- A Time of Transitions
- Msgr. Henry Alker
A TIME OF TRANSITIONS
In 1960, Monsignor Corcoran’s health had begun to fail. A lung condition having become aggravated, he suffered severe asthma attacks. Soon it became apparent that he would have to take a slower pace in his duties. But slowing down was not sufficient, and Msgr. Corcoran needed to spend time in a drier climate.
To facilitate his recovery., Cardinal McIntyre allowed Monsignor Corcoran to convalesce in Arizona and appointed Monsignor Joseph Sharpe as administrator of Christ the King in 1961. For the next few years, Msgr. Corcoran traveled intermittently from Tucson to Los Angeles, as his health permitted. However, the Arizona climate was not enough to bring about a cure, and in 1964, Msgr. Corcoran resigned his position as Pastor. Cardinal McIntyre named Msgr. Corcoran “Pastor Emeritus”, thus allowing him to retain his bond with his beloved parish and yet still turn it to another Pastor.
Msgr. Harry Trower was appointed pastor, a position that he would occupy for the next three years. During that time, he was assisted by Rev. Early Walker, and Rev. Simon Falvey. It was Msgr. Trower’s sad duty to officiate at Msgr. Corcoran’s Requiem Mass, first in Tucson, where he died on Sunday, August 8th, 1965, and later at the solemn Requiem Mass in the Parish, were he had built and shepherded for thirty-eight years.
Bishop John J. Ward presided at the ceremony. Upon Msgr. Corcoran’s passing, a pillar of the church was called to his reward.
It was during Msgr. Trower’s pastorate that the Second Vatican Council was convoked. This momentous event for the Universal Church proved a challenge for teh new pastor and his assistant, Rev. John Cunningham, to make the Council’s teachings known to the people. The work had hardly begun, when in 1967, Msgr. Trower’s experience in administration was needed in the rapidly developing area of Orange County, to which he was transferred.
MSGR. HENRY ALKER
Rev. Henry Alker succeeded Msgr. Trower as Pastor in 1967. Rev. Alker was not new to this area. A native of Los Angeles, he had grown up and had been educated here, and in the course of his priesthood, had served in several parishes in the Archdiocese. When he was appointed to Christ the King, he had already served as pastor of Resurrection and St. Agnes parishes in Los Angeles.
Rev. Alker was revered by his parishioners. He was known as a very spiritual man, humble and unconcerned with material things. He provided spiritual direction to many priests. His homilies were so outstanding, that many people came from other parishes to hear him.
Fr. Alker initiated many programs at CTK, that still continue to this day. Readings by the laity had be approved by the Vatican II, but were not begun at CTK until Rev. Alker arrived. In the fall of 1967, he approached Richard (Skip) Byrne, a parishioner and an attorney who, at the time had not yet been involved in parish liturgy. He asked Skip to be the first parish lector and to organize a group of lectors at the parish. One Sunday, Skip stood up in front of the congregation and began reading. He had to make himself be heard without a microphone. It took a little time for some in the parish to become comfortable with lay readers, but their readings became a regular part of all masses.
Charismatic prayer was also a new idea for Catholics in the 1960’s. Parishioners Phil and Connie Peyrot had been going to Charismatic prayer meetings at the Loyola campus for some time, and in the early 1970’s, Rev. Alker asked them to start a Charismatic prayer group in the parish.
The Peyrots held prayer meetings in their home for several years and later moved them to the parish hall.
Prayer meetings had changed over the years, but they continue to this very day. Hector Bonilla and Ricardo Villacorta have lead prayer groups that have now been serving the Hispanic Community for over 20 years The English speaking community also formed several active prayer groups, including those headed by Mr. & Mrs. Isagani Romana and Mrs. Rosalind Diego.
In about 1974, Rev. Alker started the Parish International Festival. The work of putting on the festival was carried out by the Parent School Board, chaired by Frank and Dani Sabato. Originally, a one-day event, the festival was expanded to three days in the early 1980’s. At that time, over 26 different nationalities were represented in the parish. The International Festival built a sense of community and cohesiveness for the entire parish. It is also a major source of revenue. The first festival in 1974 produced a gross revenue of only a couple hundred dollars. More recently, the festival has grossed over $40,000 a year, which is shared by the school and the parish.
In the summer of 1974, the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI and His Eminence Cardinal Timothy Manning again honored Christ the King Parish by recognizing its Pastor’s work. The title of Prelate of Honor (formerly Domestic Prelate) was bestowed on Rev. Henry Alker.
In June of that year, Msgr. Alker received the new honor from His Eminence along with other prelates at Immaculate Conception Church in Los Angeles. Later that month, the parish celebrated the event with a concelebrated mass of Thanksgiving and a reception in the parish hall.
It was a sad time for the parish when Msgr. Alker died in June 1979, after a long, silent struggle with Leukemia. Rev. Alexander George, then the Associate Pastor, organized the Requiem Mass for Msgr. Alker. Cardinal Timothy Manning presided at the ceremony, which was attended by all of the auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese and 50 to 75 priests.
Tony and Docie Heim provided the music, which they continued to do at the 10:30 mass on Sunday and at a special liturgical services. Msgr. Alker was interred at Calvary Cemetery.