Franciscan Renewal Center breaks ground for new ‘Casa’

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Fr. Peter Kirwin, OFM, Rector of the Church of Our Lady of the Angels; John Reyno, Co-Chair RENEWING LIVES Campaign; Very Reverend John S. Hardin, OFM, Provincial Minister; Fr. Joseph Schwab, OFM, Executive Director of the Franciscan Renewal Center; Ron Tisch, Co-Chair RENEWING LIVES Campaign. (photo courtesy of Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Westlake Reed Leskosky)
Fr. Peter Kirwin, OFM, rector of the Church of Our Lady of the Angels at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, poses with shovels Jan. 3 alongside John Reyno, co-chair of the “Renewing Lives” campaign; Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted; Fr. John S. Hardin, OFM, provincial minister; Fr. Joseph Schwab, OFM, executive director of the Franciscan Renewal Center; and Ron Tisch, campaign co-chair. (photo courtesy of Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Westlake Reed Leskosky)

Attendance at a ceremonial groundbreaking was proof positive Catholics outgrew their worship space at the Franciscan Renewal Center — “The Casa” — in Scottsdale.

Nearly 400 community members joined the staff plus a bishop and Franciscan friars for a turning of the shovel Jan. 3. The current church only seats 300.

Overflow spills out into the narthex, lawn and patio each weekend. Those days should be over by next spring. The future church will at least double Massgoer capacity and have the ability to welcome another 200 guests during Christmas, Easter and other well-attended liturgies.

Capital improvements have been a mainstay on Casa grounds since the “Renewing Lives” Master Plan launched the campaign phase four years ago. The 17,050-square-foot church on the central-south portion of the 25-acre campus facing Lincoln Drive accounts for the largest portion — some $8.5 million of the $20 million campaign.

Key leaders and community members took turns posing for groundbreaking photos in space that is currently the parking lot.

“This is the most significant moment in our 65-year history, since the establishment of the Center in 1951,” Franciscan Father Joe Schwab, executive director, said regarding the groundbreaking. “We’re responding to community growth and erecting a building that will speak to the future.”

Program growth has more than doubled in recent years. Registration has nearly tripled since the Casa became a conventual church — meaning its space belongs to the convent of the Franciscan friars rather than the local diocese — in 2006. Both factors threatened to compromise the unique serenity so many find on Casa grounds. Community members refused to let that happen. They raised necessary funds to make the master plan a reality by August 2015.

Now, it’s just a matter of building Our Lady of Angels Church anew. The worship space will include a glass-enclosed narthex, art glass windows, reconciliation chapel, hospitality room and sacristies, a bell tower and significant sculptures.

Faithful communities build churches as places to give homage to the king of kings, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said in his homily. They’re places to put Him first and give Him the glory and worship that He deserves. They’re not made strictly for members to stay inside, however.

“We’re building here a place that allows us to go out in a different way because something new is within us that wants to shine through us, so that whoever sees you sees Jesus,” the bishop said.

A new 32-room guest lodge was completed last March as part of the master plan with remodeling of existing gust rooms and exterior renovations also finished. A multi-purpose Community Life Center is in the design stage and will be built behind the new church.

“We’re so grateful that Bishop Olmsted was able to come and preside over Eucharist at Mass and lead the blessing for the groundbreaking ceremony,” said Franciscan Father Peter Kirwin, rector. “And we’re delighted that the community participated fully in the blessing.”

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