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.
Fr. Joe Schwab, OFM, Executive Director of the Franciscan Renewal Center
Joseph 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.
- 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
Peter 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.
- 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
Fr. Bill Bried, OFM
Fr. Bill Bried, OFM, came to the Franciscan Renewal Center in October 2014 from New York City, after nearly 35 years as a priest and 55 years in religious life, serving primarily on the East Coast from Connecticut to Florida.
He entered religious life after high school – initially joining the Brothers of Holy Cross, where he taught in grammar and high schools and was the principal of a school in Brooklyn.
During Holy Week of 1969, he first met the Franciscans at Christ House in northern New Jersey through a retreat for Brothers from different religious communities. Over the next few years, he returned to Christ House to learn more about the Franciscans, and finally in 1975, he transferred to the Franciscans. The biggest factor in his move was the Franciscan life he witnessed over those years. Fr. Bill was ordained a priest on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City. Since then, he has worked in parishes and was a hospital chaplain.
It was during the mid-2000s that he suffered from serious illnesses that brought about major changes in his life. Discovering that his blood type was B+, he realized that God was telling him to “be more positive” and feels that this change has given him a far different perspective on his own life and the lives he is called to minister to each day.
His last assignment before coming to Arizona was at a parish on the east side of New York City, where he served for three years and as the administrator during his final eight months there.
“I have traveled around this country and have been either assigned to or visited parishes, but never have found a place quite like the Casa,” Fr. Bill says. “People come because they want to and get involved in so many different ministries that serve the needs of others. The Franciscan spirit is very much alive here and I am proud to be part of this great ministry.”
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.