Tucson, Ariz. – The Benedictine Sanctuary is adorned with religious statuary and glows in the desert sun. A domed tower rises high above the sanctuary. It’s the very definition of a stately, Old World edifice.

The solar panels at the Benedictine Monastery also provide shade for parking. (Image: Mark Duggan)

The solar panels at the Benedictine Monastery also provide shade for parking.
(Photo by Mark Duggan)

The rows of solar panels a few feet away create a particularly interesting contrast between old and new.

Two long rows of panels parallel the monastery’s parking lot, providing power to the entire building, including the chapel and living quarters for more than 25 nuns.

Their power bills have been cut by as much as 80 percent, according to Sister Joan Ridley of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

She seems an unlikely choice to serve as maintenance person for a large, old building. But it’s her job at the monastery, along with assisting the sanctuary prioress.


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Not long ago, the nun couldn’t tell a thermostat from an air handler. She laughed quietly and said she learned with a bit of “screaming and fussing.”

Installing solar panels to cut energy usage and costs was, for the Benedictine Sanctuary, a wise economic decision. According to Sister Ridley, it was even more important spiritually.

Energy efficiency is essentially rooted in their religious tradition. The Benedictine Sisters believe that the ordinary is sacred.

Even electricity.


Sister Joan Ridley checks the water level in a cistern at the Benedictine Monastery.

Sister Joan Ridley checks the water level in a cistern at the Benedictine Monastery.
(Photo by Mark Duggan)

The Benedictine Monastery in Tucson.

The Benedictine Monastery in Tucson.
(Photo by Mark Duggan)

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