St. Rita’s Parish was founded and organized by Rev. John Long, the pastor of All Saints Church. During the
summer of 1914, a frame church was built on the south side of Page Avenue, one block west of North &
South Road. The church had a seating capacity of 100. The total cost was $2,800.00. There was $800.00 on
hand and it was necessary to make a $2000.00 loan. The church was dedicated on Sunday, October 25,
In June of 1915, Rev. Daniel F. Buckley was appointed to assist Fr. Long in the care of the Mission Church of
St. Rita’s. He resided in a rented cottage on the Southwest corner of Washington Street and North & South
Road. For the next three years Rev. Buckley was administrator of St. Rita’s Parish. He was able to pay off the
$2000.00 debt and make other improvements.
In 1917, Fr. Buckley purchased the lot on the Southeast corner of Madison Avenue and North & South Road.
He moved the church from its original site (south side of Page Avenue) to the new site (100 ft. south of
Madison Avenue, facing North & South Road). On January 1, 1919, Rev. William Nugent was appointed the
first pastor of the Parish of St. Rita, replacing Father Buckley, the administrator. At this time the parish
consisted of 100 families.
A school was opened in the church basement in September 1921 with two Sisters of St. Joseph in charge.
There were 60 children in attendance on the first day, but attendance increased at once, and on Sunday,
October 2, 1921, Archbishop Glennon cinfirmed a class of 71. On the feast of St. Rita, May 22, 1925 ground
was broken for a new school building. The school opened on January 4, 1926.
From 1925 through 1950, several lots were purchased on the East side of North & South Road from
Washington Street to Page Avenue because of the rapid growth of the parish, looking forward to the need for
a larger church.
In 1950, after serving as Pastor of St. Rita’s for 31 years, Father William Nugent became Pastor Emeritus
(retired). Rev. Leo Byrne was appointed administrator and immediately began making preparations for a new
(our present) church.
On September 26, 1951, Fr. Byrne was transferred to the Parish of the Immacolata in Richmond Hieghts as
its pastor. On Thursday, October 11, 1951, Rev. William Baudendistel was canonically installed as Pastor of
St. Rita’s Church. On March 16, 1952, the cornerstone was laid for the new church by Bishop Charles
Helmsing. The building amongst the trees on the left is the first Rectory.
Monsignor Baudendistel worked tirelessly along with the people of St. Rita’s to pay off the debt of the new
church, a debt of approximately $500,000. The church was dedicated on Sunday, November 16, 1952. Msgr.
Baudendistel, affectionately known as “Father Bill”, passed away on October 12, 1966.
Msgr. James Bresnahan became pastor on November 6, 1966. He retired in 1979 and was replaced by Rev.
Theodore R. Brug. "Father Ted" Brug left St. Rita’s in 1990 and was assigned at St. Kevin Parish for about a
year. Then he was assigned to St. Patrick Parish in Ollivette. In 1990 we welcomed our new and current
pastor, Rev. David Wichlan.
The first associate pastor was appointed in June 1926. He was Rev. John P. Moynihan. Those who followed
were: Rev. Thomas Hayes (1941-1944), Rev. Louis Meyer and Rev. Michael Regan for brief periods in 1944,
Rev. Gerald Kaiser during August and September 1946, Rev. Albert Danter (1944-1954), Rev. William
Pipitone (1954-1960), Rev. Harold Voelker ( 1960-1965), Rev. John Caffe (1965-1968), Rev. James Gahan
(1968-1971), Rev. John Suren (1971-1976), Rev. Dennis Duggan (1976-1979), Rev. Leo Spezia (1979-
1983), and finally, Rev. Paul Spielman.
In February 1984, Sister Mary Walden, OSU, joined the staff as pastoral associate. Rev. Mr. Louis Reynoso
was ordained Permanent Deacon and appointed to St. Rita’s in February 1985. Deacon Louis Reynoso is
our current permanent Deacon. Our parish was also served by Brother John of the Cross, a clergyman of The
Society of the Mother of Peace, who evangelizes in our community and in surrounding areas. As of this
writing, our parish is served by the Sisters of the Society of the Mother of Peace, who reside in a home on
Madison Avenue that has been refurbished and now serves as their convent.
As the parish grew from 1930-1960 the number of students also grew. The Sisters of St. Joseph needed
more living space. In 1951 the parish bought the frame residence on the Northwest corner of Washington
Avenue and North & South Road. An addition was built on the north side of the convent in the late ‘50s. That is
why, to this day, you will see two front entrances on the building facing North & South Road. It wasn’t long
after the addition was added that the nuns began driving cars.
Therefore the parish funded the construction of the stone garage on the north side of the convent with a
parking/ turnaround space between the convent and the garage. But, alas, with the closing of our school in
the late 1980s, the Sisters of St. Joseph moved away and the convent was left vacant. Without further need of
the convent, the parish sold the building and land to a private party who made it their home.
Over the years our parishioner numbers have dwindled, but the vibrancy and enthusiasm of the new and
remaining members of the parish could not be stronger. We currently boast about 175 families. Since we no
longer have our own school, our parish children attend our neighboring parish school, Christ the King
School, in University City.
St. Rita’s School building literally “bit the dust” in 1996. The school closed in 1989 and remained vacant until
The City of Vinita Park bought the property and razed the building. In it’s place now stands a beautiful green
space at the entrance to the City of Vinita Park. The new area was named “ Bira Park”, in honor of our current
mayor of Vinita Park, Virginia Bira. Mrs. Bira was the school secretary for many years and is a 1950 graduate
of Rosati-Kain High School. At the southwest corner of the park stands a monument to St. Rita’s school,
rectory, church and convent.
Our current Pastor, Father Dave Wichlan, has recently celebrated his 50th anniversary as a Catholic priest.
He has reached the normal retirement age for priests in our Archdiocese of St. Louis but he has chosen to
continue serving God and the people here at St. Rita’s as long as he remains of sound mind and body.
Parish Mission Statement:
" That we all become saints like Jesus wants us to.
May it be the will of God to allow St. Rita’s Parish to live on for many years to come.
May St. Rita’s Parish live on in your memories forever.
published April 2008
History of St. Rita Parish (condensed version)
|Father William Nugent
Pastor of St. Rita's
Sisters of the Society of the Mother of Peace Convent
Corpus Christie Procession-2006
St. Rita's School
The original St. Rita's Rectory
located on the Northeast corner of
Washington and North & South Road.
As of this date in April 2008, there are three family members still living in the parish that are direct
descendants of the founding fathers of St. Rita's: Florence (nee Zeman) Hanna, daughter of Thomas Zeman,
Rita Castulik, daughter of John Castulik Sr., and Ann Silliman, daughter-in-law of Henry W. Silliman. Former
parishioner, John Castulik Jr., brother of Rita Castulik, now lives outside parish boundaries but is a frequent
Facing West on North and South Road
Located on the Northwest corner of
Washington Street and North and South Road
Father David Wichlan
50th Anniversary to the Priesthood