Our Lady of Lourdes was founded by Father Felix Emile Joseph Dilly in late 1894. Church construction began immediately on the site of the today's church. The church building was built by the parishioners of the day out of adobe bricks and wood. The church could seat about 80 worshippers on 12 pews when completed.
The parish community thrived as Benson continued to grow over the next 50 years as the ranching industry grew up, the railroad was constructed and the explosives industry was formed to support the growth in mining around southern Arizona. There were 20 pastors of the church in this span of years.
During this time period, Our Lady of Lourdes was a mission of Tombstone, St. Patrick's in Bisbee and Sacred Heart in Nogales. Then Tombstone became a mission of Benson from 1931 to 1960. Then in 1966, Our Lady of Lourdes became a separate parish of it's own.
Hijas Minimas de Maria Inmaculada -- Sisters who served in the parish from
1925 - 1967.
The groundbreaking for the new church was on June first 1948. The footers for the foundation were 5x5 feet to add strength for the poor soil conditions. Fifteen men and boys worked all night to lay the foundation. The church was constructed of cal clay blocks. The architecture of modified spanish style with exposed beams represented the stable of Bethlehem. The builders in charge were Shorty Martinez, Vern Bell and the architect Terry Atkinson. Dedication ceremonies were set for May 22, 1949.
After construction of the new church, the old church deteriorated quickly, even though it was being used a parish hall. Fr. Norm Whalen made plans to build new classrooms and a new parish hall. In April of 1967 the bell tolled for the old church when it was demolished. It stood for 72 years in service to the Lord and the people of Benson.
After the old church was torn down, nothing was left in the spot but vacant ground where a lawn was planted. In early 1973 Msgr. Rosettie and Abe Samuels came up with a plan for a grotto to be located in the empty area left by the old church. Construction began in February. All the work was done by hand with the rock being hauled from a quarry in Dragoon and from the Whetstone mountains. The shrine was completed March 13, 1976 and it was dedicated the following day.
When the church was decorated for Easter in 1980 a defective electrical extension cord caught fire which spread through the west side of the church causing extensive damage to the building structure, although almost all the items in the sanctuary, including the tabernacle and statues were saved. The fire was extinguished by the Benson fire department, but the fire damage left the church unusable. Mass was held either outside in the grotto area or in the parish hall depending on the weather until the church was reconstructed.