PARADISE VALLEY – After 24 years of leadership as Executive Director of the Franciscan Renewal Center (FRC), Fr. Joseph Schwab, OFM, stepped down from his role on April 30, 2021, at his own request. He will leave for an extended sabbatical on July 1, 2021, to include time for rest, retreat, study, pilgrimage, and discernment of future ministry work.

Fr. Joseph Schwab, OFM

“Related to our spirituality as a Franciscan order, we learn to not appropriate things for ourselves. When you are in a leadership position for a long time, you can begin to feel like it is your place. Leadership among staff has moved to a level that allows me to recognize that I can and should move on to other experiences within the Order,” Fr. Joe said.

His dedicated leadership guided new programmatic and fundraising efforts and a culture grounded in Franciscan theology that positively impacted the community, including: developing and articulating a Franciscan culture that is grounded in historical documents; the RENEWING LIVES Capital Campaign, raising more than $20 M for new structures, remodeling of existing buildings, and infrastructure improvements; construction of the friary, the St. Clare Blessed Sacrament Chapel, the Assisi Guest Lodge, and the new Our Lady of the Angels Church; the remodeling of guest lodging rooms, and most recently the auditorium and lobby—all with no debt; establishing a robust grant initiative; instituting the Family Catechesis ministry and Sustainability and Communication departments; and creating a more digitized, accessible approach to ministry.

“Fr. Joe has assured that the Franciscan Renewal Center will be able to share the Franciscan charism in the Valley long into the future as a place where people can come to heal, be transformed in their faith, and provide service to others. For all this, we will always be indebted to him,” said Steve Lyons, Chair, FRC Board of Directors.

The Provincial Board of Trustees, acting upon the unanimous recommendation of the FRC Board of Directors, have appointed Charles (Charlie) Brown as Executive Director. His appointment reflects the Province of Saint Barbara’s commitment to lay collaboration and partnership. Currently, six of the Province’s nine sponsored ministries are led by lay Executive Directors. Charlie will be the fourth lay director in the FRC’s 70-year history and has more than 22 years of experience working in a cooperative leadership model with Fr. Joe. Together, they have been effective in directing the FRC, including the RENEWING LIVES Capital Campaign. Charlie has managed the Casa’s human, financial, and capital resources very successfully while gaining the trust, support, and confidence of other non-profit leaders throughout Maricopa County during his entire tenure as General Manager.

Charles Brown

Charlie is a staff member of Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs and visited Assisi six times, several times as a co-leader. Grounded in the charism of the Order, Charlie has co-led four 5-year strategic plans and served as chair of the Province Retreat Council for 16 years. He is an ex officio member of the FRC Board, 22 years, serving on the variety of committees related to the governance of the FRC. Charlie has been involved at every level of FRC operations and ministry.

Charlie will work closely with Our Lady of the Angels Church Rector Fr. Daniel Barica, OFM and the friars, our Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers in guiding the FRC’s future.

About the Franciscan Renewal Center

In 1951, the Casa de Paz y Bien began as a Catholic retreat center. Now, as the Franciscan Renewal Center (still affectionately called the Casa) we offer opportunities for spiritual growth, healing and transformation, and service to others. The Casa was founded by and is today an active religious community of the Order of Friars Minor, part of the worldwide Franciscan family, following the footsteps of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. The Casa is a wholly owned entity of the Franciscan Friars Province of Saint Barbara, based in Oakland, California, that works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. Activities at the Casa include daily and Sunday Mass at Our Lady of the Angels Church, private retreats, conference space for nonprofit groups, individual therapy/counseling, support groups, adult education, family faith formation, as well as volunteer ministries that assist the poor or vulnerable, empower individuals to improve their circumstances, care for the environment, and build community fellowship. Discover more at or call (480) 948-7460. To learn about the Casa’s mission and ministries, sign up for a Discover the Vision tour: