The parish hall at St. Bernard of Clairvaux in Scottsdale was packed on February 25, 2023, everyone clinging to the words of Sr. Martha Mary Carpenter, OSF. The gathering was due to FriarQ, an annual fundraiser to raise money for the spiritual formation of Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit (FHS) and Sr. Martha had the audience enthralled as she explained the impact of the friars.
The FHS are currently the only order in the diocese whose sole mission is to serve people on reservations. They serve 11 mission churches in Gila Bend, Gila River, Salt River and Ak-Chin.
Sr. Martha has been at St. Peter Indian Mission School in Bapchule, Ariz., for over 50 years, and the principal since 1989. In her early years at the school, there were some Franciscan friars who would celebrate Mass at St. Peter’s every eight weeks. Those friars left in 1989 and friars didn’t return to the area until 2016 when Bishop Emeritus Thomas Olmsted established the FHS.
“We went from one Mass every eight weeks to daily Mass and a presence of the friars,” Sr. Martha said during FriarQ last year.
Sr. Martha stressed that the friars also give visibility to the people that they serve and allow the people to become themselves.
Br. Paul Graupman is a FHS who serves the community in the way Sr. Martha described. He can be seen around the reservations in the Phoenix area leading youth groups, praying over individuals at mercy nights, encountering the incarcerated in a prison Bible study and visiting those in caring homes. He’s known among the people he serves by his gray habit and maroon rosary that swings from the white cord around his waist, attire distinct to the FHS.
Before becoming a friar, Graupman had been serving in the Navy for four and a half years. He encountered the love of Jesus in a radical way that changed the trajectory of his life.
“This really authentic love is like the most authentic thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I just wanted more of that.”
While living with his brother in Flagstaff, Ariz. he felt a call to the priesthood and later, felt a call to becoming a FHS after meeting a friar at a spiritual bootcamp retreat.
The friar invited Graupman to come to the Transitus of St. Francis at the friary, happening nine days later, giving Graupman the perfect amount of time to pray a novena to St. Francis, asking for his intercession in discerning his vocation.
“When I came to the friary, I just felt tremendous peace, and confirmation,” Graupman said. “It just felt like the Lord kept opening doors, and then I just had to walk through them. It didn’t feel laborious. It wasn’t hard, everything just kind of fell into place.”
Now, Graupman is waiting for the day he’ll be ordained a priest, God-willing in the summer of 2026. He’s most looking forward to confecting the Eucharist.
“It goes back to my first conversion experiences, this profound love and this desire for intimacy with the Lord. I can’t imagine anything more intimate than holding Him in your hands.”
Graupman has also grown in his intimacy with the people he serves on the reservations and notices ways that the Lord is helping him to grow in his spiritual fatherhood.
“A lot of the kids and even the adults that we work with come from broken families. And unfortunately, you kind of see that everywhere now. You encounter a lot of people who have these deep holes where they wish that they had this fatherly presence. So then we get to be in this tremendous privileged place to kind of provide in that way.”
Graupman felt the Lord calling him to exercise spiritual fatherhood on a trip the friars recently took with St. Peter Indian Mission School to Dallas for the March for Life. Present on the trip were 23 students from the school, most of which are a part of the friars’ youth group.
“I had a really blessed experience on the [trip] where [I] was just like tying skates for kids who had never gone ice skating, and then helping them walk to the skating rink. It was this very Hallmark, fatherly moment for me of taking care of these kids.
“I’m moving hopefully towards a self forgetfulness where it’s like, well, I don’t really care how tired I am, I just want to [serve]. Which obviously, you see that in paternal parents where it’s 2 a.m. and the baby is screaming and [the father] gets out of bed. And so in the same way, [I’m] trying to foster that type of generosity, that kind of gregariousness of soul, just to give [myself] to the people of God.”
Virginia Ortiz has given herself to St. Peter’s for eight years and serves as the manager of the kitchen and dining room. She’s watched some students grow up from kindergarten to eighth grade. Recently, she saw new sides to some of these students as they opened up on the March for Life trip and grew in their relationship with the Lord.
“[I] saw the friars with the kids one-on-one, the students opening up to them very easily. The students really do trust the friars and were able to be themselves.
“None of us wanted to come home. [The students] were enjoying themselves so much.”
Ortiz noticed a change in many of the students as they were on the trip and could let their guards down. One student stood out in particular.
“[One student] was very quiet. We didn’t really see her trying to engage with the other students. By the time we were coming home she had a voice. She was voicing her opinion and you’d hear her giggle from nowhere and you’re surprised to see it was her.”
Ortiz is thankful for the opportunity to attend the trip and thankful for the friars’ desire to pour into the students at St. Peter’s.
“The friars are willing to go into the community and incorporate a lot of youth groups and we don’t see that very often here. We don’t have clubs like off the reservation at other high schools.
“You see more of the students wanting to try and willing to go out and experience the different activities that the friars have. It’s hard for someone to come from the outside into the community and get those students to open up the way that [the friars] have.”
Graupman knows there’s a whole community supporting him who make it possible for him to serve people on reservations. He gets the chance to thank supporters every year at FriarQ. The fundraiser brings together new and old friends of the friars who raise money for the formation of FHS seminarians.
The cost for just one friars’ seminary formation is substantial. Tuition alone for a year comes out to be about $25,000 per year not to mention cost of living expenses to ensure the friars’ needs are covered. This is where FriarQ comes in, which helps to provide the means for seminarians like Graupman to be formed for the priesthood and to go out and grow in spiritual fatherhood.
Graupman remembers one moment from FriarQ last year that continues to impact him. Everyone at the event received cards with a picture of a FHS seminarian and an invitation to pray for that seminarian every day. All throughout this year, strangers have approached Graupman and told him they’re praying for him who received his card at FriarQ.
“It is really moving. It’s very humbling to meet these people who are all living their own walk with the Lord and to have them come up to you and say, ‘I pray for you every day.’ You feel the weight of what you’re doing and it becomes an opportunity to be in front of these people who do give so generously and to really tell him, ‘we really are partnering together.’ [At FriarQ] you really see the Body of Christ at work. So it’s just a tremendous blessing to be part of that.”
The Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit invite everyone to come to FriarQ on February 24th at St. Bernard of Clairvaux and to be a part of their mission to serve underserved communities. The event begins at 5 p.m. with the Vigil Mass. There will be a silent and live auction with items such as a dinner with the friars and Bishop Olmsted, a trip to Tahoe and religious artwork. There will be games, dinner and a program. Come wearing your western attire and get ready for a boot stompin’ good time! All proceeds go to the formation fund of FHS seminarians. Register by February 16th here: becomefire.faith/friarq