A Short History of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit
The Third Order Regular
“Brother Francis, I am disposed in heart wholly to leave the world, to obey thee in all things as thou shalt command me.” These were the words of St. Francis’ first companion, Bernard of Quintavalle, as he expressed his desire to leave behind his former ways and imitate the life of poverty and penance that St. Francis had embraced. He was the first of many who were inspired by St. Francis to renounce riches, reputation, security, and homes to follow after Christ and St. Francis’ rule of life. They would eventually become a formal religious community and profess vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Not all were called to leave behind their families and careers. These lay people were nonetheless moved to repentance by the example and preaching of St. Francis and his brothers. Desiring to lead more radical lives of Christian witness and virtue, they became penitents and adopted a spiritual program outlined by St. Francis “to live honestly in one’s own home, participate in works of piety, and flee the pomp of the world” through a continual conversion of heart brought about by encountering the love of God in the sacraments.
These penitents became known as the Third Order of St. Francis, or the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. Eventually, some of the penitents began to live and pray together in common. They developed into a religious community with members who profess the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They became the Third Order Regular while the lay members became the Secular Franciscan Order, SFO. The Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit follow the rule of the Third Order Regular and the charism of ongoing conversion through a life of penance flowing out of the relationship of love with the holy Trinity.
Fire on the Mountain
In 1987, members of various Christian churches in the Laveen area received a prophetic vision about a fire. This fire was seen from the height of a mountain looking down at the Valley. It was just a little spark. But this spark began to grow into a fire that eventually spread to all of Phoenix, the surrounding cities, and the nation. It was believed that this spark, the flame of the Holy Spirit, began at St. John the Baptist.
St. John the Baptist Indian Mission on the Gila River Indian Reservation, founded by the Franciscans in 1898, had no pastor living on the reservation. Despite the loss of their pastors, faithful parishioners prayed for years for the return of Franciscan priests. During these intervening years, dedicated retired diocesan priests committed the remainder of their lives to serving the Native communities in the Diocese of Phoenix alongside religious sisters and a handful of deacons who continue to devotedly minister the word of God to these parishes.
Following the Call
Almost 30 years later, in 2015, several of us, who were members of a Franciscan community in in the Third Order tradition, felt a call from God to become missionaries in the Southwest. After prayer and discernment, we departed from our former community and were received into the Diocese of Phoenix by Bishop Thomas Olmsted and given the apostolate of Native American Ministry.
On May 13, 2015 we were warmly welcomed to our new home: St. Kateri Tekakwitha Friary on the Gila River Reservation. A little over a year later, on June 29, 2016, the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit was established as a Public Association of the Faithful and, a few days later on July 2, 2016, our members made the promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience to Bishop Olmsted.
The Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit have seen a lot of change in just a few short years: two of our brothers were ordained to the priesthood; we founded the Holy Spirit Catholic Newman Center at Grand Canyon University (which is now under the leadership of the Sister Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the Diocese of Phoenix); we established a house in the Archdiocese of Detroit so that our seminarians could study at Sacred Heart Major Seminary; and we currently have eight men in formation to become friars and priests.