St. Francis once wrote, “Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.”
Between May 11-18, 2014, the Franciscan Renewal Center (the “Casa”) surveyed members of the community – registered families, past guests of programs and retreats, and volunteers. The purpose was to assess interest in ans awareness of various elements of the Casa’s offering. A quantifiable measurement of these aspects can help the Casa community with long-range programmatic planning, assess interest in the mission, and provide a portrait of the “typical Casa member” that helps the Casa anticipate future community needs.
Survey respondents where predominantly Catholic (79%), a household with just one or two adults (90%), between the ages of 55-74 (74%), who have been attending the Casa for more than 5 years (89%).
- 31% have been attending the Casa for more than 20 years
- Only 12% of respondents have children under age 17 at home
- Of those with children, age ranges were evenly divided between 0-6 years, preteens aged 7-12 years, and teens aged 13-17 years old.
- 20% report that members of their household practice other faiths
People of other faiths are drawn to the Casa. Other faiths represented among survey respondents are: Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Disciples of Christ, Episcopalian, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Protestant, Russian Orthodox, Unitarian and Quaker.
Program Use & Awareness
Church and spiritual reflection are what draw people to the Casa, and the grounds are a significant part of the attraction. Although 82% come for mass and 56% for holy days, more than one-third (40%) come to walk the grounds. The gift shop also is a popular draw, attracting 35% of respondents at some point during the year. Slightly half (53%) come for programs, workshops or retreats. One third (32%) come to volunteer. Ranked in descending order, people turn to the Casa for the following:
- Mass (82%)
- Holy days (56%)
- Programs, workshops or retreats (53%)
- Walking the grounds (40%)
- Gift shop (35%)
- Volunteer activity (32%)
- Non-religious special event (22%)
- Spiritual direction (13%)
- Meeting or conference (11%)
- Counseling (8%)
Understanding of the Casa’s total offering is strong and accurate. Overall, there is a consistent feeling that all services that are part of the Casa’s current offering are important or “extremely important.” This held across all age groups who completed the survey, as well as Catholics and non-Catholics. Nearly all (99%) are aware of spiritual retreats, with 68% having attended one before and 52% planning on attending one within the next year. Awareness was lowest, but still high (87%), of licensed behavioral health counseling.
Respondents report that they stay up-to-date about the Casa via email (79%), the bulletin (74%), the website (52%), word of mouth (37%), mail at home (33%), and (32%) from live events. Social media is used regularly by 14% of respondents in order to follow Casa news and updates – up 4% from 2013. A preference for information from the Bulletin is up 9% from the previous year.
RENEWING LIVES Campaign
Awareness and understanding of the RENEWING LIVES Campaign has grown. According to survey respondents, 61% have heard of the RENEWING LIVES Campaign – up from 39% in 2013. Eighty percent believe they understand the Casa’s vision and expansion plans – up from 61% in 2013. Only 18% say they do not understand the Casa’s plans or have “unanswered questions,” down from 38% in 2013. This year 43% (up from 25% in 2013) report attending a “Discover the Vision” event, and 31% (up from 19%) have attended a “Vision Summit.”
Those who want to learn more about the RENEWING LIVES Campaign wish to be informed mostly through bulletin (61%), email (59%), and through pulpit announcements (34%). Face-to-face gatherings, such as Vision Summits, and direct mail sent to homes ranked lowest as preferred methods of communication. Again it is important to recognize that the sampled population received the survey through email and is ideally biased towards such means of communication.
Nearly 280 survey respondents offered additional comments about what they “like most” about the Casa and 169 complaints were shared in response to what people would “most like to see change” at the Casa.
Based on comments shared in those open-field questions of the survey, two programmatic needs stand out. First and similar to last year’s survey response, there is a desire for more diverse programming that is designed for children, preteens and teens, parents, young adults and professionals. In addition, some perceive the current programming as too “New Age” or “radical.” Some would like programming that teaches the basic tenants of the Catholic faith. The desire for more diverse programming – be it defined by philosophy or age group – was the top complaint (representing 18 out of 169 qualitative comments), ranking second only to the need for a larger church.
Next, respondents indicated that they would like liturgical music “to be a little more traditional and a little less showy.” Several comments indicated a desire for the choir to perform more often and professional musicians to sing less. There were 14 comments in all about music (provided in response to Q20 “What would you most like to see change?”) out of 169 comments received.
In all, compliments outnumbered complaints and were consistent with what Casa leadership knows now: people are attracted by the welcoming nature of the community, a friendly and non-judgmental Franciscan way, the serenity of the grounds, and the beauty of the liturgies and homilies.
“The serenity give me a place and time to shut out the business of my world and to concentrate on my connection with God.”
“The Casa motivates me to be more spiritual and focused away from self and instead on what is best for the common good.”
“Frequently we take out-of-town company to walk the grounds of the facility and do the labyrinth. Everyone we’ve taken comes away renewed.”
“I see actions that exhibit the non-judgmental inclusiveness that Jesus taught.”
“The Francisan Way is integrated into everything which has a strong connection to the Gospel message of love.”
“Liturgies are moving as well as the homilies”
“We like the welcoming atmosphere. Everyone is family to us. The community is very trusting and does not judge you. You are accepted where you are at.”
An online survey was issued to those who opt in to receive information from the Casa. Specifically, it was issued via 40 active email distribution lists, representing 3,897 email addresses. (Duplicates were removed prior to release.) Each survey contained a unique URL, allowing the recipient to complete the survey once and invalidating the link if it was forwarded to another person. In addition, a paper survey was made available to those who had technical difficulty with the online form.
Of the 3,897 individuals who were issued a survey, 3,764 were successfully delivered. The rate of delivery success improved over 2013 because of efforts to ensure more accurate and active email addresses were part of the distribution list. Of those who received and read the email (36.5%), the Casa received 393 fully completed* surveys – or a response rate of 28.4%. Typically, a response rate of 26% is expected for long-form surveys such as the 34-question questionnaire that the Casa issued. Partially completed surveys totaled 1,373, or a partial-response rate of nearly 100% from those who opened it the message. (A partial response is possible because not every question is mandatory.) Response was lower in 2014 vs 2013 due a shorter survey window and less promotion of the survey.
Response Rate 2013 vs 2014
|2013||4,705||4,016||1,835 / 45.7%||665||36.2%|
|2014||3,897||3,764||1,383 / 36.5%||393||28.4%|
No organization can continue to exist without really knowing its members. That’s especially true at the Franciscan Renewal Center where genuine relationships and true community have kept this place going for 61 years. Like in any relationship, we invite you to tell us what’s on your mind and what we, at the Casa, can do better to support you.
This spring, the Casa surveyed registered families, past guests of programs and retreats, and volunteers to gauge interest in various elements of our offering and measure understanding of the RENEWING LIVES campaign that will support property renovation and operations. We were astounded by the response – 36%, which is about 10 points higher than expected for long-form, e-mail survey. We were pleased that awareness of our offering is strong and accurate. Most of all, we were pleased that across all age groups, the community says all elements of our offering are important – even those that do not directly impact their family.
Below is a highlight of our findings. What we already knew about the Casa was confirmed, while other responses quantify what we anecdotally hear or perceive to be trends in the community. Most interesting and helpful to us were your responses to “What would you most like to change about the Casa?” and “What would you most like to keep the same?” A summary of those comments is included below, too.
Thanks to all who shared thoughts. If you weren’t able to participate in the survey, feel free to contact me at anytime (my door, truly, is always open) or leave your comments below. Thank you, most of all, for walking with us as part of this community in faith.
Survey respondents were predominantly Catholic (77%), a household with just one or two adults (87%), between the ages of 55-74 (80%), have been attending the Casa for more than five years (85%), and live in Arizona all year (84%).
- 26.5% have been attending the Casa for more than 20 years
- Only 14% of respondents have children under age 17 at home
- Of those with children, age ranges were evenly divided between 0-6 years, preteens aged 7-12 years, and teens aged 13-17 years old.
- Seasonal residents generally visit Arizona between November – April, peaking in February and March.
- 37.5% report that members of their household practice other faiths
Church and spiritual reflection are what draw people to the Casa, and the grounds are a significant part of the attraction. Although 69% come for mass and 39% for holy days, more than one-third (36%) come to walk the grounds. The gift shop is a popular draw, attracting 29% of respondents at some point during the year. Nearly half (46%) come for programs, workshops or retreats. Exactly one quarter (25%) come to volunteer. Ranked in descending order, people turn to the Casa for the following:
- Mass (69.4%)
- Programs, workshops or retreats (45.6%)
- Holy days (38.8%)
- Walking the grounds (35.5%)
- Gift shop (29.4%)
- Volunteering (25.5%)
- Non-religious events – pet adoption, volunteer appreciation, etc. (21.2%)
- Hosted meetings and conferences (9%)
- Support groups (6.8%)
Property renovation awareness
According to survey respondents, only 39% have heard of the RENEWING LIVES campaign to support property renovation and operations. Nearly two-thirds (61%) believe they understand the Casa’s vision and expansion plans, while 38% either do not understand or have unanswered questions. Only 25% have attended a “Discover the Vision” tour of the property, and 19% have attended a “Vision Summit” town hall, but attendees felt these events were very informative. In terms of answering questions about future plans, only 3% felt that the Casa has not been as responsive. Newer members (less than 5 years) feel less informed, but also have attended fewer informative events.
Ranked in descending order, survey respondents are most interested in the following property improvements:
- A more accommodating, comfortable Church
- Natural spaces for quiet reflection outside
- Meeting space for conferences and volunteer groups
- Space for youth/young adult programs
- Private space for counseling and support groups
- Space for child and sacramental preparation
- Space for liturgical planning
- Improved or expanded guest lodging
- Better parking flow and more accessible parking
- More accessible restrooms
- Readily available dining
Likes & Dislikes
Respondents report that they stay up-to-date about the Casa via email (85%), the bulletin (65%), the website (53%), word of mouth (33%), mail at home (30%), and (28%) from live events. Social media is regularly used by only 10% of respondents in order to follow Casa news and updates. Nearly all respondents — 91% — report that they check email daily. Despite an aging population that may not have depended upon email throughout much of their lives, the Casa community now is in the habit of turning to email often.
Based on responses to the open-field questions shared in the survey, two programmatic needs stand out.
The community appreciates the Casa’s social action offering, known as “Faith in Action,” but expressed that they don’t understand these activities as currently described or promoted. We’ll improve that. Many said they would like to see expansion of these activities and more social activism by Casa members outside of Paradise Valley.
Second, there is a desire for more diverse programming offered at times that are convenient for working adults. More programming for young professionals, singles, working families, women, and preteens was requested. Multiple respondents expressed that they would like more discussion and more support for adults in their daily struggles, and programming that teaches the basic tenants of the Catholic faith. We also heard concerns about the cost of programs and retreats, and requests for senior discounts or lower rates overall. We’ll explore all of this, too.
Thanks for the many compliments about our friars, music and liturgies. Some of you would like to hear other music styles (such as Latin American) or traditional hymns played from time to time. All of these are great suggestions that we’ll explore. Above all else, your comments reinforce that it’s all about togetherness. As one respondent wrote, “While we come to the mass, we come for the community.” We couldn’t agree more.
Methodology: The survey was issued to those who opt in to receive information from the Casa. Specifically, it was issued to 4,705 individuals and 4,016 were successfully delivered. Of those who opened and read the email (45.2%), the Casa received 665 completed surveys – or a response rate of 36%. Thank you for being such a highly engaged, active community!
Each November, General Manager Charlie Brown delivers his “State of the Casa” report as the Franciscan Renewal Center kicks off its Annual Appeal for the new fiscal year. Below is a copy of the speech as delivered Nov. 3-4, 2012.
For the past 15 years, I’ve worked alongside the friars to lead this community and the hundreds of activities that happen here. People often ask me why I’m so passionate about the Casa, and the answer isn’t simply “because it’s my job.”
When I came to the Casa 15 years ago, I was in a struggling marriage, was changing careers, and looking for a place where I could rebalance and renew. It was a tremendous period of personal and professional transformation for me. And equally – if not more so – the Casa has transformed itself during that time.
Fifteen years ago, there were 900 families attending church here and no children in religious education. There are now 1,900 registered families and 250 children preparing for sacraments and spiritual growth. In just the past year, our children’s participation has grown almost 50%!
Back those many years ago, our counseling program saw 2,000 people year. Today, we provide more than 5,700 pro bono counseling visits each year to those who need healing. That’s over $700,000 worth of donated counseling provided by volunteer, licensed therapists! Private retreats for those who are hurting (from grief or other issues) are up 21% just in the past year.
Fifteen years ago, there were only a handful of “faith in action” volunteer outreach programs to support the poor, hungry, and neglected. Today the Casa has more than 50 ministries – manned by 800 volunteers, serving the needs of others here and across the Valley in ways that promote dialogue across racial lines, help low-income families, or feed the homeless (just to name a few).
Those of you who chose to join us recently at the “RENEWING LIVES Breakfast” heard incredible stories of transformation from this community. We heard from Anna, who came to the Casa after a divorce – unsure if she was still welcome in the Catholic Church. She found warmth and acceptance here, and as a result, has a new capacity to love and give. Anna’s story is not uncommon and it’s why we hold healing retreats at the Casa and have a Divorced and Separated support group.
We also help people like Tim, who were skeptical of organized religion until they came here and found a true community that celebrates God’s grace as well as God’s interruptions with joy. Tim was moved to become a Catholic through RCIA a few years ago. This year, we currently have 9 adults who are going through the steps to become Catholic. We had 23 last year as well as more than 60 in the Catholics Come Home effort.
And perhaps what is most visible is the work that many of you do at the Casa to serve others in our Valley. From reaching out to vets with PTSD, to helping the San Carlos Apache build a viable trade, to the Employment Healing Ministry that is helping unemployed people regain their dignity and find work. All of this is testament to the Franciscan Way: we serve all of God’s creatures however they need our help and however they come to us.
We change lives at the Casa through spiritual growth, healing and transformation that moves us into the service of others – for our communities and world. Our vision is to do even more.
Did you know that more than 127,000 people came to the Casa last year? We handed out nearly 103,000 communion wafers. Our vision is to have the capacity to help all who seek God’s healing and loving presence. Every day we see the need and demand. We never want to turn anyone away simply because we lack the resources to help them. To do this, we will need more staff, volunteers, space, and funding.
Thanks to the collaboration of more than 400 community members along with an outstanding group of qualified professionals, we now have a Master Plan for our 25-acre property — a plan for building the physical space we’re going to need and frankly could use today. Many of you know that we are planning a capital campaign to build new facilities. Yet, first and foremost, we must grow our operating budget so that we have a solid foundation from which to sustain the Casa. Only with that, can we serve all who are here now and all who are coming in the future.
It’s my honor and privilege to ask you today to prayerfully consider how you can help the Casa financially this year. Today, I’m asking you to make an investment in our work together by making a donation to this year’s Annual Appeal. Your gift will go toward the Casa’s unrestricted operating fund for the 2012-2013 fiscal period. This is the kind of funding that is hardest to come by — not always glamorous, it doesn’t come with a plaque on the wall — but it will be put to good use today to help people like the Anna’s and the Tim’s of our community. Your gift will help support all the ministries that our Casa offers right now.
I also have something very exciting to announce! Already, people have made generous gifts totaling roughly $200,000 to support this year’s Annual Appeal. We are on well our way toward the $444,000 needed for this year’s operations, and you can help us get there. Soon you’ll receive a letter at home asking you to consider what you can give. It will include an envelope so you can easily send your contribution back to us. You also can make a secure donation anytime online at theCasa.org.
It’s often said, “We are what we give away.” St. Francis’ example challenges us to consider what we can live without and instead how we can perceive abundance in new ways. Can we see our resources as gifts from God? Could those resources be tools to help others overcome a struggle and renew their lives? This is what we do here. This is an invitation toward “generous living” that is — in and of itself — an act of freedom, love, and the embodiment of God’s grace.
We know this and that’s why we are eternally thankful for all that is done daily to support this place, our Casa. Please know that whatever you can give — including the gift of your time right now — is sincerely appreciated by the friars and all those who are, and have been, renewed at the Casa. Thank you.
It’s hard to find remnants of history in Arizona, but if you look carefully around the Franciscan Renewal Center, you can spot light fixtures that pre-date Vatican II and doorways that are the equivalent of an octogenarian.
The Casa campus includes buildings from the 1940s, 50s and 70s, as well as numerous additions and renovations over time. This patchwork keeps the Facilities Team on the move – repairing, troubleshooting and maintaining the ambiance that attracts so many here. As the Casa prepares for another phase of expansion that will again transform our campus, we share our approach for conserving the structures that we have now.
Every five years, the Casa creates a Capital Expenditure Plan for anticipated repairs, maintenance, equipment needs and aesthetic improvements. We aim to be as pre-emptive as possible so repairs do not become costly emergencies. Before work begins, the Casa collects multiple bids – comparing price, quality and experience to select the best vendor for a lasting solution rather than one that will just “get us by.” As we work, our pennywise Facilities team saves any components they can as back-up parts for future repairs (very much in the Franciscan spirit of letting nothing go to waste!). In the long run, all of this is the best choice for our future sustainability and the safety of today’s guests.
In 2011-12, the Casa replaced five air conditioning units in guest rooms, resurfaced bathtubs, purchased new office cubicles for five support staff, renovated meeting and guest rooms in the Perricone building, obtained new dining tables, and rebuilt the roof over the Bonaventure conference room following storm damage.
Knowing that a Master Plan has been developed for the property to support renovations and additions in the near future, we chose last year to only make absolutely necessary repairs. Some repairs simply won’t wait.
In 2012-13, we expect to replace 25 air conditioning units in guest rooms; re-roof the St. Agnes, St. Barbara and Sister Agnes rooms; replace the kitchen AC (one of the oldest on property), and revamp electrical infrastructure for the existing church. In addition, we have an on-going need for new guest linens, as well as updated computer and telephone systems.
Our success in maintaining the ambiance of this 60-year-old retreat center is one reason we continue to attract so many. We will always seek to keep this place as one that honors our history and provides a safe, comfortable atmosphere for those seeking spiritual growth, healing, transformation and a way to serve one another. Thank you!
Managing a 25-acre campus that draws more than 127,450 visits each year can be nothing short of miraculous. The Franciscan Renewal Center (“the Casa”) hosts thousands of people each month – drawn here for daily Mass, Sunday services, overnight conferences, volunteer ministries, or after-hours support groups and counseling. All of these activities come with a variety of operational expenses.
For the 14th consecutive year, the Casa has managed a break-even budget that does not spend more than it receives. We are supported by three primary funding sources: hosting meetings and conferences; adult education programming fees, and donations to the Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Angels.
We effectively control costs and break-even each year by:
- Aligning staff salaries to the Diocesan median, rather than to the median rate for non-profit organizations
- Investing in long-term repairs that help us generate revenue (such as more comfortable furnishings that satisfy guests) and delaying those that won’t.
- Consciously making choices within departments to conserve energy and resources, such as paper or culinary ingredients. We recycle 47.5 tons per year, staff members electively take out their own trash, and lights are rarely turned on in gathering spaces unless natural daylight won’t suffice.
- Placing new staff in positions that support needs across multiple departments. This summer, a Volunteer Coordinator was hired to create a process for guiding the 800 volunteers (our “unpaid staff”) who support the Casa’s 50+ ministerial activities.
- Drawing a limited amount from financial reserves – only 4% – through the Casa Endowment
Each of these focused efforts is well aligned to the master vision for the Casa – to continually be a place for spiritual growth, healing and transformation, and service to others in the model of St. Francis. We appreciate the abundance that God grants and seek to waste nothing.
The outlook for 2012-13 is very positive. Sunday collections rose 6% in 2011-12 and again are climbing. Liturgical revenues grew 5% last year while expenses within this department grew only 2%. The Hosted Meetings & Conferences Department generated $10,000 more in September alone, year over year. We expect to beat budget projections in this area due to new, focused marketing efforts, larger bookings, and repeat business.
Our staff and friars are again prepared to respond to all who come to us. We thank you for your daily interactions here and hope these unseen efforts help you recharge to become closer to God.
The Franciscan Renewal Center is committed to an environment of inclusiveness and intimacy. When resources elsewhere are uncertain, the Casa remains unfailing in our dedication to serve. Our vision is to always be a place for spiritual growth that heals and transforms us beyond ourselves into the service of others. Rooted in St. Francis’ call to love, our promise continues to be to Renew Lives for all who come to us.
The past fiscal year, ended Aug. 31, again brought sizeable increases in demand for our programs, ministries and services. The Casa saw palpable growth in Sunday worship (delivering 102,699 communions) and 13% growth in adult education participation. Across the past 10 years, such participation has increased 250%. Involvement in family catechesis and sacramental preparation grew 48% to 250 students last year, and we added five certified, volunteer instructors. Our expanding teen program tripled the number of ways high school students can interact with the Casa. All of this indicates that we continue to attract families who seek a joyful form of spirituality shaped by the possibilities of God’s love.
The Casa also continues to draw those who seek healing – many who tell us they did not feel welcome anywhere else or could not afford professional help. Under the volunteer service of 20 licensed, behavioral counselors, the Casa provided more than 3,100 hours of pro bono counseling last year. We added more counselors in 2011-12, plus two supervised, graduate-level interns. There are now four support groups serving approximately 40-50 people each week. It is a tremendous service, particularly at a time when government aid for behavioral care is unpredictable.
Those seeking to serve others through “faith in action” also contributed to our increase in demand. There are now a total of 14 such ministries centered on justice, education, non-violent communication, and care for the impoverished. Three new ministries (employment healing, outreach to veterans & military, and teaching English as a second language) were added this year purely through the initiative of volunteer community members.
Without you, this community would not be as vibrant and dynamic as it is. In fact, it is your spirit and embodiment of Franciscan values that attracts so many here. It isn’t the grounds, current Church or promise of a new Church. It is you and who we choose to be. Thank you on behalf of the friars and staff for making this community so special and for another wonderfully memorable year.
Welcome New Employees!
The Casa welcomes Dawn Lorenzo as our new Grants Manager. Dawn comes to us from the Delta Dental of Arizona Foundation, a statewide corporate foundation, where she served as the Director of Philanthropy. She brings a diverse and extensive 20-year background working with non-profit organizations, including the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Lavelle Fund for the Blind in New York City, and St. Joseph’s School for the Blind in New Jersey. Over the next two months, Dawn will be conducting an environmental scan to learn about the programmatic needs of the Casa’s various programs, researching initial and ongoing opportunities, and creating a strategic grant capacity plan for the organization. Her work will be essential in helping the Casa attract new grants to support our annual programming.
Please welcome Dawn when you see her. She will be in the office periodically. Her contact information is DawnL5897(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)gmail.com, 480.559.1440
The Casa also welcomes Laurie Porter as Data Management Assistant. Laurie comes to the Casa after 13 years in the bioscience research field, working with Mayo Clinic, TGen, and the ASU Biodesign Institute to support fundraising development. She will assist data input and record keeping about gifts made to the Casa’s RENEWING LIVES Campaign.
“I went to two retreats here and always thought of it as a unique place,” she says. “I’ve worked in some of the most exciting places in the Valley and the Casa has always been appealing. I’m excited to be here.”
In her spare time, Laurie sings alto (formerly performing with the Mayo Clinic Christmas choir) and has played the flute since she was a young child.
Please welcome Laurie when you see her. Her contact information is data(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)thecasa.org, 480.948.7460, ext 187.
The Casa is committed to an environment of inclusiveness, welcoming and intimacy. We are serious about maintaining and building upon our ministry to nourish relationship and meet the needs of those who cross our path. Our vision to widen our scope as a center for spiritual growth which transforms and moves us beyond ourselves in the service of others is our ongoing call to love.
As we approach our 60th anniversary, we reflect on the many friars and community who have helped shaped the Casa over the decades into a unique and necessary home for hundreds of thousands of people. As each decade passed, new ways to reach out and be a sanctuary of peace, renewal and goodness manifested. Certainly, the hard work, dedication and vision along with tremendous grace protects and inspires this haven of blessing.
On November 1st, 1951, the Franciscan Friars purchased the property for use as a retreat center. The Director, Father Owen da Silva, personally oversaw the refurbishment of the lodge. The first retreat at the Casa was held January 14, 1952. Ground breaking for the new chapel was held on June 19th, 1954. Four months later, Father Owen held the first fundraiser at the Casa, called Open House, and over 14,000 people attended throughout the day. 3,000 dinners were served that evening.
Over the years, the Casa continued to evolve in ways that were unpredictable yet exciting. Father Owen, in 1964 replaced the Open Housefundraiser with Casa 250. In 1965, the staff printed a report to community indicating that the Casa must grow! No building had been done for eight years due to debt but the strategic focus was “we simply have to expand if we are to meet the needs of the Valley of the Sun and the Northern part of Arizona”.
The Franciscan Retreat became the Franciscan Renewal Center in 1970 and Fr. Michael Weishaar became director. Key personalities played the central role in changing the culture at the Casa. Liturgy became a primary driver as the community grew. The chapel was remodeled in October of 1971 and is dedicated as Paul Galvin Memorial Chapel, in memory of Virginia Piper’s first husband, Paul Galvin. Brochures and reports indicate that in the early 70’s the Casa flourished with new programs and vibrant liturgy. The lounge, kitchen and dining room were enlarged. Piper Hall was built and funded by Virginia Piper in memory of her late husband Kenneth. The Casa was always in a constant state of change to meet the needs of the many who flocked to its peaceful space and programs, and liturgy Father Barry Brunsmanreached out to ASU for interns and with this group of volunteers began the counseling ministry. It flourished over the next thirty years and became a model for many other institutions.
Father Forrest, in early 1981, suggested the need for some organizational planning and charter development that could realign some of the administrative functions reporting to the director. This developed into a management study referred to as The Casa at the Crossroads. The study stressed the need for expansion and growth to accommodate the growing community.
Father Ray Bucher became director in the mid 80’s. Under his leadership, he formally organized the first annual reports to the community, as well as a structured staff. An Operating Board is formed with15 lay and religious members, who work together to direct the operations of the FRC. A survey for the community is implemented in 1985 as a study to provide better access to worship and possible changes to retreat programming. Fr. Ray also continued to guide the Foundation of over 1,000 members. The Foundation was independent of the Franciscan Friars, which created tension withboth organizations. The Foundation’s charter was to support and develop the mission, ministries, resources and outreach of the FRC over the long term. Two new buildings were built and donated by Mr. Bruce Halle that allowed for a larger conference room and additional counseling rooms. These improvements paved the way for additional revenue and amenities.
The 90’s were quite tumultuous. The institution’s leadership began the appointment of lay directorship; three directors came and went in 5 years. An attempt was made to develop a corporate framework for an increasingly complex institution. A formal community, board and staff framework was developed in 1996 to begin the process of a strategic plan.
The solution to divide the directorship between a Franciscan and lay person began in November of 1998, at the request of the director, ensuring a full collaborative co-leadership model. The director set spiritual and educational direction. He is concerned with direction, while the General Manager administers the ongoing operation. Since 1998 and each year subsequent, this team, in collaboration with the board of directors and staff, has built the long range strategic plan and related annual business plan.
Vision 2025, initiated in 1999, developed a direction over the next 25 years. The process involved the board, a core committee with many focus groups, with community members. The final document is a guiding element focused on resources and vision. Namely, our core will include: Gospel, Francis, faith and community. The Franciscan way is envisioned as a new dynamic to guide us to this core. Our future shall be Spirit-filled. It will be exciting, filled with hope and full of creative possibilities. It will be a place of celebration. We will pursue and maintain an active collaboration with our local diocese. We will continue to be a spiritual oasis. We will strive to be the Body of Christ, as church. There will be strong lay, staff, religious collaboration. Liturgy will be celebrated in ritual and in action, living the Eucharist beyond the chapel walls. We will maintain the intimacy of “oasis”.
Over the next ten years, staff, board and community have mutually developed programs, events and the environment for those key elements to flourish. As the FRC officially became a Conventual Church in 2006, new demands and needs became apparent. Already, the Casa was tapped for resources and a need to explore further the resources and programs became evident. A discernment process was commissioned by the board of directors and over a period of almost two years, tremendous study, discussion, prayer and planning resulted providing a direction for the Casa to pursue.
Thousands have been nourished and our evaluations indicate a 98% positive approval for our collective good works. As the decade came to a close, not only did the Casa break even each year, but it also implemented and completed several million dollars worth of capital improvements on buildings, infrastructure and equipment.
With our current Strategic Plan focused on spirituality and sustainability we are positioned appropriately to lead provocatively into our future. The Casa is a social and spiritual anchor for thousands witha rich history of Christian leadership. In times like these, where what is peace and good is often overlooked and undervalued, an opportunity to extend that peace and goodness is a beautiful and worthy undertaking. It is an undertaking to which we must always commit. As a recent guest shared with me, “The majesty, mystery and peace of the desert make this retreat center a perfect oasis for physical, emotional and spiritual renewal. The staff and volunteers embody welcome and care. And having the opportunity to journey with a spiritual director helped me to expand and deepen my experience here. to say that this week is a cherished blessing is an understatement. I will carry it with me always.” We benefit from the vision held for many years. Grace shed her light upon this sacred and holy ground renewing lives.