History of the Columbarium
by Bud Brookes
It was April of 1997, that Fr. Bob Bryerton asked me C. M. Bud Brookes, if I would do him a favor and go to Tucson on the 29th of the month and attend a west coast catholic cemetery convention.
When I spoke with my wife Shirley to inform her we were going to Tucson on the 29th which is our wedding anniversary she replied oh your taking me to the Lowell’s Ventana Canyon Hotel, sadly I had to say not exactly we are going to the Holiday Inn to attend the catholic cemetery convention. The cemetery convention turned out to be extremely filled with information of all sorts in dealing with treatment of the deceased. Shirley and I chose to attend the classes which specialized in cremation and columbarium internment.
On return we had lunch with Fr. Bob and shared with him our information and impressions. He said since you are retired, you should continue to work on this project and, let’s see if we can get permission from the Diocese of Tucson to have and build one.
This of course required more information gathering, in reference to the economics. We worked with a friend at Cochise College, and gathered information pertaining to the number of deaths in Cochise County particularly in Sierra Vista which helped us determine the size of the project.
Fr. Bob arranged a meeting at the Diocese of Tucson and we presented our request and learned that we were going to be the only parish out of 70 plus to receive such permission to go ahead. One other important item from the Diocese of Tucson is that in their operation of a cemetery (in ground burial and columbarium storage of remains), fifty three percent of the deceased chose cremation do to the reduced costs. We then met with our architect friend, Albert Hopper from Bisbee, we walked 14 acres of Our Lady of the Mountains property and selected the current site as our number one request going forward.
At the next Finance Council meeting, were this idea was purposed there was a lot of interest but I was advised there would be no money available from the church and that if I could make this happen it would have to be through offering potential sales sites. My next move was to contact Mickelson & Ray and we concluded that a good starting point would be to select a four sided unit that would be free standing, with twenty four niches per side totaling ninety six in all. With a sketch and drawing from the Architect I then contacted one of our church members, Maryann Haines and she provided me with a sketch and model of our idea. Which I used as the spring board and offered early selection but only with a $500 deposit to raise sufficient cash to pay for our construction of said columbarium garden. When I proposed to my wife Shirley about our selection of buying the first unit she stated she want to be able to look to the east where the sun comes up and see over the wall. Therefore, with the approval of the Cochise county zoning office, I ordered our custom built unit and started construction which was completed in a short time.
After the masonry walls and wrought Iron for security were in place, we ordered our first unit from Mickelson & Ray of Phoenix (recommended by the Tucson Diocese cemetery manager). We then spent many hours around a small table working with those that were interested in this project as it truly fell into place. Fr. Bob announced at all masses that we were going to have a parish contest to select a name. After he and I spent much time going through the ballots it was determined the columbarium name would be All Souls All Saints Mother Teresa Columbarium. I then contacted our local artist Brian Donahue to come up with a design for the ornamental artwork which he did and is now in place on the wall as a gift from him and his wife. Of course at the start of anything new and different it takes a while for the idea to catch on, but many of our membership supported the concept as we offered for sale the units at a very modest price of $795 up to $1195 which was referred to by many as starting at the street level going up to the penthouse! Sales were strong enough that we were able to pay off all our obligations six months early. The day of the dedication Fr. Bob took us all out to bless and pray and release many colorful balloons on All Souls and All Saints weekend!
Approx. 3 yrs later we again worked with Mickelson & Ray to build additional Niches on the North wall, which was followed by our third installation on the east wall and finished up filling the entire area on the inside of the west wall which included some oversized niches which would hold four of our Brass Urns offered for sale.
In keeping the separate account it was determined that this project had become very profitable for our Lady of the Mountains as well as having paid off all obligations. It was reported that in 2007 the church had netted $85,000 plus availability of eighty three more niches for sale. At that time I was hopeful that half of the future sales funds should go toward future expansion, which certainly proved a successful ten year project.
With our former Pastor, Fr. Bob Bryerton, the vision of our Mother Teresa Columbarium became a reality with the love, devotion, prayers and commitment of our community. For those of us so dedicated to Our Lady of the Mountains for so many years will be interned on Holy Ground and proud of our achievement.
Today, we continue the hope of expanding our Columbarium – and providing a place for those who wish to rest here.
For more information, please contact the Church with any questions you may have.