SPRINGFIELD GARDENS — The end of the liturgical calendar has become an opportunity for new beginnings at Christ the King, Springfield Gardens.
The parish celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, its feast day, on Nov. 24 with Mass and a reception. At the heart of the new daylong festivities were the children of the parish performing songs, skits, dances and poetry about Christ as King.
“It’s actually really exciting because we can show people what we can do,” eighth-grader Monica Casseus said. “It gives us confidence.”
The children’s performance is the brainchild of Robin Johnson, the parish’s director of religious education. When Johnson came to the parish three years ago, she wanted to adopt a curriculum that allowed the young people to express themselves and share their gifts while learning about the faith.
“Children learn differently at different levels. We have artistic children. We have special needs children,” Johnson said. “When you reach them in different ways, they’re eager to come.”
The Casseus family is a prime example. Monica and her little sister, Gabriella, took part in a liturgical dance to begin the feast day Mass and then sang in the children’s choir. Their father. Sacha, also shared his talents by drawing a life-size Jesus Christ as king, which was displayed at the front of the church next to the altar.
The sisters are third-generation parishioners at the church, which was founded in 1933. Their mother, Farrah Lofond-Casseus, and her mother also grew up in the neighborhood attending the church. Their father loves to see his daughters share God’s grace with the parish.
“I’ve always been proud to know they’re taking some type of step and displaying their abilities for the church itself,” Sacha said.
Father Gordon Kusi, the pastor, came to Christ the King in 2017 around the same time Johnson took over the religious education program. He spoke about the growth of the program under Johnson care, saying he has witnessed her impact on the parish every day.
“She’s bringing her knowledge as a teacher to bear on them,” Father Kusi said. “She helps the kids to embrace the Catholic teachings and also help the parents. Some parents are learning with their kids.”
The Christ the King reception is one of four that the parish has throughout the year. Johnson also organizes opportunities for the children of the predominantly black parish to perform for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Black History Month and at the end of the religious education year in May.
Other parts of the curriculum that the director considers “outside the box” are the annual Thanksgiving dinner served by students in the confirmation program and the annual Christmas pageant. Johnson’s goal is to develop parish leaders among the young people and their parents.