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Archbishop to help St. Rita celebrate 50th anniversary

St. Rita Catholic Church in Cottage Grove is celebrating its 50th anniversary and the opening of a two-story expansion that has nearly doubled its footprint. (Bulletin file photo)

Margaret Holmstrom was 36 when St. Rita Catholic Church held its masses in the auditorium at Park High School.

Back then, the closest option for Catholics was St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park.

“The two churches were actually being built at a similar time. We needed a church to fulfill the needs of the community on this side of the highway,” Holmstrom, 86, said.

She and her late husband Karl Van Bogart had moved to Cottage Grove the year before. They were charter members of St. Rita when it was founded in August 1966.

Four years later, the church moved to its current home at 8694 80th St. in Cottage Grove.

“By the time we moved into the new building in 1970, we had approximately 400 families,” said Holmstrom.

A half-century later, St. Rita has nearly 1,500 families, numerous faith and outreach programs locally and overseas, and a new, two-story, 9,500-square-foot expansion that has nearly doubled its footprint.

An anniversary mass Sunday, April 17, will mark the beginning of St. Rita’s 50th year jubilee. Bernard Hebda, the newly appointed archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, will concelebrate the 10:30 a.m. mass with the Rev. Rick Banker.

After the mass, leaders and parishioners will gather for a dedication and blessing of their new $2.2 million Faith Formation Center, a new wing with 16 classrooms, a nursery, a dressing room for wedding parties, a youth room and additional storage space.

“We want to celebrate the 50 years, the spirit of hospitality and outreach, music and liturgy,” Banker said. “It’s about a $2.2 million addition for children and youth. We’re kind of proud of that. It’s a great achievement.”

Banker said they also take pride in their music and youth ministries, outreach programs and partnerships with sister parishes, including those in Chimbote, Peru, and an orphanage in Tanzania. They serve a community meal the third Friday of every month.

Parishioners from St. Rita also volunteer to staff the Hope for the Journey Home Shelter, a refuge for homeless families at Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale.

Following the mass, Hebda, Banker and others will lead a procession out the front doors of the church to the site on the north side of their property.

Among the 500 expected to attend are former pastors, staff and some former parishioners from out of state, according to event co-chairs Rosanne Haupert and Cathy Mitchell. Banker said the turnout could be even higher.

A reception will feature a video loop, photo boards and mementos.

Holmstrom, who now lives in Hastings with her husband Jim, served as administrative assistant at St. Rita for 23 years. She may be retired, but she still makes the trip to worship at St. Rita.

(“It’s) the people,” she said. “It’s friendly. It just makes you feel comfortable.”

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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