Why “Cristo Rey?”

Just today someone asked me why we named the first school “Cristo Rey.”  I remember being in a meeting with a group of Jesuits who were organizing the school for the Pilsen neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago.  When we asked ourselves what we were going to call it, someone said “Cristo Rey.”  Now the problem with that story is that the person who I remember saying it has no recollection that that is what happened.  I remember thinking at the time that I really liked the suggestion because, first of all, it’s Spanish and our school was going to be bi-lingual and secondly because the image of Christ the King was very strong and meaningful for St. Ignatius Loyola.  He even has a whole meditation in his Spiritual Exercises dedicated to calling the retreatant to work to extend the Kingdom of God.

An explanation that is sometimes given is that we named it that way because those are alleged to be the final words of Miguel Pro, the Jesuit martyred in Mexico in 1927.  That explanation is apocryphal.  A few years ago a book came out in English about the life and death of Pro and it made no mention of his dying with those words on his lips.  I wrote the author a letter asking him why he had omitted such an important detail.  He answered saying that, although that is frequently heard, there is absolutely no historical evidence to substantiate that claim.

Bottom line:  I think our schools are called “Cristo Rey” simply because it was meant to be.

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