Come March, the Benedictine monastery at 800 N. Country Club Road will no longer house the sisters who have lived there since 1940.
But the property is likely to become home for others.
The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration announced the sale of the monastery to local developer Ross Rulney at a Friday news conference.
On Friday, the sisters and Rulney signed a contract for the sale and purchase of the property, to be finalized around March 1, said Sister Joan Ridley, the monastery’s superior and a member of the Order of Saint Benedict. March will also be when the remaining sisters will depart from the monastery for a larger congregation in Clyde, Missouri, Ridley said.
“I envision additional development on the property consisting of a housing component that will complement the adaptive reuse of the existing building,” Rulney said in an email interview.
“The monastery is a historic treasure, and I will work to preserve the exterior of the building, while taking great care with interior improvements.”
Rulney said he could provide no additional details at this time.
Currently, 12 sisters call the monastery home, but three are already Missouri-bound come the end of October.
“It’s been a difficult decision, and we don’t really want to close the monastery and leave Tucson,” Ridley said.
“But the sisters aren’t young enough to maintain this large monastery, and there is another large monastery in Missouri, and we have to work together.”
As of Friday, the congregation had about 60 members, including the sisters in Tucson. Three sisters in Missouri have died in the last week, Ridley said.
The Tucson sisters announced the closure in September 2016 and spent months searching for a buyer — ideally another religious community.
But most communities have the same problems as the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration — there aren’t enough members, and those they do have are getting older.
The sisters settled on Rulney because “He has experience with adaptive use downtown,” Ridley said, adding that they hope future development will respect the monastery’s historic character.
Because some of Rulney’s prior projects have focused on “high quality housing,” the sisters anticipate a similar future for the monastery, Ridley added.
Neither the sisters nor Rulney would disclose the sale price of the property.
Rulney’s other development projects include the 100-year-old Julian Drew Block downtown with apartments, Charro Steak and Even Stevens Sandwiches, Star archives show.
The Benedictine sisters moved into the monastery, designed by Tucson architect Roy Place, in 1940. Several years before, the sisters had received an invitation from Bishop Daniel Gercke of the Diocese of Tucson.
Over the years, the 172 sisters who have lived at the monastery have sustained their ministry by making and selling altar breads, soaps and lotions, vestments, and, briefly, popcorn.
Ridley estimates maintenance of the property costs roughly $150,000 annually. Always, they have offered a contemplative space and prayers for the city — and occasionally bus passes and egg salad sandwiches for those in need, Ridley said, recalling a few of the sisters’ past projects.
“We’ve been through a hard time struggling with this,” she said. “But now there is a deeper sense of acceptance to move forward in Missouri.”