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5 Amazing Catholic sites not to miss in Arizona

5 Catholic sites in Arizona

Allison H. Smith | Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz | Alexander Lukatskiy | Shutterstock | Killiman - Wikipedia - CCA - SA 4.0 Int'l | Collage by Aleteia

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 03/21/24

If you are from the Grand Canyon State, or will be traveling to the region, check out these special and historically significant Catholic sites!

Famed for the natural beauty of its deserts, canyons, and vistas, Arizona is an inspiring place to visit, especially during the winter months if you’re from a northern climate! 

It’s also a state with an interesting Catholic history and notable spiritual sites. Amazingly enough, the Catholic history of Arizona predates the United States itself!

The Catholic historical heritage of Arizona dates back all the way to 1539, when a small expedition under the leadership of Franciscan Fray Marcos de Niza, provincial of the Franciscans of New Spain (now called America!), arrived. 

Early missionaries came from Mexico and traveled as far north as modern-day Kansas, using rudimentary means of travel like mules, canoes, and horses to cross vast regions riven by canyons and valleys. Talk about persistence!

Today some 21% of the Grand Canyon State’s residents are Catholic. And they are blessed with a number of significant spiritual places in their home state. If you are from Arizona, or will be traveling to the region, check out these special Catholic sites!

1
The Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona

Voted one of the “Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona,” this incredible landmark chapel is built right into the red rock buttes of Sedona, Arizona, within the Coconino National Forest

The unique church was commissioned by Catholic artist and rancher Marguerite Brunswig Staude, who had been inspired by the Empire State Building. You can read more about her story here

The unusual and awe-inspiring structure draws more than one million visitors per year from around the world.

Mission San Xavier, Tuscon, AZ
Mission San Xavier in Tuscon, Arizona.

2
Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson

One of the oldest Catholic sites in North America, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. 

The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church’s interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. It is a place where visitors can truly step back in time and enter an authentic 18th-century space. Today it is designated a National Historic Landmark.

The church is an active parish today with a robust calendar of events, and a strong relationship with the local Tohono O’odham American Indian population on whose tribal lands the shrine is located.

3
St. Mary’s Basilica, Phoenix

The Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly called St. Mary’s Basilica, is the oldest Catholic parish in Phoenix and was the only Catholic parish in Phoenix until 1924. 

The church became a Minor Basilica in 1985, and in 1987, Pope St. John Paul II visited the Basilica while in the United States and knelt in prayer in the center aisle. 

You can read more about the history of this beautiful church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, here. You can arrange for a guided tour or take part in the basilica’s many ministries and services if you’re in the area.

4
Cathedral of St. Augustine, Tucson

The beautiful Cathedral of St. Augustine is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson. Founded in 1776, the historic building pre-dates Arizona statehood and today is the second most photographed building in the Southwest. 

Indigenous desert plants, such as yucca and saguaro blossoms, are featured in the stone designs of the church building. The structure is a striking example of the architectural, cultural and spiritual traditions that shaped the region.

Guided tours are available, and local residents can get involved with all kinds of ministries, activities and devotions at this active parish.

St. Peregrine Cancer Shrine
St. Peregrine Cancer Shrine in Mesa, Arizona.

5
St. Peregrine Cancer Shrine, Mesa

The mission of the St. Peregrine Cancer Shrine at Christ the King Catholic Church is to promote perpetual adoration of Jesus Christ and to pray for those affected by cancer. 

The only cancer shrine in the Southwestern United State, the St. Peregrine Shrine has a wailing wall inspired by the one in Jerusalem where pilgrims can place small slips of paper with their prayers in the cracks. The shrine also offers a Perpetual Adoration Chapel and is home to a first-class relic of St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer patients. 

As the terrible disease of cancer affects so many people, this shrine is a very important site of prayer and devotion to countless people. In the midst of suffering, it offers a sanctuary for spiritual healing and emotional peace.

BONUS SITE
Old Adobe Mission, Scottsdale

The Old Adobe Mission originated as Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) Catholic Church and was built by hand by Mexicans who settled in Scottsdale in the late 1910s. It was designed in a Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style. The faith and devotion of the early immigrants who placed over 14,000 bricks by hand to build their church is so inspiring! 

This special historic site reveals the early days of the area in this oldest standing church in Scottsdale. 

Tags:
Catholic historyHistoryTravel
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