, “˜We’re closing up shop tomorrow,’ ” Corsini said.

There is no off-street parking on the church block. The only parking lot is at the school, which is currently operating as Delaware College Preparatory Academy. The school is losing its charter to operate, but school officials did not respond to a request for an interview about the fate of their block.

Kathleen Igo Rinarelli’s father helped build the church in the 1950s. Rinarelli, who now lives in Middletown, remembers the old neighborhood as a happy place to grow up where everybody knew everybody.

“Whoever it is who moves into it next, I just really hope they respect it. That’s all I would like to see,” she said. “Any adult who was a kid back then will tell you the same thing: you were proud to be a kinger.”

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