Franciscan Renewal Center’s newest addition nears completion

The Franciscan Renewal Center is at 5802 E. Lincoln Drive in Paradise Valley. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

After several years of planning, fundraising and construction, the Town of Paradise Valley’s newest desert jewel is near competition at the Franciscan Renewal Center.

Coined, Our Lady of the Angels Church, the new worship center has been built on a county island, owned by the Franciscan Renewal Center at 5802 E. Lincoln Drive in the center of Paradise Valley.

Since 1951, the Franciscan Renewal Center — affectionately known as the “Casa de Paz y Bien” or simply “the Casa” — has existed as a Catholic retreat center in Paradise Valley, to offer spiritual growth, healing and transformation that moves lives into the service of others.

The Casa sits on 5 acres of town property and 20 acres of Maricopa County property, which has made for a great partnership, officials say.

Our Lady of the Angels Church is being built to last in the community for at least 100 years, church officials say, and includes international artwork.

The newly constructed multi-million dollar, 17,050-square-foot church sits adjacent to the existing church, and will increase mass attendance from 300 to more than 600, officials there say.

In August 2015 The Casa successfully completed its capital fundraising campaign. Prior, a new 32-room guest lodge was completed in March 2015, in addition to recent remodeling of existing guest rooms and the renovation of a pool, barbecue area and courtyard.

At the heart of Our Lady of the Angels Church is community, says Communications Manager Patricia Lee.

“It’s very important,” Ms. Lee said during an Aug. 30 interview, of the community relationship.

“First of all, just building a building to be LEED certified was important to our mission from the beginning because Franciscans work to care for all creation — being a good neighbor, and a good steward of the environment is important.”

The CASA is designed to be certified Silver LEED — Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design — and many of the campus’s buildings already include solar paneling, weather stripping, campus-wide recycling and xeriscaping.

“Following the way of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology, the new church is designed to be certified Silver LEED,” Ms. Lee noted in an Aug. 30 follow-up email. “These efforts include recycling a large amount of our construction waste — 93.68 percent (405 tons) of these materials have been diverted from landfills; and the innovative design of fiberglass ductwork installed under the nave, which produces slow-moving, energy-efficient air circulation.”

Unique characteristics of the building were formed specifically through The Casa community, who created a specific art program for this project.

One of the most noticeable features of the new church will be a large stained-glass window facing Lincoln Drive. Additional windows of the worship center will feature the colored glass-work as well.

Designed by artist Scott Parsons and fabricated by Derix Glasstudios in Taunusstein, Germany, the stained-glass being installed at The Casa has been created to be one-of-a-kind, Ms. Lee says.

“The process for designing the church was a real thoughtful one,” she explained. “Because we knew that we wanted it (the stained glass) to be included, we formed a design committee that included staff members, friars, community members and beyond that we had an advisory committee — I think there was 150 community members on the advisory committee.”

Through a back-and-forth process, the two committees created Our Lady of the Angels Church.

“That was really incorporated and really helped shape what the building became — part of that is the art program, part is the stained glass,” she said.

Additional sculptures and statues are installed on and around the church, each telling their own story just like the stained glass. Only one piece of stained-glass was in place during an Aug. 30 tour, while many pieces were preparing to ship to the United States that week.

“When they were discussing the stained glass they wanted to make sure it told the story of the church through a Franciscan lens, so it’s really very unique,” Ms. Lee noted. “They designed it so it would reflect the light, and so you could see it from outside. The different colors and glass represent different parts of a story.”

Our Lady of the Angels Church was designed by architect firm DLR Group|Westlake Reed Leskowsky, and the construction is being carried out by Haydon Building Corp.

Activities at the Casa include daily and Sunday Mass, spiritual retreats, wellness retreats, gathering space for non-profit groups, licensed behavioral health counseling, spiritual direction, as well as more than 50 volunteer ministries that give aid to the poor or vulnerable, empower individuals to improve their circumstances, and build community fellowship, their website states.

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 in the footsteps of St. Francis and Clare of Assisi. The Casa is a wholly owned entity of the Franciscan Friars Province of Saint Barbara, based in Oakland, Calif., that works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

The Franciscan Renewal Center offers Discover the Vision Tours for community members, where friars and staff give a behind-the-scenes, one-hour Discover the Vision Tour of the Franciscan Renewal Center’s unique services and ministries. Scheduled tours are offered the first Thursday of each month at 11 a.m. and the third Thursday at 6 pm.

Go to TheCasa.org.

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached by e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

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