St. Rita Catholic Church

St. Rita Catholic Church was founded in 1924 on the northeast side of Detroit. Between 12 and 30 people made up the nucleus of the first congregation of St. Rita, coming from different parts of the neighborhood to meet in several unfinished storefronts on 8 Mile provided by a local merchand. Parish records describe this first meeting place: "The stores were newly plastered and a temporary floor laid when priest and people met here for the first time on the 27th of January. Seated on piles of lumber arranged as pews in front of the Altar, which consisted of an Altar Stone resting on a plank neatly covered with liniens borrowed for the occasion, a small crucifix, two candlesticks and cadles, a mass book and cards, were forty worshipers." The first Priest was Father Thomas J. Carroll, who was appointed on January 19th, 1924. In a short time the congregation grew to 150 members. After the stores had been rented, the congregation met at the home of a parishioner, and also used the auditorium of Lacey High School in Hazel Park.

Groundbreaking for a new wooden church on East State Fair Avenue was held on May 1, 1924. Mass was offered for the first time on August 10th in the basement, as the floor had not yet been laid. In just a few months the church family grew to 250, and by October 12th of 1924, four masses were needed. An elementary school was built on the site in 1926, followed by a high school in 1946. With over 1,200 members, a larger church building was needed. A temporary church on Hawthrone Avenue was built in 1946 that was designed to be converted into a gymnasium for the school after funds had been raised for a permanent church building. Construction on the convent started in 1949.

On May 2nd, 1954 the cornerstone for a new, modern church was laid. The modified Romanesque-style building was formally dedicated by Cardinal Edward Mooney on December 3rd, 1954. The original church was used for worship until 1946 and was thereafter used as the Parish Hall until it was demolished between 1954 and 1956.

St. Rita continued to grow in the post-war years, eventually reaching over 3,000 families. Unlike other Catholic parishes in the city, members of St. Rita welcomed integration and fought the block-busting that divided neighborhoods all over Detroit. A new two-story high school building was finished in September of 1969, but brought with it a heavy financial burden. By 1972 the parish chose to eliminate 10th through 12th grades, and three years later closed the remainder of the school. The school buildings were leased to the Detroit Public Schools, which used them until 2005.

The loss of members to the suburbs continued through the following decades, until the congregation had dwindled down to only 100 members. In 2007 the parish council voted to recommend closing St. Rita, which merged with St. Bartholomew to form St. Bartholomew-St. Rita Parish in 2008. The combined parish lasted until 2014, when it too closed.

After sitting vacant for a few years, St. Rita was sold to New Providence Baptist Church, a megachurch of over 4,000 members on Plymouth Road in Detroit. The church planned on using St. Rita as an outreach campus, hoping to grow it into a sustainable satellite church. After several years of fundraising and work, St. Rita reopened in 2012, but struggled to attract members from the surrounding neighborhood. Despite the presence of an on-site caretaker, thieves continued to break into the building to steal music instruments and strip out metal pipe and wiring. By 2014 the church was vacant again, and heavily damaged by scrappers.

In 2015, the church was sold to Promise Land Missionary Baptist Church, which had just left its previous location at the former St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Poletown. The church was cleaned up and renovated again, and appears to be in use as of 2016. The convent and school still remain abandoned.