Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes History

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Our Lady of Lourdes was founded by Father Felix Emile Joseph Dilly in late 1894. Church construction began immediately on the site of today's church. The church was built by the parishioners. It was constructed of adobe bricks and wood. The church could seat about 80 worshiper's. There were 12 pews.
 

  The parish community thrived as Benson continued to grow over the next 50 years. As the ranching industry grew up, the railroad was constructed and the explosives industry was formed to support the growth in mining around southern Arizona. During these 50 years there were 20 pastors.
  During this time period, Our Lady of Lourdes was a mission of Tombstone, St. Patrick's in Bisbee and Sacred Heart in Nogales. From 1931-1960 Tombstone became a mission of Benson.  In 1966, Our Lady of Lourdes became a separate parish of it's own.
 

 The Hijas Minimas de Maria Inmaculada -- Sisters served in the parish from 1925 - 1967.
 

  The groundbreaking for the new church was on June 1st 1948. The footers for the foundation were 5x5 feet to add strength for the poor soil condition.   Fifteen men and boys worked all night to lay the foundation. The church was  constructed of cal clay blocks. The architecture of modified Spanish style  with exposed beams represented the stable of Bethlehem. The builders in charge were Shorty Martinez and Vern Bell. The architect was Terry Atkinson.  Dedication ceremonies were May 22, 1949.
 

  After construction of the new church, the old church deteriorated quickly. During this time it was used as a Parish Hall. Fr. Norm Whalen made plans to  build new classrooms and a new parish hall. In April of 1967 the bell tolled for the old church when it was demolished. It stood for 72 years in service to the Lord and the people of Benson.
 

  After the old church was torn down, nothing was left in the spot but vacant ground where a lawn was planted. In early 1973 Msgr. Rosettie and Abe Samuels came up with a plan for a grotto to be located in the empty area left by the old church. Construction began in February. All the work was done by hand The rock was hauled from a quarry in Dragoon and from the Whetstone   Mountains. The shrine was completed March 13, 1976 and it was dedicated the following day.
 

  When the church was decorated for Easter in 1980 a defective electrical extension cord caught fire. The fire spread through the west side of the church causing extensive damage to the building structure.  Almost all the items in the sanctuary, including the tabernacle and statues were saved. The fire was extinguished by the Benson fire department. However, the fire damage left   the church unusable. Mass was held either outside in the grotto area or in the parish hall depending on the weather until the church was reconstructed.