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Street Smarts: Eastside street leading to church named after Pope Pius X

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Pope Pius X, ca. 1880-1900. Library of Congress

Pope Pius X - or Pio Decimo in Spanish and Italian - was born Giuseppe M. Sarto near Venice, Italy, in 1835.

Sarto was one of eight children in an impoverished family. His father, Giovanni B. Sarto, was a postman and his mother, Margarita (Sanson) Sarto, was a dressmaker. A couple of his sisters became nuns as adults and aided him in the Archdiocese of Venice.

At age 11, Sarto told of his desire to become a priest. He attended a Catholic high school and later went to seminary in Padua, Italy.

In 1858, at age 23 years old, he became assistant pastor to the farming village of Tombolo. There, he started an after-school program to help children learn to read and write as well as gain a better understanding of the faith.

Father Sarto spent nine years at Tombolo before being named pastor of Salzano in 1867, a role he would fill until 1876. He became widely known for assisting poor ranchers and farmers as well as helping to fund local schools and hospitals.

Father Sarto was named a monsignor by the bishop of Treviso and became spiritual director of the local seminary and chancellor of the diocese. At 51 years old, in 1884, he was named bishop of Mantua.

During Bishop Sarto's six years at Mantua, he added Gregorian chants to Mass and taught the ideas of St. Thomas Aquinas. He revived the faltering diocese.

In 1893, Pope Leo XIII raised Bishop Sarto to the cardinal of Venice. His first deed was to travel home to celebrate Mass with his elderly mother, along with friends and family. His mother would die thereafter.

Pope Leo XIII died in July 1903, and about a month later Sarto took his place and chose the name Pope Pius X. His coronation occurred on Aug. 9, 1903. During his papacy 15 new dioceses were established in the U.S., and he named two American cardinals. He spoke out against violence and war but failed to stop World War I, which began the year of his death in 1914.

Pope Pius X was canonized, or named a saint, in 1954.

In 1969, the Diocese of Tucson created St. Pius Parish. In roughly 1972, a developer asked Father Robert Fuller what he would like to name the new dirt road that went to the future site of the east-side St. Pius X Catholic Church, which was being built at the time. Father Fuller liked the sound of the Spanish translation of Pius the Tenth, so he called it Camino Pio Decimo. The church is located at 1800 Camino Pio Decimo.

Editor's note

Each week the Star will tell the stories behind Tucson street names. If you have streets to suggest or stories to share, contact writer David Leighton at

Sources: Special thanks to Betty Wittenberg, archivist at Catholic Diocese of Tucson; Phone interview with Father Robert D. Fuller, now pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church; The Rev. Alban Butler, "The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and other Principal Saints," The Catholic Press Inc. 1956; St. Pius X bio:; Steven M. Avella and Jeffrey Zalar, "Sanctity in the Era of Catholic Action: The Case of St. Pius X," U.S. Catholic Historian, fall 1997; J.V. Bartlett, "The Popes: A Papal History," SimRidge Publishing, 1990

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