History of the Diocese and Catholic Cemeteries
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix was established on December 2, 1969 by Pope Paul VI. The Diocese, which is comprised of 43,967 square miles, includes the counties of Maricopa, Mohave, Yavapai, and Coconino (excluding the territorial boundaries of the Navajo Indian Reservation), and also includes the Gila River Indian Reservation in Pima County.
Arizona and the Valley of the Sun (Metro Phoenix) are rapidly growing areas in the Southwest, and the Diocese of Phoenix has grown with it. When the Diocese of Phoenix was established in 1969, the Catholic population numbered around 180,000. There were 51 parishes, 61 missions, and a total of 182 Diocesan and Religious priests. Today, the numbers have drastically changed.
The history of the Catholic Church in Arizona is synonymous with the growth and history of the State of Arizona. Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries were the forerunners of the European civilization who brought European culture and Catholicism to the Southwest.
The Beginning of the Catholic Church in Arizona can be traced back to the year 1539 which was 47 years after Columbus discovered the Americas. A Franciscan friar named Marcos de Niza traveled up through the Gulf of California into a northern territory, which had never been explored. He planted a cross on the land and named it "the New Kingdom of St.Francis". As a result, Padre Marcos de Niza is called the discoverer of Arizona and New Mexico.
In May 1885, Father Peter Bourgade was made the Viceroy of the Arizona Apostolic after Bishop Salpointe was made the second Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Sante Fe. In 1891, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish was founded in Flagstaff Arizona. It was the following year in 1892, when our "oldest" diocesan cemetery, Calvary Cemetery, was chartered.
The franciscan fathers had been admistering to the Pastoral needs of St. Mary's Church in 1881, the time of its founding, making it our Diocese of Phoenix oldest Church. It was shortly thereafter, 1897, that St. Francis cemetery had its first burial. It was also the same year that the Diocese of Tucson was established by Pope Leo the XIII.
As the needs for increased parish representation presented itself with the ever increasing numbers of Catholics in the Valley and the State of Arizona, so did the need for sacred burial in Catholic Cemeteries.
In 1964, 5 years prior to the Diocese of Tucson losing Phoenix to the newly established diocesan realignment by Pope Paul VI, Holy Cross Cemetery in Avondale was founded. It wasn't until after the Diocese of Phoenix came into being on Dec 2, 1969, that the Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Mesa was developed in 1978. The rapidly expanding East Valley would now have its very own final resting place where Catholics could await the resurrection together.
Many years later in 2000 and 2004, in answer to the explosive growth being experienced in the North Valley and Verde Valley areas of our diocese, Holy Redeemer and All Souls Cemteries were opened in North Phoenix and Cottonwood Arizona. Bringing our total number of Cemeteries to 6, the Docese of Phoenix had yet to accomplish but one more goal that would fulfill completely, our Corporal work of Mercy ... " to care for the dead". That goal was realized in July of 2007 with the opening and blessing of Queen of Heaven Mortuary on site of Queen of Heaven Cemetery.