In 1950, formal fundraising activities began to raise money for a new Catholic church in Webster. Officers were elected for the new parish. Four months after planning began, St. Rita’s was incorporated as a Catholic Church Corporation under NY State law. Rev. Francis Kleehammer was announced as the first pastor. St Margaret Mary Church in Irondequoit had outgrown its church and was building a new one; they donated the old church building to St. Rita’s. It was dismantled and rebuilt on Maple Dr. by men from St. Michael’s parish and men from West Webster. A rectory and new school were added during the 1950s and 1960s as membership in the parish grew.
In June of 1978, Rev. Francis A. Kleehammer retired as pastor of St Rita’s. The parish celebrated his tenure as the first pastor of St. Rita’s with a dinner at Sweet’s Party House. Over 400 people attended the dinner to honor Rev. Kleehammer, a beloved priest and friend of the Webster Community.
In 1979, the parish council voted to replace the “temporary” church building with a new church building. Architects Cassetti and Klein of Elmira as well as the contracting firm of A. V. Lombard of Rochester worked to complete the building. St. Rita’s new church was dedicated by Bishop Matthew H. Clark on May 22, 1984, the feast day of St Rita. In 1985, the church filed for a permit with the town to remove the old church building. Demolition was completed by Drouin Brothers and Dick Schouten.
The 35th anniversary of St Rita’s Church was celebrated on September 14 and 15, 1985. During the liturgies celebrated that weekend, all married couples were invited to renew their marriage vows. A reception followed in the Barn.
In 1995, St Rita’s broke ground for a new Parish Center. The parishioners pledged $620,000 of the $1.2 million needed to build the 13,000 square-foot campus. The parish center connected the school and church housing new meeting rooms, the school library( moved from the Barn to the school building), an activity center with gymnasium and kitchen. A new entry and greeting area along with additional parking were all part of the project. Rev. John Reif dedicated the new Parish Center on the weekend of March 9 and 10.
St. Rita’s parish celebrated the the over two decades of service of Rev John Reif as pastor with a farewell gathering in December of 1998. Hundreds of people attended this party to recognize Rev Reif for his years of devotion to the church as well as the Webster community.
St Rita’s, St Paul’s and Holy Spirit churches joined together to build a Habitat House on Cuba Place in Rochester during April of 1998. Fundraising activities continued through out the project which included clothing drives, the Finance a Foot campaign [$45 sponsors a square foot of home], Even Up campaign at Hegedorns [customer could roundup their bill to nearest dollar], and Phyllis Contestable’s One Woman Cabaret Show presented at R L Thomas Middle School. The Habitat Home was completed in the fall of 1998.
Adelaide Radtke was honored on Sunday September 27, 1998 at the church community center. Addie marked her 100th birthday on December 8 and 48 years at St. Rita’s on November 1st. Addie was an active member of the Breakfast club, St Rita’s Society and many other parish organizations.
On September 3, 2000, St. Rita’s Church celebrated its 50th anniversary with a special Mass. Many golden anniversary events were planned through the year ending with a dinner dance on October 21st. A new directory, special cookbook and a display of pictures and stories depicting the history of the church were available. Father Charles Latus, pastor, noted that the 2,200 parish members were involved in many volunteer ministries and that St Rita’s was one of the largest parishes in the diocese.
Webster Penfield Health Ministry began as the idea of Felice Armignacco and Marie DeMarco both of Webster. They first came across the idea during a nursing convention where it was noted that the Lutheran Church had established ministries that provided holistic health care to parishioners. Upon retirement Felice, a parishioner of St. Rita’s and Marie, a parishioner of St Paul’s, pursued the idea with their parishes and decided to form a ministry with the four Webster and Penfield churches, St Rita’s, St Paul’s, Holy Trinity and Holy Spirit. The primary mission of the group was to provide an initial contact for people in need of health care assistance and to help answer questions.
They also provided a link to resources and opportunities to educate the community. Educational topics included; stress management, nutrition, wellness, fitness, dental hygiene and monthly blood pressure checks. The group also hosted seminars such as Caring for Aged Loved Ones and Hospice Care.
St. Rita’s annual festival celebrated its 50th anniversary in June of 2004. The first Fiesta in 1954 was a fundraiser for a new school. This annual event has become a Webster tradition as community members come together for a weekend of family-oriented fun. Over the years the event has included parades, games, activities, craft, clowns, magicians, pony rides and live music. The Fiesta has been known for the prizes that can be won, including a new car.
On June 24, 2012, Rev. Charles Latus served his last Mass at St Rita’s, retiring after 44 years as a priest. Two days later was his 70th birthday. Rev Latus remained as part-time chaplain at Cherry Ridge complex in Webster. A reception was held for Rev. Latus at the church following Mass in appreciation for Rev. Latus’ dedication to St Rita’s and the Webster community. Rev. Lance Gonyo replaced Rev. Latus as pastor at St Rita’s. Rev. Gonyo celebrated his 20th anniversary as a priest in 2013.
In 2016, St. Rita’s began a capital improvement drive with a goal of $350,000. The goal was to maintain normal income to continue parish operations while keeping up with the maintenance of a 30-year-old church and 22-year-old parish center. The projects would be completed in phases with the proposed order of these projects being to replace and repair the parish center and the church roof, repair the church heating and air conditioning system, and removal of the church septic system and connection to town sewer system.
St. Rita’s has many opportunities for faith formation, fellowship and outreach such as Bible study, youth groups, Women Enjoying Rediscovering our Catholicism, CROP Walk, Knights of Columbus, Martha Ministry, Mary’s Place, Migrant Ministry, Outreach Ministry, Prayer Shawl, Visitation Ministry, Stephen Ministry and Webster-Penfield Health Ministry.
|Rev. Francis Kleehammer||1950-1978|
|Rev. John Reif||1978-1998|
|Rev. Charles Latus||1999-2012|
|Rev. Lance Gonyo||2012-2019|
|Rev. Tim Niven||2019-|
- Dunn, Esther, Webster Through the Years, Webster, Town Board, Webster, NY, 1971, p 315-317.
- Webster Church Box, St Rita’s file Webster Historian Office, Webster Museum, Webster, NY, 2017.
- “Party Honors Retiring Priest”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, June 14, 1978, p 3A.
- “Ridge Runner”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, June 14, 1978, p 4A.
- “St Rita’s builds a new home for church”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, June 6, 1982, p 8A.
- Webster Town Board Agenda, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, May 15, 1985, p 3A.
- “Around Town”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, September 11, 1985, p 4.
- Gertner, James, “St Rita’s new construction beginning”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, July 12, 1995, p 1,2.
- Gertner, James, “St Rita’s addition opening, Parish center unveiling set”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, March 13, 1996, p 1, 20.
- Thomas, Cathryn C., “Comments and Opinions, Supervisor’s Corner”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, December 30, 1998, p 16.
- Gertner, James, “Churches building for Habitat, City house to be built with Webster-sweat”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, April 22, 1998, p 1,2.
- “Used clothing helps build home”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, May 27, 1998, p 5.
- “Radtke marks two occasions”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, September 16, 1998, p 24.
- “Churches break ground on newest Habitat home”, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, June 23, 1999, p 11.
- Laton, Mike. “St Rita’s Parish celebrates 50th”, Catholic Courier, Rochester, NY, September 21, 2000, p 3.
- Ficcaglia, Jennifer, “Retired nurses create four parish health ministry”, Catholic Courier, Rochester, NY, August 8, 2002, p 8.
- Metz, Ann, “St Rita’s ready to celebrate 50th annual Fiesta””, Webster Herald, Webster, NY, May 26, 2004, p4.
- Jimenez, Annette, “Father Latus to embark on a new journey”, Catholic Courier, April 30, 2012, http://www.catholiccourier.com/articles/father-latus-to-embark-on-a-new-journey
- “Many years of priestly ministry noted”, Catholic Courier, April 29, 2013, http://www.catholiccourier.com/articles/many-years-of-priestly-ministry-noted
- Cunningham, Jan, “Protecting our Future Saint Rita’s Roof Campaign”, St Rita’s Church, Webster, NY, 2016.
- St Rita’s Church, 2018, http://saintritawebster.org/parishhistory.html