“We celebrate our parish community as a tapestry of persons and gifts, woven together by God through sacraments. We treasure our unity with the Holy Father, our bishop and other parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth. We also value our relationships with congregations of other faith traditions within our community. We are a pilgrim church and a people of faith. We are called through our baptism to be a visible sign of the Lord’s presence. As Jesus was sent to bring good news to the poor and liberty to the captives, so we are sent to serve our brothers and sisters in our neighborhoods and work places, and herald the Gospel in proclaiming faith, peace and justice for all. (Excerpt from St. Rita Church Mission Statement)
For more than 100 years the community of St. Rita Catholic Church has served the needs of Catholics in the east side of Ft. Worth. At the turn of the century, Miss Mollie Farrell was instrumental in convincing Bishop E.J. Dunne that the town of Handley, with its fourteen Catholic families, needed a church. In February of 1909 the mission church opened, named after St. Rita, patron saint of the impossible. The church was built on Erie Street, one block south of Lancaster Avenue. Fr. Lydius Paroccini celebrated Mass on Sundays.
On December 9, 1916, a fire destroyed the mission church. It wasn’t until June 25, 1918, that a new building could be constructed. During that time worship services were conducted at the home of Mrs. Pat Farrell, who was not a Catholic. This was an example of the community spirit already present in this area, which has continued to this day. In 1952, forty-three years after its founding, St. Rita achieved Parish status. The first pastor was Fr. Ben Mysliwiec. Fr. Ben was successful in establishing a parish school in 1954 with four classrooms and a convent for the four Felician sisters who came to teach grades one through eight.
An auditorium was added in 1958 and served as the church sanctuary for many years. That year, El Rancho Rita, was purchased and used for social gatherings as well as the school lunchroom and physical education classes. In early 1966 four classrooms and a school library were added to the school building. Fr. Albert Tyl was assigned to St. Rita in 1969 and by year’s end, a priest’s rectory was added to the church premises. This is currently the church office. In 1972, Fr. Tyl began making arrangements for a new church building to be constructed on the site. Ground was broken for a new sanctuary/office complex in April 1974. On March 9, 1975, Bishop John J. Cassata, the first Bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Fort Worth, dedicated the present church building.
The dark, handmade chimney brick set in the wall to the left of the front entrance door was placed there as a fond remembrance of our first St. Rita Church building destroyed by fire. At this point the tapestry of the parish community included people of many different racial and ethnic ties, economic and cultural backgrounds and varied occupations, just as it is today. For 26 years, St. Rita church facilities were home to the Vietnamese Community, which is now known as Our Lady of Fatima Parish. Several of their pastors were assigned as St. Rita’s Associate Pastors. Their own church, built in east Fort Worth and dedicated in 2001, graciously welcomed the St. Rita congregation to worship there while St. Rita’s facilities were being renovated in 2003.
St. Rita parish community continues to grow not only in number, but also in spirituality, through the ministry of many hardworking and faithful parishioners and their dedicated pastors and associates. Fr. William Aaron was assigned as pastor of St. Rita to replace Fr. Tyl in June 1979. He served with Fr. Joseph Pemberton as his associate, who later was assigned pastor in 1986. When Fr. Joe was transferred, Fr. Richard Flores became the pastor of St. Rita until July 2008. Fr. Paul P Kahan, SVD, a member of the missionary order of the Society of the Divine Word, was assigned pastor of St. Rita in 2008. In June 2014, Fr. Paul was assigned provincial of the U.S. Southern Province of his order. Upon his departure, the St. Rita community welcomed Fr. Eric Groner, SVD, also a member of the Society of the Divine Word. He currently serves as pastor.