Meet the Friars

All things for Christ -- Prayer, Fraternity, Joy & Service

Serving ‘Every Human Creature for God’s Sake’

The Franciscan Renewal Center is led by priests who are dedicated to serving the poor and promoting justice, peace, care of creation, and reconciliation in the joyful and prophetic spirit of St. Francis. They belong to the brotherhood of the Order of Friars Minor as part of the Province of Saint Barbara, which works cooperatively with The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

The Order of Friars Minor was created in 1209 to serve as missionaries around the world with this simple instruction from St. Francis of Assisi: announce the Word of God and “be subject to every human creature for God’s sake.” They act first for others, not for themselves.

In residence:

Fr. Joe Schwab, OFM, Executive Director of the Franciscan Renewal Center

Joe-CropJoseph Henry Schwab was born in Cincinnati and moved to Phoenix as a teenager, where he graduated from Arcadia High School. His first exposure to the Franciscan Renewal Center was in high school, when he did odd jobs such as setting up meeting rooms, cleaning and making beds, helping in the kitchen and on the grounds. He later attended college at Phoenix College and Arizona State University, graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Religious Studies and a minor in Biology. Today, he is a lifetime member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and Golden Key National Honor Society.

It was in 1978 that Joe read the life of St. Francis and was “really impressed” with one man’s ability to make such a lasting difference in the world. Joe chose to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis. He entered the Novitiate of the Order and later was ordained a priest. He continued his education by completing a Master of Theology degree from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif. He lived in Guatemala City to complete his Master’s thesis about education among the impoverished. He holds certifications in Contemporary Spirituality the Kino Institute, a Theology Update Certification from the International Study Centre at Canterbury, England, and in Pastoral Ministry from the University of Notre Dame.

Fr. Joe has served as a part-time teacher at various schools in Phoenix, as Vicar at Old Mission Santa Barbara in California, Guardian at St. Elizabeth’s Friary in Oakland, Calif., and as secretary to the Provincial of the Province of Saint Barbara. Since 1998, Fr. Joe has served as executive director of the Franciscan Renewal Center.

In addition to his professional activities, he leads annual pilgrimages to Assisi, Italy and enjoys gardening, hiking, bicycling, recorded books, exercising, missions, Colonial art and cooking.

Fr. Joe’s family includes his mother, Beatrice Carle Schwab; brother, William; sister, Bonnie; four nephews, two nieces, three grandnieces, one grand nephew, and dozens of cousins.

Current Ministries:

  • Director, Franciscan Renewal Center
  • Member, Board of Directors for the Franciscan Renewal Center
  • Member, RENEWING LIVES Campaign Cabinet
  • Retreat Ministries Council
  • Franciscan Pilgrimage staff


Fr. Peter Kirwin, OFM, Rector of the Church of Our Lady of the Angels

Fr. Peter KirwinPeter Kirwin was born in Troy, New York where he attended public school until high school. After graduating from Catholic Central High, he enrolled in Hudson Valley Community College and completed a Bachelors degree at Wagner College on Staten Island.

His subsequent career included teaching special education, banking and restaurant management. He also  was employed with the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene. When he shared with family his desire to become a Franciscan, he was told for the first time of something his grandmother said years earlier as she was dying: “The men in brown robes are coming for Peter.” He soon found himself at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkley, Calif.

In September of 1976, Peter entered the Novitiate of the Order. He was ordained a priest in 1981. Since then, Fr. Peter has served in six churches throughout Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona. He has been assigned to the Franciscan Renewal Center three times: 1991-93, 1998-2002 and since 2009.

In his spare time, Fr. Peter enjoys cooking, reading and music.

Current Ministries:

  • Rector of Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Angels
  • Guardian of the Friary
  • Member, Board of Directors for the Franciscan Renewal Center
  • Retreat work


We Remember: Fr. Alonso de Blas, OFM, (Born: October 25, 1939 | Died: March 6, 2015)

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, George de Blas arrived in Phoenix before his 11th birthday, living across Monroe Street from St. Mary’s Basilica — figuratively (actually, across Monroe Street from the Sisters’ Convent, which would later be razed and rebuilt as the Diocesan Pastoral Center).  He finished primary school at St. Mary’s Elementary, then spent two years at St. Mary’s Boys’ High just two blocks up.

He completed high school in 1956 at the Seminary at Santa Barbara, Calif. He then studied four years of philosophy at San Luis Rey College with a year of Novitiate at Old Mission San Miguel, where he ultimately received the habit and became Bro. Alonso). Then following four years of theology later, he was ordained a priest December 19, 1964 at San Roque Church in Santa Barbara.

He spent a year doing practical theology-in-residence at St. Mary’s Church in downtown Stockton, Calif., then came back to Santa Barbara for his first official appointment: 8 years teaching at Bishop Garcia Diego Catholic High School.  His second assignment brought him back to Phoenix to teach at the now co-ed St. Mary’s High School. He spent 16 happy years teaching Spanish and Religion there at all levels.

In 1991, he was called to his third assignment: the Franciscan Renewal Center, where he discovered he was still teaching — just to adults now.  So, he loved it. In 2000, a fourth job came: 9 years back at downtown St. Mary’s Bascilica, now as associate pastor with Fr. Vince Mesi, Rector.  Finally, 2009 brought another return to the Renewal Center on a retired-but-available basis.

“Thank God for constant calls for funerals, weddings, baptisms, parlor chats, etc., or I might start to feel irrelevant (hey, just kidding!),” he says.

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Franciscan Renewal Center