Finding a Peaceful Sanctuary at the Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine

The Chapel and the Large Celtic Cross at Our Lady of the Sierras

Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine has survived a fire and fierce opposition to being developed to become a beacon for pilgrimages from around the world. Since 1998, this shrine inspired by a religious pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, has captured the hearts, minds, and faith of believers everywhere. This peaceful sanctuary provides breathtaking panoramic views of the San Pedro Valley from the Huachuca Mountains and is the perfect place to come and relax and pray. There also have been numerous unexplained phenomena and miracles reported on the grounds. Here is all the information you need for your visit to Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine in Hereford, Arizona.

Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine History and InformationOur Lady of the Sierras Sign

Our Lady of the Sierras was the brainchild of Gerald and Patricia Chouinard. They purchased eight-acres of land on the eastern slope of Thompson Peak in the Huachuca Mountains in 1988 to build their retirement home. On a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, the couple experienced the mountain view of the valley below while standing by the large stone cross located on Mt. Kriscivac. When they returned home, they realized that their land was very similar, and the idea to create Our Lady of the Sierras was formed.

The first phase of their plans was to create a cross over 70′ tall.  Patricia felt that a giant statue of the Virgin Mary should be placed next to the cross. However, regulations in Cochise County did not allow structures over 30′ tall. The exception was that it could be allowed if it was considered a monument. Thus, it was decided to build a small chapel, and that would give the cross designation as a monument. So, in 1993 with plans approved, they went forward with their project.

Unfortunately, once their plans were excitedly shared with a neighbor, fierce opposition sprung up and expanded to California, calling their ideas “Visual Pollution”. An intense, expensive, and long four-year court battle ensued. In the end, all permits were re-instated, which allowed the couple to continue building their dream. The chapel was completed in the Spring of 1998. And in the Fall of 1998, the Bishop of Tucson dedicated the chapel. Since then, three Bishops and over seventy priests have performed mass at the Our Lady of the Sierras.

Our Lady of the Sierras is located at 10310 S. Twin Oaks Road, 12-miles south of Sierra Vista on Highway 92 in Hereford, Arizona (1.5 hours from Tuscon). Directions are to turn on Stone Ridge Rd. Turn right on Prince Placer. Then turn left on S. Twin Oaks Rd. to the lower parking lot. The grounds, including the Stations of the Cross, are open daily, weather permitting. Chapel hours during the Spring to early Fall are 9 a.m. to Sunset. During the winter the Chapel hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can check all the latest times and information on their website. Our Lady of the Sierras is a non-profit religious foundation, and all donations are welcome.

2011 Monument FireView from the top of Our Lady of the Sierras

Our Lady of the Sierras has been a stop for pilgrimages for years. People come by the busload here to be apart of this amazing place. There have been numerous unexplained phenomena documented, messages, and miracles that have happened on these grounds. But, none as awe-inspiring as what happened during the Monument Fire in 2011.

The Monument Fire started in the Coronado National Monument on June 12.  The fire spread quickly through the park burning over 29,000 acres within the Huachuca Mountains. When it was finally put out it had destroyed 40 homes, and 10 structures including the Our Lady of the Sierras Chapel and surrounding buildings.

The miraculous thing is that the large cross and the Virgin Mary statue along with one tree next to them were the only things to remain unscathed from the Monument Fire. The inside of the chapel directly in front of them was completely destroyed. How does one explain that these two things, the cross, and the Virgin Mary statue, are the only things to survive with absolutely no burn marks or soot whatsoever on them? Miracle? You decide!

Our Lady Guadalupe GrottoOur Lady Guadalupe Grotto

Our Lady Guadalupe Grotto can be found in the lower parking lot. The grotto was completed in July of 2004 with most of the material from local river rock. A Mexican family donated the beautiful tile art. This area is also a great spot to get some landscape photos of the Arizona desert valley. View of Hereford from Our Lady of the Sierras

The Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. It has been told that in 1531 the Virgin Mary made an appearance before St. Juan Diego. Today, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a potent symbol of Mexican identity and faith. Her image has been associated with everything from motherhood to feminism to social justice. The Our Lady of Guadalupe Prayer below is very fitting in this trying time we are currently dealing with.Our Lady Guadalupe Statue in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Sierras

Our Lady of Guadalupe Prayer

Holy Virgin of Guadalupe,

Queen of the Angels and Mother of the Americas.

We fly to you today as your beloved children.

We ask you to intercede for us with your Son,

as you did at the wedding in Cana.

Pray for us, loving Mother,

and gain for our nation and world,

and for all our families and loved ones,

the protection of your holy angels,

that we may be spared the worst of this illness.

For those already afflicted,

we ask you to obtain the grace of healing and deliverance.

Hear the cries of those who are vulnerable and fearful,

wipe away their tears and help them to trust.

In this time of trial and testing,

Teach all of us in the Church to love one another and to be patient and kind.

Help us to bring the peace of Jesus to our land and to our hearts.

We come to you with confidence,

knowing that you truly are our compassionate mother,

health of the sick and cause of our joy.

Shelter us under the mantle of your protection,

keep us in the embrace of your arms,

help us always to know the love of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

ChapelThe Chapel at Our Lady of the Sierras

The small chapel is directly in front of the large Celtic Cross. At only 680 square feet, it feels intimate and personal inside. The chapel was completely renovated after the Monument Fire and brought back to the original design pre-fire using local river rock. The chapel houses the Blessed Sacrament in a vintage 1900s bronze Tabernacle on the limestone altar. Also, the crucifix under the mural is an antique Spanish wooden crucifix San Damiano design dating back to early Mexico. The ceiling has Douglas Fir wood beams, and the Ocotillo plant stems from Northern Mexico.

In 2005, a white marble angel, “Guardian of the Children,” was placed near the North chapel entrance. There is a small prayer area by the statue with a bronze plaque that marks the area explaining its purpose concerning “final closure” of one being involved in an abortion. There is also a small quartz box into which one may place the name of the aborted child. This process gives the child an identity and may help one in the process of healing.

.Inside the Chapel at Our Lady of the Sierras

Bronze Jesus and Disciples in hands on a book in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Sierras

Celtic CrossThe Large Celtic Cross at Our Lady of the Sierras

The Celtic Cross is an impressive monument to stand next to. It is towering at 75′ and can be seen while driving from Highway 92. The design is to look like the cross is carved out of a huge tree. Made of structural steel and finished with concrete and fiberglass, the cross weighs 30 tons. The finished sculpture was hand-sculpted, and the word “VITA” means life. There is also a handcrafted rock waterfall directly behind the cross. I always find it peaceful hearing running water, and this waterfall is delightful to sit by.

Also, near the cross is a small area that houses the Crown of Thorns with its certificate of origin. This particular Crown of Thorns has been sanctified in the Church of the Holy-Sepulchre in Jerusalem. There aren’t too many words to say about this, but Wow!The Crown of Thorns at Our Lady of the Sierras

Blessed Virgin Mary StatueOur Lady's Statue at Our Lady of the Sierras

The Blessed Virgin Mary statue sits at 31′ feet tall. The figure is made of welded steel with a concrete composition exterior. All of the finishing touches were hand sculpted. You can always find several flower arrangements left at her feet. Her hand is reaching to the cross, which indicates the true Christian path to salvation; The Way of the Cross. It also points directly to the Arizona and Mexico border, which is only a short 5 miles away.

Angel of RevelationAngel of Revelation at Our Lady of the Sierras

The Angel of Revelation can be found before the Stations of the Cross right beside the cross and the Virgin Mary statue. The statue was completed in 2004 and stands at 10′ high. Miraculously, the Angel of Revelation statue survived the Monument Fire without significant damage.

Upper Grotto: Christmas Manger SceneUpper Grotto: Christmas Manger Scene at Our Lady of the Sierras

The Upper Grotto was completed in 1999 but had to be restored after the Monument Fire. The restoration of the Christmas Manger Scene and Upper Grotto was completed in 2012. The Upper Grotto is located up the hill directly above the chapel. I can only imagine what the Christmas Manger Scene looks like at Christmas time. It must be magical!

Stations of the CrossStations of the Cross at Our Lady of the Sierras

There are 14 Stations of the Cross for you to see along your 600-feet spiritual journey up the side of the mountain. Each station was exclusively constructed by two Hispanics (Jose and Jesus), and each one has a bronze plaque telling you which station you are at. There is a winding path that is sometimes brick and other sections paved. I would exercise caution when going up or down. It is a reasonably steep climb, although winding to eliminate going straight up. Coming down, I could see it could be tricky if there were rain or water.

I did my trek up the path and marveled at the beauty of the area and felt comforted. Every photo I took along this path had a sunburst in the picture. I would like to believe that it was God letting me know he was with me. It truly was a spectacular feeling walking this path up the mountain. The 13th Station of the Cross at Our Lady of the Sierras with the sun shining down

View from AboveView of Hereford and Mexico from Our Lady of the Sierras

The panoramic views from 5300′ above sea level are lovely. You get a fabulous view of the Arizona landscape with the desert valley, the Mule Mountains to the east, and the San José Mountains in Mexico to the south. You can even see the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. This is also a great place to visit to watch the sunrise over the Mules.

SummaryJanet and Ian MacDonald

Thanks to my good friends, Janet and Ian, who took me here while I was visiting them in Arizona and working on their Arabian Horse Farm as a horse ranch hand. Our Lady of the Sierras is the perfect place to come and be in a quiet area to reflect on life. You can spend time in the chapel or take the journey up the mountains by the stations of the cross. No matter what your religious background is, you can come here and count your blessings or ask for them. Either way, this is the perfect sanctuary to find peace in this crazy world we live in.

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Further Reading

If you are coming to Arizona for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

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