Amid the art, specialty retail and dining that defines downtown Scottsdale sits a distinctively Catholic presence that connects the area’s past to the present. The Old Adobe Mission, Scottsdale’s first parish, turned 80 this month.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted celebrated an anniversary Mass Oct. 15 for docents and family members of those who built the mission brick by brick. Msgr. Tom Hever, who led the mission’s restoration efforts in 2000, and Fr. Greg Schlarb, pastor of nearby Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, concelebrated.
The mission sits less than a mile from OLPH and served as Scottsdale’s only Catholic church for the first 23 years until the parish outgrew it. The space was used as a meeting hall and practice hall for the symphony over the years. By the late ‘90s, the mission began to show its age and OLPH parishioners decided to give it a facelift. Some 400 new adobe bricks were made onsite.
“It was too important of a place to be knocked down or gotten rid of,” said Rad Masinelli, who coordinates volunteer docents at the mission.
Scottsdale’s first Catholics built it. They were 20 families recruited from Sonora, Mexico to work nearby cotton fields. Some 16,000 adobe bricks later, they had a simple largely one-room church. It took another 15 years for them to get a full-time pastor and be declared a parish. The Extension Society of Chicago, which donated funds for the original roof, were granted naming rights and chose Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
“The history and labor of love put into it is inspiring,” said Laurel Hirsch, a docent at the mission since 2005.
She loves sharing it with visitors who stop by while checking out other sights in Old Town. The Old Adobe Mission attracts visitors from all across the globe during its seasonal hours. Some of their pictures grace the mission’s blog and Facebook pages online.
Hirsch said three people — including one from France — stopped in during the anniversary celebration. Whether it’s in the guestbook or in conversation, Hirsch said most visitor comments reflect on the mission’s beauty.
“They just have a feeling that it’s a special place. They’re all taken by it. It’s hard to explain,” he said.
Local Catholics find it special too. One couple had their marriage convalidated there this month with more than a handful of weddings scheduled. Other families have used it for quincañeras and baptisms.
Fortunately, heating and air conditioning was installed two years ago. The mission’s board of directors hopes funds from the donation box will ultimately bring a proposed renovation project to completion. They want to expand the back end for a small kitchen and storage space. They also want to add restrooms.
“It’s perfectly fine the way it is. We just want to maintain it so it doesn’t deteriorate again,” Masinelli said.
The mission is scheduled to open again Oct. 28 and remain open daily through April.
Old Adobe Mission
3821 N. Brown Street (First and Brown streets) in Scottsdale
Open daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 28-April