Saint Rita Catholic Church

Saint Rita, come to my aid! Beautiful rose born from the Savior’s thorns, Lead me far from anger and hate; Guide my heart on peaceful paths with charity to all.

Since 1914, our parish has served the spiritual needs of this Alexandria, Virginia, community. Please join us, as together we worship God and grow in love for one another under the protection of our patroness, Saint Rita of Cascia.

An Illustrated History of Saint Rita Parish


In 1912, a group of involved, dedicated women, the “Ladies Seminarian Society,” gathered the children of Catholic families living in the area then known as Saint Elmo-Abington-Del Ray and proceeded to instruct them in the Catholic faith in a cobbler’s shop. This was the beginning of the rich history of Saint Rita parish in Alexandria.

The Cobbler’s Shop where first Mass was said and Sunday School classes held

By 1914 permission had been secured from Bishop O’Connell to build a church and a name was chosen, placing the project under the care of Saint Rita of Cascia, the patroness of “impossible causes.” Ground was broken for the original Saint Rita Church on Hickory Street in Mt. Ida in March of 1914. Dedicated in October of the same year, Masses were said by priests from Saint Mary’s until the “Mission” became a parish in 1924 with its own pastor, Father Leonard Koster. Dominican Sisters and Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart began religious education for children in the parish, traveling from Washington and Baltimore by train and streetcar. Capuchin Fathers also helped out at Saint Rita and became an important part of the church community.

Original St. Rita’s Church on Hickory Street, Mt. Ida

Father Koster and Mission Helps of the Sacred Heart, First Communion, 1943

By 1940 the parish had grown to 1,000 and a new church was needed. Father Koster secured three acres on Russell Road from the Beall and Conlon families. After Father Koster’s transfer in 1947, the new pastor, Father Gallagher, embarked on a program of construction which would give Saint Rita a complete plant including church, school, rectory, convent and annex. Even with the difficulty of securing materials during the Korean War, Saint Rita Church was dedicated on December 18, 1949, with Bishop Ireton laying the cornerstone. Described as a beautiful example of Gothic architecture, the church was constructed of Virginia fieldstone and Indiana limestone.

An Illustrated Timeline from Groundbreaking on 8 September 1948 to Dedication Mass on 18 December 1949