St. Rita Catholic Church was born from the vision and persistence of Miss Molly Ferrell. She was a single woman, a dressmaker, the eldest of eleven children, and a born leader. Because it took most of the day for the farming families of Handley to travel by horse and wagon to St. Patrick's in Fort Worth, many were unable to attend Mass.
In 1908, seeing the need for a Catholic Church in Handley, Miss Mollie brought her dream to the attention of Bishop E.J. Dunne, second bishop of the Diocese of Dallas. The Bishop advised Miss Mollie it would be an "impossible task", but eventually gave his permission for her to pursue support of her vision.
Our first church opened its doors to 14 families on February 28, 1909. Bishop Dunne named the little mission church, located on Erie Street a block South of Lancaster, St. Rita after the saint of the "impossible".
Fire destroyed the church on December 9, 1916, and for 1-1/2 years Mass was celebrated in the nearby home of Mrs. Pat Ferrell. In 1918, the mission church was rebuilt in the same design of an English bungalow with a front porch and a bell tower. The bell for the bell tower was acquired years later by an employee of the Santa Fe Railroad, who managed to salvage it from a discarded steam engine. Vincentian priests from the old University of Dallas attended the mission from 1913 until 1926, and priests from St. Patrick in Fort Worth had charge of the mission in the intervening years. Due to the mission status of St. Rita Church, it was many years before the Eucharist was reserved in the tabernacle of the church.
There was yet another change in 1942 when St. Rita was associated with St. William mission in Arlington (now St. Maria Goretti), and the parish was referred to as the Arlington-Handley parish under the direction of Father William Silk. It was during this period in 1943, the present church site at Weiler and East Lancaster was purchased. Also, during this time, a former parishioner, Mr. Joseph Noel, under the guidance of Monsignor Langenhorst, in 1945 started the St. Vincent de Paul Society which is continuing their work today throughout the Diocese fo Fort Worth and Dallas.
The present church was built in 1974 when Fr. Albert Tyl was pastor and dedicated by Bishop Joseph Cassata, First Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth. Father William Aaron was assigned as pastor in June 1979 with, then associate pastor, Fr. Joseph Pemberton, who later became our pastor in 1986.
Fr. Richard Flores became our pastor in July 1993 and served St. Rita's until July 2008. Fr. Paul Kahan, SVD served St. Rita's until August of 2015. Fr. Eric Groner, SVD served as pastor until August of 2020. Our current pastor is Fr. Siprianus Ola Rotok, SVD.
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