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By Joseph Treviño

arizona daily star

They arrived just before World War II, right in the heart of Barrio Hollywood.

But come July, the Discalced Carmelites, one of the classic friar mendicant orders known for their coarse brown robes and sandals, taking vows of poverty and a quasi-medieval spirituality, will be no more at St. Margaret Mary Church. A shortage of friars nationwide has spread the order thin - the Carmelites have seminaries and monasteries in Arizona, California, the Pacific Northwest and Uganda - so the two priests there will be reassigned to another yet unknown place.

A diocesan priest will run St. Margaret's after the Carmelites part, said Steff Koeneman, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Tucson.

St. Margaret's has been a staple in Barrio Hollywood, a predominantly Latino area west of downtown near West St. Mary's Road and North Grande Avenue. It was built in 1938 with the help - including economic - of local parishioners, said longtime neighborhood dwellers.

News of the Carmelites' departure has not sat well with many old time parishioners like Rosie McQueen, 75, who has lived in Barrio Hollywood off and on for decades.

For McQueen, the Carmelite friars have their own spirituality, contemplative prayer and a profound way and respect for the sacraments that other priests lack. The medieval-looking friars have presided at weddings, conducted baptisms, administered First Communions and prepared the dying through Extreme Unction to many Barrio Hollywood residents who are gone, she went on.

"It was a surprise for us," said McQueen. "We feel like if something had died in our parish."

Barrio Hollywood has been intertwined with the Carmelites as long as she can remember, said Bertha Sanchez, 80, who has lived in the neighborhood all of her life. She recalled one night decades ago when her husband was dying. The Rev. Cyprian Killackey, better known as Father Cyprian and by all accounts a beloved priest, dropped what he was doing and hurried to his side to administer Extreme Unction, the sacrament that prepares Catholics for death. It is sometimes called the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

"All of this is so sad," she said. "Here we are all like family."

At Father Robert Barcelos' office at St. Margaret's rectory, two fierce, foot-high distressed bronze figures of St. Michael and St. George, one punishing the devil, the other slaying a dragon, welcome visitors.

From the wall hangs a large painting that depicts a scene where flames seem to rocket down from the sky onto the Virgin Mary and the apostles. The print of "The Pentecost" by Jean Restout, an 18th century French painter, is downright frightening. The decor seems to be saying that for Father Barcelos' type of spirituality, wimps need not apply.

Robed in his monk's gear, Barcelos, a young, slim man with a full black beard and long mane, said St. Margaret's parishioners are not the only ones affected by the Carmelites' departure, that the priest are also feeling the pain. This was no bureaucratic move, but an ordeal that took them 10 years of prayer before making a decision, he added.

Still, though he and Father Albert Bunsic, his assistant, will leave town, Barcelos said that some Carmelites would remain at Santa Cruz Church, where they will keep ministering the flock.

"Our decision to leave is not an abandonment or betrayal of our parishioners," he said. "We have always given them all of our heart. … We will always love them."

"Our decision to leave is not an abandonment or betrayal of our parishioners. We have always given them all of our heart. … We will always love them."

Father Robert Barcelos

Did You Know?

The Order of Discalced Carmelites came to the United States in 1912 because of religious persecution during the Mexican Revolution.

source: Star news archives

Contact reporter Joseph Treviño at or at 807-8029.