Rest for the Body and Renewal for the Soul
The Franciscan Renewal Center – or “Casa de Paz y Bien” – has existed since 1951 as a place for spiritual retreats, wellness, worship, healing and more. It predates the affluent Town of Paradise Valley – with resorts, mansions, pools, paved roads, and all. That a dusty, former dude ranch would become a God-filled spiritual retreat center and that the Franciscan friars –grounded in vows of poverty – would become surrounded by some of the area’s wealthiest residents speaks to nothing less than the astounding “coincidence of opposites;” that which unifies rather than divides.
Nov. 1, 1951 – The Kachina Lodge is purchased by the Franciscan friars and the 25-acre site officially becomes The Franciscan Retreat, the “Casa de Paz y Bien.”
Jan. 1, 1952 – The Casa opens with a retreat for Diocesan clergy, led by Fr. Owen DaSilva, OFM, as Superior.
Feb. 1, 1952 – The Casa begins its retreat ministry to the public. It holds its first retreat for men.
Feb. 8, 1952 – The Casa holds its first retreat for women.
Feb. 22-24 – What is believed to be the first retreat ever held worldwide for married couples takes place at the Casa.
Nov. 6, 1952 – Stations of the Cross by artist Fr. Luigi Sciocchetti are installed.
1953 – Fr. Owen, Fr. Conrad Wear, and Very Reverend David Temple led a pilgrimage of 80 people from the Casa community to Guadalupe, Mexico.
April 24, 1954 – The Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine by artist Fr. Luigi Sciocchetti is installed. Art conservators today believe it may be the largest example of Della Robbia style ceramic in Arizona.
June 19, 1954 – Ground breaking for the new chapel, built to accommodate approximately 60 people
Dec. 13, 1954 – First Mass in the new chapel was celebrated. Eight mass were held simultaneously.
Feb. 1, 1955 – Groundbreaking for a “Community House” (the friary)
Dec. 11, 1955 – The new chapel is dedicated as Our Lady of Solitude with Bishop Gerke as presider and Bishop Green as celebrant at the first Mass held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine
1956 – Building continues with a new retreatant’s wing, called Perricone Hall. A casita next door is purchased as named Alhambra Hall.
June 8, 1956 – Fr. Owen is transferred to a new assignment. Fr. Conrad Wear becomes his successor to lead the Casa as new Superior.
1959 – Attendance increased to 2,300 retreatants and 1,700 church worshipers. Fr. Ivo O’Sullivan arrives on loan from the Irish Province.
1960s – The universal church sees declining numbers yet elects the nation’s first Catholic president. The dynamism of this decade leads the Casa to shift its focus from solitude and piety to a new commitment toward educational programs and interaction.
1961 – Fr. Conrad is reassigned. Fr. Ronan O’Sullivan becomes his successor as Superior, working alongside Fr. Ivo O’Sullivan and Fr. Albert Braun.
1965 – Br. Mario Vasquez arrives and begins a vegetable and floral garden.
1970 – The Casa officially becomes the “Franciscan Renewal Center, symbolizing a new focus and the growth of popular activities, such as counseling, scripture study, group discussions, and more. Fr. Michael Weishaar is Superior with Fr. Barry Brunsman and Mary Ann Finch as key leaders during this time. Liturgy becomes a primary concern as word spreads in greater Phoenix about this community. The North America Academy of Liturgy is formed I part through a donation by Virginia G. Piper. The first lecturer was Rev. Eugene Kennedy, followed later in the year by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
Oct. 3, 1971 – The chapel is remodeled to accommodate 212 people and rededicated as the Paul V. Galvin Memorial Chapel, in memory of Virginia G. Piper’s first husband.
1973 – Nationally syndicated columnist Erma Bombeck speaks about “The Sense of Humor Involved in Being a Christian.”
April 25, 1976 – The Casa holds its 25th Anniversary with Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine followed by a picnic. Fr. Forrest McDonald replaces Fr. Michael as Superior.
1977 – Fr. Gavin Griffin organizes a 12-Step program at the Casa. The San Jose Building is dedicated (now known as the St. Barbara, St Anges, and St. Luca rooms).
1978 – The Casa edges into social justice activities that extend beyond its walls with the help of Fr. Martin Gates, who ran a Franciscan mission in Guaymas, Mexico.
June 10, 1979 – The Br. Conan Memorial Chapel is erected and dedicated.
March 9, 1980 – the Guadalupe Building with conference rooms and offices is dedicated.
1981 – the first swimming pool is replaced.
1983 – Fr. Luis Baldonado becomes “Director” and creates a full-time position dedicated to social justice
1986 – Fr. Ray Bucher succeeds Fr. Luis as Director.
1988 – The Chapel is enlarged again to now hold 310 people
1990 – 2000 – The Casa sees more lay leadership and corporate framework for an increasingly complex institution. Directorship is divided between Br. Joe Schwab and Charles Brown.
Dec. 12, 1998 – The new friary is completed. Friars in residence at this time are: Br. Joe Schwab, Br. Mario Vasquez, Fr. Peter Kirwin, Fr. Michah Muhlen, and Rusty Shauhgnessy.
Dec. 24, 1999 – the Jubilee Arch is completed as a new entrance into the Casa and a symbol of entering a new millennium.
Feb. 26, 2006 – The Casa’s chapel is rededicated as the Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Angels and embraces the responsibility of sacramental preparation and Family Catechesis as part of its programming. Bishop Thomas Olmsted presides over the dedication.
2007 – The Casa recognizes a need to repair aging buildings and create more space for families.
2010 – Capital Development Feasibility Study commissioned by Board of Directors to assess possibilities of a comprehensive campus renovation.
2011 – The “RENEWING LIVES Campaign” is conceived to transform and reinvigorate the physical campus. The campaign is sparked by a $3.1 M pledge from the Diane & Bruce Halle of Discount Tire Co. A campaign feasibility study and recruitment of campaign leadership is conducted.
Nov. 1, 2011 – The Casa begins a year-long celebration of prayer and gratitude in honor of its 60th year.
July 2013 – The “RENEWING LIVES Campaign” officially begins. An early gift from the Perricone family of California allows the Casa to tackle the first Key Element of the Master Plan – renovation of 30 guest rooms and reconstruction of the pool plaza.
Aug. 31, 2013 – Family registration at the Casa surpasses 2,000 families.
Oct. 13, 2013 – The Casa celebrates the grand re-opening of its newly remodeled guest rooms and pool plaza, Perricone Plaza.
Nov. 2013 – The Casa begins restoration of its historic Stations of the Cross by Fr. Luigi Sciocchetti.
Mar. 2014 – The Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible is welcomed as a new work of art permanently on display at the Casa.
Jan. 2016 – The Casa breaks ground on the new Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Angels