Our Lady of the Angels rises at ‘Casa de Paz y Bien’ of Paradise Valley

Construction on the Franciscan Renewal Center’s new Community Life Center is now underway. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

The Franciscan Renewal Center along Lincoln Drive is in the midst of completing its second major construction project in recent years to support its robust and devoted community.

In 2017 the Franciscan Renewal center — affectionately known as the “Casa de Paz y Bien” or simply “the Casa” — opened its new worship center named Our Lady of the Angels Church.

Adjacent to the new worship center, a meeting and conference area is being constructed, with framework already in place. The new facility, coined the Community Life Center, is scheduled to open this summer.

Since 1951, the Casa has existed as a Catholic retreat center in the Town of 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. It is at 5802 E. Lincoln Drive.

Our Lady of the Angels Church is being built to last in the community for at least 100 years, church officials say, and is well on its way to meeting that goal. This year marks their 67th year within the Town of Paradise Valley.

“The milestone of 70 years here in Paradise Valley has been iconic. Knowing that the Casa idea was first birthed over a ham sandwich and beer with the friars and former owners of the Kachina Lodge is, quite amazing,” said General Manager Charlie Brown of their upcoming anniversary in 2021.

“For over 67 years, the Casa continues to be available to those who are seeking spiritual growth, healing and transformation as well as service to others. Our message that all are welcome, is not just a catch phrase but a serious recognition of who at what we stand for. The future will be exciting and, to some degree, as unpredictable as the past.”

In addition to nearing the end of their development in recent years, the Casa Veterans Ministry will receive the Copper Eagle award at the 13th Annual Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame Society Patriotic Awards Dinner. This is the first faith-based organization to be accepted as part of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families.

“This is a high-functioning ministry of community volunteers,” said Director of Communication Patricia Lee. “As the first faith-based organization to be accepted as part of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, the Franciscan Renewal Center is leading the effort to increase faith communities in Arizona to respond to veterans’ needs.”

Our Lady of the Angels Church opened in 2017 on the Franciscan Renewal Center’s campus. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

A new worship center

Our Lady of the Angels Church is a circular, multi-million dollar, 17,050-square-foot church, which increased mass attendance from 300 to more than 600 individuals, officials say.

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 is a large stained-glass window facing Lincoln Drive. Additional windows of the worship center feature the colored glass-work as well.

A view of the specialty stained-glass art inside the church. (Independent Newsmedia/Melissa Rosequist)

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.

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. The new conference and meeting center is a lot a part of that fundraising campaign.

“(The chapel) was first built in 1954, and it was expanded twice, so people were sitting out on the lawns, the patio here, the lobby — we knew we needed to build something bigger,” explained Ms. Lee of the growing Casa community.

“So once we dedicated this in 2017, that space was dedicated as the San Damiano Auditorium, so it’s now the biggest, largest meeting space for nonprofits who come here.”

Since the campaign’s inception, $20,743,580 in capital has been raised through Aug. 31, 2018, according to a fiscal year 2018 report by the Casa’s board of directors.

“The Our Lady of the Angels Conventional Church at the Franciscan Renewal Center has captured the spirit of our mission. Since the opening of the church, Oct. 4, 2017 thousands have been inspired by the beautiful art and sacred space within,” Mr. Brown said.

“Docents have provided hundreds of tours to both people part of the FRC community as well as many who are first time visitors. The art speaks to our Franciscan charism as well as our community life which enjoys hearing each other sing out loud, welcome the newcomer, celebrate the Eucharist, and experience the Sacraments.”

Twice a month, a the Casa offers a “Discover the Vision” tour of the church’s mission and vision. In the end, the tour ends up in the church.

“People feel a great sense of peace and tranquility. We are truly blessed, and we hear that constantly about our new space,” said Mr. Brown. “The church is just one part of our many programs and ministries. No one is ever turned away for lack of funds regarding our therapy sessions, programs and services.”

Mr. Brown says humans are made not only to work, but to also play, learn, worship and rest.

“An important myth we dispel is that you must be Catholic to participate in programs at the Casa. Not true. In fact, even at Mass, many people are here to participate to the extent they can at our worship celebrations,” he said.

The Franciscan Renewal Center campus will soon offer 17,000-square-feet of meeting space, after the completion of the Community Life Center. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Community Life Center

The Community Life Center is scheduled to open in June, and the first group to visit will be more than 100 Franciscan Friars who are coming to Paradise Valley for their chapter meeting.

The center includes a commercial kitchen and flexible rooms, Ms. Lee said.

“Of course this is in response to our growing community, our growing meetings and conferences,” she said. “Last year we had more than 23,000 nonprofit members come here from around the world for meetings and conferences — so this will almost-double our meeting space once we’re finished with that, and when we include the new auditorium.”

Ms. Lee said by this summer, they will be offering 17,000-square-feet of meeting space.

“Building new structures, remodeling existing buildings and making infrastructure improvements increases our capacity for providing opportunities for spiritual growth, healing and transformation, and service to others,” Ms. Lee said. “Community building through respectful and meaningful relationships is an important part of the Franciscan tradition. And with the expansion, the Casa can continue to welcome all and meet people wherever they are in their journey.”

The project’s architect is DLR Group/WRL, building contractor is Caruso Construction, Inc., and in addition to meeting spaces, the building will include a kitchen and office spaces for the liturgy department.

“Somehow God is bringing us to a new dimension of what it means to be disciples of Christ,” Mr. Brown said. “We cannot analyze it all very clearly, but we can know the sacrifices we are being asked to make now and in the future will bring us many graces. How it will all work out remains a mystery, but of one thing we are sure — God’s grace will never be lacking.”

News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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