By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

St. Rita the peacemaker would be proud.

The Church and National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia in South Philadelphia were full of roses and approximately 4,000 of the faithful Saturday, May 22, the saint’s feast day. It also marked the official kickoff of the $4.5 million capital campaign of the Cascia Center, a nexus for forgiveness, counseling and education about conflict management slated to open in January 2011.

The celebration, at Broad and Ellsworth Streets, was held on the final day of the May 13-22 novena.

Augustinian Father Joseph A. Genito, the shrine director and pastor of St. Rita of Cascia Parish, said the need for such a center is pressing.

“We’re hoping to make a difference in addressing the very great needs to bring peace to a city that is really suffering from violence,” he said.

Father Genito is confident that St. Rita will help make the center a reality. “We know that her intercession is going to help us get this done and up and running.”

To date, the campaign has $1.5 million left to raise.

The center will be housed next to the shrine in the former St. Rita School, at 1400 Ellsworth St. The three-story building, built in the mid-1950s, is being remodeled and renovated.

A key addition to the structure will be a stately three-story glass-enclosed pavilion featuring a lobby, stairs and elevator, accessible from a landscaped and fenced parking area facing Broad Street.

Among other offerings, the Cascia Center will provide:

counseling, educational and renewal programs that will teach and strengthen conflict resolution skills;

medical and legal counseling support for those in need, provided by A.D.R.O.P. (Augustinian Defenders of the Rights of the Poor);

an ESL (English as a second language) laboratory, which includes nine computer stations;

an assembly hall for fellowship for parishioners and pilgrims visiting the shrine, lectures and large programs that support the center mission, fundraisers for the parish and shrine and a gathering space for family events and celebrations;

a central location for administrative and development offices for both the shrine and center.

For more information, or to contribute to the capital campaign, call 215-546-8333, visit the web site or e-mail

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or