The June 9 Grand Opening and blessing of the new Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Community Life Center at the Franciscan Renewal Center (the “Casa”) marked the final new construction project of the Master Plan for expansion and improvements. The Franciscan Friars Province of St. Barbara and the FRC Board of Directors approved that plan in 2011.

From left: FRC Board of Directors Chair, Steve Lyons; Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner and son; Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Lifetime Trustee, Paul N.Critchfield; FRC Executive Director, Fr. Joseph Schwab, OFM; Westlake Reed Leskosky, architect Dan Clevenger, AIA; Claudia Critchfield; Laurie Devine. (courtesy photo)

Designed with flexible meeting rooms, high-tech audio/visual, and a catering kitchen, the building increases the Casa’s capacity to meet the growing demand for nonprofit meeting and conference space on its 25-acre campus. Other uses for the 12,500 sq. ft. (under roof), solar-powered net-zero electricity building include:

  • Casa-sponsored retreats, workshops, classes and special events
  • hands-on learning spaces for the Family Catechesis Program
  • volunteer training
  • choir practice
  • the liturgy office

This largest meeting space on the campus means there will be a total of over 17,000 sq. ft. available for conferences and activities. And an outdoor plaza with cool grass and shade trees will make the Community Life Center a welcoming place for people of all ages to gather.

In a letter to the community, Paul N. Critchfield, nephew of Virginia G. Piper and Lifetime Trustee, says, “We as Trustees and staff (of the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust) truly salute the great benefactors, volunteers, Casa friars and staff, and special committees that have made this wonderful Community Life Center happen. It will help all of us find new ways to grow and to serve and help each other. On behalf of the Trustees, we are very happy to be partners with the Casa community.”

Virginia G. Piper’s other philanthropic projects at the Casa include the 1971 renovation and expansion of the Chapel, dedicated in memory of her first husband, Paul V. Galvin; and Piper Hall, in memory of her second husband, Kenneth M. Piper.

All FRC Master Plan projects were fully funded by grants and donations—they include:

  • Infrastructure additions and improvements
  • Perricone Plaza guest rooms and swimming pool/spa remodel, 2013
  • The new Assisi Guest Lodge with 32 additional overnight guest rooms, 2015
  • The new Conventual Church of Our Lady of the Angels, 2017 (photo album and related article)
    Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Community Life Center, 2019