San Augustine Pursues Rectory and Parish Quarter Renovations

March 10, 2015

San Augustine

San Augustine Cathedral is a beacon in Downtown Tucson, but efforts are underway to preserve other neglected structures on-site. ©Todd Taulman 2010.

By Simon Brimmer

When the San Augustine Cathedral was rededicated in 2011, it represented the culmination of a million-dollar fundraising campaign and celebration of a community that recognized the need to upgrade Downtown Tucson’s most recognizable architectural presence.

But while the cathedral stands proud, behind the scenes two structures vital to the functionality of day-to-day operations—the chancery and rectory–have been neglected.

“Thank goodness it doesn’t rain in Tucson very much, because when it does the staff and priests are lining plastic buckets to collect the rain water and keep it from landing on the computers and furniture,” said Kadi Tierney, senior consultant and client strategist for fundraising consultant firm Smith & Dale, which has run point for more than two dozens campaigns assisting businesses and non-profits throughout Tucson and Southern Arizona. “The chancery is currently not ADA accessible. If you are in a wheelchair, you can’t do anything that’s part of this building if you’re trying to seek solace and support from the parish priest.”

The historic

It’s been nearly 50 years since either building has undergone significant renovation. As a result, the funding campaign hopes to raise a half million dollars to upgrade the structures into the 21st century.

“That would really help bring all the buildings up to code,” Tierney said. “We believe with the $500,000 pricetag we can eliminate a lot of these health and safety hazards and get the building aesthetically beautiful for everyone. We will reach out to the folks in the parish and ask them to play a part, but we want to extend a hand to Downtown Tucson. What you have in the parish are third and fourth generation Tucson families who have been a part of Downtown long before the rest of us were here.

“We’re looking to reach out to folks who have an emotional connection to the cathedral. Their parents had their wedding there, they had a quinceanera there, all of these different emotional ties to the cathedral, and we would love for them to celebrate what the cathedral meant to them by helping with a donation in the renovation. This is a chance to celebrate Tucson’s Hispanic, Catholic, and Southwestern history, and really put a beautiful touch on the buildings that accompany the cathedral.”

Hundreds attended the rededication ceremony in 2011. San Augustine is the spiritual home for many Tucson families. Photo from Tucson Diocese.

Tierney also believes a successful campaign can act as an impetus for expanded Downtown renovation.

“We have a greater vision,” said Tierney. “The revitalization of Downtown has been amazing, and there’s so much buzz, but it tends to sort of stop at Broadway. We feel the next generation of Downtown revitalization should include that area that includes the cathedral. We want to make the cathedral a welcome, open symbol for the community. A lot of times people will travel around the country and around the world and you’ll go to the Downtown cathedral regardless of your faith because it gives you a background and sense of what that city is like. We want to put our best foot forward as tourists come and Downtown Tucson continues flourishing. We want to be our best too.”

Tierney suspects most of the effort will be driven by private donations. Pushes for the rectory and chancery fundraising campaign are focusing largely on the assistance of parishioners and those passionate about the downtown revitalization efforts.

Smith & Dale is conducting a “Friendraiser” kickoff campaign Thursday, March 19 at 6 pm at 544 S. 5th Avenue. RSVPs are requested, and those can be made by reaching Tierney via email: or by calling 501-240-6202.