When Monsignor Donald Zimmerman announced his retirement, parishioners at Christ the King Catholic Church were unable to flock to him to express their gratitude for their pastor’s 26 years of service.
Social distancing and the church being closed nixed any mass gatherings in April.
With a quarter-century worth of gratitude bottled up, his followers creatively found a way to honor their shepherd in a socially responsible way.
Under the guidance of Alan and Kathy Stewart, the various church ministries and Christ the King School leaders rallied together to throw a surprise parade on Sunday afternoon, April 26.
While the unsuspecting monsignor was escorted to the front of the school on Colgate Avenue by the Revs. Sean Martin, Tony Lackland, Arthur Unachukwu, and Bishop Greg Kelly, hundreds of parade participants surreptitiously lined up their cars behind the school.
Police officers gave the green light, and the parade entered Preston Road then turned west onto Colgate. With the Kingsmen (the church men’s group) directing traffic, cars passed Zimmerman’s viewing area as television cameras rolled.
“With the challenges we’re facing with the coronavirus, we are learning new ways to communicate, and maybe some of them are better.”Monsignor Donald Zimmerman
He stood and greeted his well-wishers as they rolled by. Dozens of decorated cars full of children, dogs, and hand-made signs poking out of sunroofs put a smile on the beloved pastor’s face. He was touched to have a parade in his honor and was stunned that it just kept coming … and coming … and coming. In all, there were 350 cars and more than 1,000 Catholic well-wishers.
That made it the second-largest parade on Preston Road in University Park after the giant Park Cities Fourth of July parade.
Zimmerman’s favorite car in the parade was Tom Merkel’s 1949 Cadillac limousine. He loved all the children waving at him from the sunroofs and the dogs smiling at him from the windows. And in one car two rabbits seemed to congratulate him.
“It was a great deal of fun,” said Zimmerman, who will officially step down July 1. “It was a glorious day, and the parade – like a carpool line – was invigorating. With the challenges we’re facing with the coronavirus, we are learning new ways to communicate, and maybe some of them are better.”
A 1965 graduate of Jesuit Prep, he knew at an early age that he wanted to answer the call of the priesthood. His teachers – the sisters and Jesuit fathers who taught there – had a profound influence on him. The Cistercian monks who taught him theology at Holy Trinity Seminary on the campus of the University of Dallas had an impact on him also. In his retirement, he’ll continue to live in the neighborhood; he’ll continue to love his rescued Cavalier King Charles companion and will travel to Rome as much as he can. He will not miss the administrative pressures of his job but will miss being of service to his flock, especially during the key moments in people’s lives – weddings, funerals, baptisms, and parades.