Tucson rivals Chicago for breathtaking mornings, but Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas admits it's tough to compare the two cities' downtowns.

Kicanas, 65, was born and raised in Chicago and lived there until the age of 60, when he moved to Tucson.

Since 2003 he has been bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, which spans nine counties and includes some 350,000 Catholics.

Though he loves Tucson, Kicanas not surprisingly finds the Magnificent Mile more vibrant than Congress Street.

"It would be really nice if we could beautify our Downtown in Tucson," said Kicanas, who hopes a refurbished "Cathedral Square" behind St. Augustine Cathedral, 192 S. Stone Ave., will bolster Tucson's Downtown redevelopment.

"In Chicago, I do like Michigan Avenue and Rush Street," he said. "It's also very much a neighborhood city. We're so spread out in Tucson."

But desert life also offers many pluses for Kicanas, among them the dry air that he enjoys during his early morning runs, and a rich cultural diversity that allows him to use his Spanish skills.

Five questions for Kicanas:

How did growing up in Chicago affect your career choice?

"I met a number of priests who inspired my career. I went to elementary school with the Sisters of Nazareth. Also, Chicago is a city of great differences and our family was probably middle class or lower middle class. Coming into contact with some of the poorer communities, the kids in those communities, and the public hospital — seeing those needs inspired me to think I could share the gifts of doing for others."

Favorite team?

"The Chicago White Sox. I'm happy they train in Tucson; that is nice. My great nephew, great niece and niece came out and we went to their baseball games and got autographs."

What are your favorite memories?

"Chicago is a beautiful city and the lakefront in particular is beautiful. When I went to high school at Quigley (Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary — a high school for boys wanting to become clergy) we could walk to the lakefront. The rivers are so dry here in Tucson. When I moved here I kept hearing about these rivers, and the river walk. But there was no water in the rivers."

What do you miss most?

"My family — my sisters, all my nephews, my mom. My mother will turn 95 in June. I also have lifelong friends from high school and being away from them, I don't see them often."

● Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at sinnes@azstarnet.com.