A 2nd Act: The Neighborhood House

In 1916, the city of Phoenix ended at the Salt River. But Dwight B. Heard, one of the largest landowners in the Salt River Valley, saw value in the “South Side.” His newspaper, The Arizona Republican (now The Arizona Republic), proudly displayed his real estate ads for one-acre homesites on the south side, near the Neighborhood House, a community gathering place.

In 1918, Heard thought an acre of that land, located at Southern and 7th Street, would make a perfect site for the Congregational Church, which had been meeting in the Neighborhood House. Now they would have their own buildings, beginning with a parsonage. “A good sum was pledged at once,” the newspaper reported about the initial fundraising. And another $525 was donated four days later at the Sunday church service (the equivalent of more than $10,000 today). The parsonage was completed in a matter of months.

Time passed. Phoenix grew to envelop the “south side,” and the church continued meeting at the Neighborhood House. Finally, in the mid-1940s, a sanctuary was built for the Congregationalists to call home. As the decades passed, the church changed hands and denominations. But through all of its iterations, the stately building and stunning stained glass windows welcomed all to worship, regardless of denomination. And the tradition of being open to all paved the way for the perfect second act for this gift from Dwight Heard.

The Crosiers, a 1,000-year-old religious order, came to the United States in the 19th century. The small group of priests spread across the country. Never judgmental nor intent on proselytizing, the Crosiers’ mission was simply to reach out to those who live unrecognized and in the margins.

The Crosiers who had arrived in Phoenix over the years served within the Diocese of Phoenix. In 1983, a community was officially established, but they realized there were even more ways they could serve the people of Arizona. As part of a national reorganization in 2000, Phoenix became the national Crosier headquarters. The growing community soon needed more space. They found their forever home when they purchased the former Neighborhood Congregational Church.

Today, the priests embrace the opportunity to be present to those in need via a wide range of ministries. They offer vibrant Sunday worship services, welcoming all denominations as has always been the tradition in that sanctuary. Other work includes assisting in local parishes, elder care, campus ministry, veterans programs, immigrant services and visiting memory care patients. Some of their most moving work occurs as a result of their jail ministry. The Crosiers are often the only visitors the inmates receive. And sometimes, miracles happen. 

In spring 2022, Phoenix Crosier Father Tom received a letter from an inmate he had been visiting and praying with. The man wrote that a fellow inmate came to him asking for help after a loved one had died. Father Tom’s protégé was able to provide solace.

“I gave him words of love and comfort and peace. I was letting him know that he is not alone, and that God has His arms … wrapped around him,” the inmate explained. “Many of these youngsters come to me
and ask for different kinds of advice or encouragement and, without hesitation, I am there for them.”

And then the big question: “Is putting my life on hold for 25 years a reason for finding my purpose? Is this where I really need to be right now?” The inmate knew the answer before Father Tom gave one.

As the result of a generous community, the Crosiers have just completed the construction of their new priory building, giving the 16 priests a place to live and pray together, and an opportunity to be where they need to be.

For more behind this Frontdoor, visit crosier.or

About Judy Pearson

Judy Pearson is a journalist, published author, and the founder of A2ndAct.org. Her organization supports and celebrates women survivors of all cancers as they give back to the greater good in their 2nd Acts. Her passion is finding those who have have healed themselves by helping others.
More in: A 2nd Act, Magazine

From Frontdoors Magazine

Back to Top