Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine in the Arizona desert

First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
First slide
Previous Next

A shrine built to honor Our Lady of the Sierras has stood in the Arizona desert since the 1990s.

Standing high above the desert floor at an elevation of 5,300 feet in the Huachuca Mountains is a 31-foot statue of Mary. From Our Lady’s high perch, she faces the sprawling San Pedro Valley several hundred feet below. Her arms are outstretched, with her right arm pointing to a 75-foot Celtic cross nearby while her left arm points to the Mexico-Arizona border just a few miles away.

The shrine was built by Gerald and Patricia Chouinard. The couple, originally from Illinois, visited the area in 1987 and bought eight acres of land to build their retirement home. Little did they know then, that was not all they would build.

After a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, in 1990 — just prior to commencing construction on their home — they visited a large stone cross on Mount Krizevac and noticed a similarity between the impressive mountain view overlooking the valley and their Arizona property. Upon returning home, they inquired about building a large-scale cross on their homestead, and quickly added their desire to have a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary built as well.

After several years of opposition from the county and their neighbors, the shrine — that also includes a small stone chapel — was completed in 1998.

In 2002, the addition of 14 outdoor Stations of the Cross allows visitors to climb 600 feet from the parking lot at the base of the trail to pray at a place that visitors on tripadvisor.com describe as “breathtaking, serene, peaceful and beautiful.” Others call it “a place of miracles, a wonderful place to breathe and a place to balance the mind and spirit.”

 

Buy photos of the Shrine at catholicherald.smugmug.com.  

In June 2011, the original interior of the chapel was destroyed by the Monument Fire that started in Mexico and spread across the area. Many homes were damaged or destroyed, including the Chouinard’s home. Miraculously, the fire left the original cross and statue of Mary untouched and neither were scorched or damaged with soot. The chapel has since been restored.

If you are looking for an easy daytrip, the site is only 90 miles from Tucson and 14 miles from Sierra Vista, Ariz. —home to Fort Huachuca, the U.S. Army’s “Intel Center.” The installation has a few interesting history museums worth seeing. If you want to extend the visit to a weekend getaway, Coronado National Memorial, Kartchner Caverns State Park and the historic towns of Bisbee and Tombstone are a short drive away.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019