Founded in 1921, St. Rita Parish has spent nearly 100 years extending God's Kingdom to the Marlyville and Gert Town neighborhoods of New Orleans.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, the area around Carrollton and Claiborne Avenues was still primarily the domain of truck gardens and dairy farms, with residents attending Mater Dolorosa Parish. As the city grew, side streets were laid out, fanning from Carrollton and Claiborne, with Fontainebleau Drive, as the continuation of South Broad, becoming a lovely residential street and Broadway an increasingly important thoroughfare.
Responding to the growing population, Archbishop John Shaw formally established St. Rita Parish on March 24, 1921, naming it in honor of the 14th century Italian saint who was popular among New Orleans Catholics following her canonization in 1900.
Fr. Patrick Walsh was named the founding pastor, and the native of Farnane, Ireland set to work growing the faith in the area during the first 17 years of the parish's existence.
The first Mass was celebrated in a private home, that of Mr. and Mrs. John Henry, 293 Audubon Blvd., on Passion Sunday, March 13, 1921. Several months later, the parishioners rented a dirt floor basement in a house owned by the Palmisano family at the corner of Broadway and Mobile streets. They spread a tarpaulin on the floor, put benches along the walls, and Fr. Walsh celebrated Mass there.
An outstanding benefactor was Frank Palmisano who donated the land on the square bounded by Pine, Broad Place, Fontainebleau, and Lowerline, where the first church and rectory were built. The new church, a two-story frame structure, was dedicated on the feast of St. Rita, May 22, 1922.
One thing lacking was a school, and Fr. Walsh was determined to provide one for his already growing flock of parishioners. He was aided again by Frank Palmisano, who donated $10,000 for the project. In November of 1923, a two-story white frame school building on Lowerline in back of the church was completed and dedicated by Archbishop Shaw.
Three Marianite of the Holy Cross sisters staffed the first school, with an opening enrollment of 110 children, sixty-seven boys and forty-three girls. The nuns's living quarters were located on the second floor of the school, but in 1929 they moved to a residence on the corner of Pine and Broad Place in order to provide more classroom space.
It was Fr. Walshe's dream to one day see the construction of a more imposing and artistically impressive St. Rita church building to serve his parishioners. However, on November 22, 1938, he died suddenly of a heart attack in the rectory. His dream was realized under the administration of St. Rita's second pastor, Monsignor William Castel. The present church, an early Romanesque design, has become one of the outstanding landmarks in the Carrollton area. Standing imposingly as it does on an irregular square bounded by Broad Place, Lowerline, Pine streets, it commands an attractive view from several traffic directions.
The new church, dedicated in 1953, was followed in 1962 by the present brick school building, which replaced the original frame structure destroyed by fire on December 1, 1960.
Adults wishing to convert to Catholicism enter the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, more commonly known by its acronym RCIA.
What is the RCIA?
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the process for initiation into the Catholic Church. It is a restoration of the catechumenate, which was the early Church's practice around the 3rd and 4th centuries. The Congregation for Divine Worship prepared it and Pope Paul VI approved it in 1972. It was approved for use in the United States in 1974. It is now mandated in all parishes.
Who is the RCIA for?
•Persons in need of Baptism
•Persons baptized in another Christian faith but interested in becoming Catholic
•Persons baptized Catholic in need of First Communion and / or Confirmation
How to begin the process?
Contact the Church Office at (504) 866-3621. We welcome individual questions, desiring to walk with you on this personal journey of faith in our St. Rita community,
Join the Parish
Your presence here among us makes us more of the family Christ calls us to be. Register online to become a parishioner of St. Rita Parish.
St. Rita, Our Patron
Born in 1382 near the town of Cascia in the province of Umbria, Italy, Rita had a happy childhood as the only offspring of an elderly, well-to-do couple known in the area as "The Lord's Peacemakers." Though drawn to the religious life, Rita gave up her dream of entering a convent and, to please her parents, married.
Rita's husband provided security and protection, but he did not join his wife with a strong spiritual life. After eighteen years of praying for her husband to repent and reform his life, Rita's prayers were answered. However, shortly after his change of heart, her husband was murdered. Rivalry between families and the vendetta code demanded that Rita's two sons avenge their father's death -- an expectation Rita pleaded with her sons to avoid. Before taking their revenge, however, Rita's sons died suddenly, another tragedy for the now-childless widow to endure.
Some time afterward, Rita prayerfully decided to join the Order of St. Augustine nuns in the town of Cascia, only to be rebuffed by the Mother Superior, who refused to accept Rita due to ongoing family tensions that could even be felt in the convent. Persistent in her desire, Rita mediated peace between the two families, allowing her to remove any obstacle from entrance into the convent.
During her forty-four years of convent life, Rita was especially devoted to the mysteries of the cross and Christ's sufferings. She received a mysterious would on her forehead, said to be inflicted by a thorn from Christ's crown of thorns.
She was especially fond of roses, the flower associated particularly with her. There is a legend that a colony of white bees took up habitation in her convent cell and there to this day. Rita was reputed to have the scent of sanctity at her death in 1457 at the age of 75, with her body being restored to a youthful state. Several miraculous cures were attributed to her. She is highly regarded as a model wife, mother, widow, and nun.
Rita of Cascia was beatified in 1625 and was canonized in May of 1900. Her feast day is May 22nd.
Fr. Peter Finney III, Pastor
Fr. Peter was appointed administrator of St. Rita Parish in July 2016 and pastor in July 2018.
Born in Rockville Centre, NY, but to two native New Orleanians, Fr. Peter Finney comes to St. Rita’s Parish as a local -- despite any failings on his birth certificate. He and his three siblings were raised in Gentilly, attending school at and becoming parishioners of St. Frances Cabrini. After graduating from Jesuit High School and studying at the University of New Orleans, Fr. Peter entered seminary formation for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, beginning his studies at St. Joseph Seminary College (St. Ben’s), continuing them for a year at Notre Dame Seminary, and then completing his theological studies in Rome at the Pontifical North American College. In his four years abroad, Fr. Peter earned degrees from the Dominican-run Angelicum University and the Redemptoris-staffed l'Accademia Alfonsiana, the second of which being a Sacred Theological Licentiate in Social Moral Ethics.
Ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 2010, Fr. Peter spent his first year of priesthood completing his degree in Rome and the next five years as parochial vicar of St. Clement of Rome Parish in Metairie and St. Peter Parish in Covington.
Charley is a native of Huntsville, AL and a graduate of Auburn University where he earned a Bachelor of Science. He moved to New Orleans in August 2015 to work as an AmeriCorps Volunteer with Boys Hope Girls Hope of Greater New Orleans in the role of Community Resource Coordinator. Through his time with BHGH, Charley grew to love New Orleans and is proud to call this city home. He is excited to be working for the Church in New Orleans, and eager to support the ministry at St. Rita’s.
Contact Charley and our Church Office via email or at (504) 866-3621.
Thomas Bender IV, Music Director
Organist and director of music Thomas B. Bender IV (Tommy) has served St. Rita Parish since the beginning of June, 2000 being present that weekend for then-pastor, Fr. Harry Bugler’s twenty-fifth jubilee. Tommy has been involved in Catholic music ministry, in some form or fashion, since 1981 when he was a student at St. John Vianney Preparatory Seminary in New Orleans. Since then, he served in a similar role at his home parish of Immaculate Conception, Marrero for seventeen years. He also served as librarian and Chapel organist at St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie. He currently serves as the Director of the Rev. Robert J. Stahl, S.M. Memorial Library at Notre Dame Seminary, having earned his Master’s in Library and Information Science from LSU in 1999, as well as, assistant Chapel organist. He is married and has two sons, who have also served as music ministers at St. Rita on occasion.
Alex Ceasar, Maintenance Director
Perhaps the longest serving employee in the archdiocese, Alex Ceasar began working at St. Rita during the Eisenhower Administration, in 1958. Forgetting more about the parish than most will ever know, Alex tends to the physical plant. Even more than his office hours, he is always ready to report, living near St. Rita and around the corner from one of his seven children.