St. Rita's Catholic Church

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Our History

Before 1941 the area now known as St. Rita's Parish was part of St. Anne in San Diego. Catholics living in the Encanto area, though few in number, experienced great difficulty getting to St. Anne's for Sunday Mass. In 1932, these people took action. Their efforts were rewarded when the home of one of these parishioners became a chapel for Sunday Mass. the assistant at St. Anne's, Father Belber, traveled out every Sunay for Mass. In the latter part of the thirties this chapel came under the administration of Father Daniel O'Donoghue, who was also the administrator of St. John of the Cross in Lemon Grove.

In 1941, Father John F. Gallagher was appointed by Bishop Buddy, Bishop of the newly formed diocese of San Diego (1936), to formally and officially organize a new parish. St. Rita's was born. For some time mass continued to take place at the little chapel at 65th and Imperial in Encanto. Father Gallagher's first rectory was also located in the Encanto area in a rented house on Brooklyn Avenue. With the acquisition of property near Euclid and Imperial Avenues, plans for a permanent church and rectory were made. Ground had just been broken when the nation became involved in the Second World War. The plan, however, continued and hope finally blossomed into reality when Bishop Buddy dedicated the first parish church at St. Rita's on Palm Sunday in 1942. This building is still standing and is better known to us as the Church Auditorium.

In 1950 the growth of the area had exceeded all projections. The need for even larger buildings, especially a church, became obvious. With a debt still existing on the parish from the new school and convent, a mighty challenge faced the priests and people of St. Rita's. Following a special novena in honor of out Mother of Perpetual Help, a miracle seemed to have occurred. Toney Sedlack and her son John, promised to donate $100,000 for the construction of a new church at St. Rita's. Although Father Gallagher had never met these people before, the money was received within a year. Ground for the new church was broken on March 7, 1954. The new church was dedicated by Bishop Buddy on October 23, 1955. The overall cost of the church was $300,000. In 1957 the rectory was extended to accommodate a second assistant priest. Another section was added to the convent to house the additional sisters who came teach in the school. The total cost of these additions amounted to $300,000.


During the sixties, St. Rita's continued to grow. Through the generosity of Bill Shaules, R.I.P., St. Rita's was wille ten acres of property west of Euclid Avenue in 1961. About this same time, a supermarket, which was located directly across the street from the church, closed its doors and was put up for sale. St. Rita's aquired the building for $250,000. The property, consisting of a building with 25,000 square feet and two-and-one-half acres of surrounding grounds, became part of St. Rita's Parish. The building was renovated and became known as St. Rita's School Annex Building. The total cost of the project was $421,497.57. The acquisition of the facility made it possible for St. Rita's School to accept more students. Within a few years the student enrollment totaled over 750. By the time Monsignor Gallagher retired as pastor of St. Rita's in 1973, the entire debt had been paid.


St. Rita's continues to grow from the small congregation of a few families in a parishioner's home in Encanto in the middle thirties. Today, the parish consists of approximately 2,000 families. Only God knows what tomorrow holds for our parish.