Benedictine Monastery

A tour of the Benedictine Monastery will take place Monday, Nov. 5, at 5:30 p.m.

I was the final superior of the Benedictine Monastery in Tucson at the time negotiations for sale were happening; I also supervised operations and maintenance since 2008. Each of the sisters who lived there until February 2018 is vitally interested in what it will become and saddened when untruths and hardened opinions are afloat. I would like to explain several things:

We sisters believed strongly in the protection to our monastery offered by the 1994 National Register of Historic Places designation, so much so that I showed the certificate signed by the Arizona governor to every potential buyer and said, “Be warned.” We understood then and now that the exterior could not be changed, nor would responsible city officials allow our buyer to harm the structure using the city permit processes.

We searched nationally for over six months for a religious community of women or men who would use it pretty much as we had, but as a new owner they would have to do many upgrades inside to comply with modern building, accessibility and safety codes. We would have sold it to such a community at a loss, below appraised value. One local church was seriously interested. But we got a “no” from them all: “Too much square footage,” “the building is too old,” “we don’t need all that ground,” “we are going ahead with plans” in Austin or Missouri or Phoenix.

So from the day we began to consider several offers from developers, we knew any buyer would need to use the three acres of vacant land to generate income for the purchase price and costly upgrades to the existing monastery, plus any new construction. The land would not remain as we knew it, kind of like a park. Looking back to what the grounds have been cannot determine their future.

Nor have the grounds always been the same for us. After ecological awareness came, we began to reduce grass, plants and trees because our well’s aquifer also supports the larger population of Tucson. Before we sold the property, we planned with the Mission Garden to work with the buyer to relocate some unique trees that would not remain. Mr. Ross Rulney has committed to keeping some that are not movable and most rare, such as the huge avocado.

We do not want to see any more “infill” (a term used by Star columnist Tim Steller and others) than is economically necessarily to make ends meet for the current owner. We don’t know the ins and outs of those economies. We believed then and now that Ross Rulney has both the love of the monastery building at heart and an ability to assemble good people to help him plan development, such as Corky Poster, but we are no longer directly involved. We hope agreement and conclusions can come soon.

Our small number of sisters needed to relocate into one community to work together on our future. Also, Clyde, Missouri, is where we have a fully functioning health-care center, now caring for many sisters who had lived in Tucson.

Because it is not supported by government funds, we needed the income from this sale to cover the costs of such care. We sold our Tucson Monastery at appraised value, no higher.

Since 1935, we Benedictine Sisters lived and prayed in Tucson and loved your friendship as the city grew around us. We still pray daily for the people of the Old Pueblo and Arizona, wishing you much peace.

Sister Joan Ridley now lives at the Benedictine Monastery in Clyde, Missouri.