What’s in a name, Indy? Saint Brigitte Roman Catholic Parish – Part Two
The stories of St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church and St. Rita’s Roman Catholic Church are closely linked to Indianapolis. Both parishes operated schools that catered for black children.
According to a statement from the Church of St. Rita, St. Rita of Cascia is the saint of the impossible: “Rita [‘Margherita Lotti’ — ‘Rita’ for short] was born in 1381 in the village of Roccaporena, near Cascia, Italy. Her parents, Antonio and Amata Lotti, considered her birth to be a very special gift from God, as Rita was born to them when they were already advancing in years. The Vatican has indicated that her birth may have taken place in 1371, and “over the years Rita has distinguished herself as a humble and zealous religious woman in prayer … She has especially visited the elderly, cared for the sick and helped poor people”. Its Roman Catholic feast is celebrated every year on May 22.
St. Bridget Roman Catholic School closed due to low enrollment in 1936. At the same time, St. Rita Roman Catholic School moved from its building on Arsenal Avenue to the old location. from Saint Bridget School at 813 West Street.
In a newspaper article dated September 4, 1937, published in the Indianapolis Recorder, Reverend Bernard Strange reports that there have been “a lot of renovations and redecorations of the St. Rita School and Convent, both in the inside and out, over the past few weeks. The priest noted: “There are those who have the impression that only Catholic children are admitted to Catholic schools. On the contrary, admission to this school can be gained by any child, regardless of the faith of the child or his parents. Only one condition is required, which is that the character and morality of the pupil be of a high standard and that he be docile, respectful and obedient to his teachers at all times. (Please note that this quote included actual language used in 1937. At that time, the priest referred to a child using the terms “he” and “his.”)
Due to an increase in enrollment, St. Rita School reopened its school building on Arsenal Avenue in 1945. St. Rita School operated from both locations – on West Street and on Arsenal Avenue – during the school year 1945-1946, according to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, then moved all classes to the St. Rita Parish campus in 1946. St. Bridget Parish then moved reopened St. Bridget School in the West Street building in 1946.
The city of Indianapolis approved a proposal from St. Bridget School to use a small property owned by the city as a playground, according to an April 12, 1949 news article in The Indianapolis Star.
A new building for Saint Rita Catholic School opened on Martindale Avenue (now called Dr Andrew J. Brown Avenue) in 1954. Construction of a new church sanctuary began at 1733 Martindale Avenue in April 1958; the new church building opened on May 17, 1959.
On June 20, 1972, the School Board of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese announced its intention to close Sainte-Brigitte School This year. Students were encouraged to drop by St. Monica Roman Catholic School at 6131 N. Michigan Road. After the closure of the Sainte Brigitte school, the building became the site of a daycare center. The building that housed the Saint Bridget school was demolished on March 28, 1998.
St. Bridget’s Church closed on July 1, 1994. The church building was demolished on December 2, 2000. Today the site of the former Saint Bridget parish – St. Bridget’s Church as well as the building that housed St. Bridget School and St. Rita School – are the location of residential housing.
“In 2003, due to low enrollment numbers, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis combined Saint Rita and Saint Andrew schools to create the Saint Andrew and Saint Rita Catholic Academy,” according to a statement from St. Rita. “The academy was also closed at the end of the 2010 school year.”
The playground created by St. Bridget School remains today a playground for the St. Mary’s Children’s Center on Ninth and Fayette streets. The next editions of What’s In A Name, Indy? will provide additional details on the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the lives of black people living in Indianapolis.
Do you have questions about the communities of Indianapolis? A street name? A landmark? Your questions can be used in a future news column. Contact Richard McDonough at [email protected].