A Short History of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit
The Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit began when seven men were received by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted in the Diocese of Phoenix. We were led by the Holy Spirit to evangelize anew in the southwestern United States as Franciscan Missionaries.
Arrival in Phoenix
When we arrived in Phoenix on May 13, 2015 we presented ourselves to Bishop Olmsted who blessed us and sent us to inhabit an abandoned convent on the Gila River Indian Reservation. Our first Arizona summer was spent in the convent where we prayed and bonded as a community to prepare for the work ahead.
The old Mission Church where we now live was still attended by a handful of faithful people who were ardently praying for Franciscan priests to return to the parish and to once again be their spiritual fathers. Once we began offering the Holy Mass in the Mission Church that autumn, the people came in crowds, smiling and applauding because, “the padres have returned!” We were similarly greeted at the other nine mission churches that are entrusted by Bishop Olmsted to our care.
Apostolic Works Begin
On October 1, 2015, Fr. Antony Tinker was made the administrator of Native American Ministry in the Diocese of Phoenix. That same day, Fr. Joseph Francis Lepage began to develop a Catholic Newman Center at Grand Canyon University (GCU). GCU is a private Christian university that is rapidly growing and expanding in Phoenix. The Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit are developing a relationship with the administration of GCU in order to meet the sacramental and spiritual needs of the Catholic members of the student body.
In August 2015, Fr. Alcuin and Br. Athanasius were assigned as teachers and campus ministers at Notre Dame Preparatory School in North Scottsdale. They completed this assignment in June 2016.
At the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit were named Missionaries of Mercy for the Diocese of Phoenix. Throughout the year we performed parish missions called Mercy Nights.
Through these apostolic works the budding community began important relationships with the priests, deacons, and lay people of the Diocese of Phoenix. The success in these missionary endeavors provided a strong indicator of that Phoenix and the Friars of the Holy Spirit were made for a good fit.
The Statutes of of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit were complete in May 2016, promulgated on June 29, 2016, and the community was established as a Clerical Public Association of the Faithful. The five priest friars were incardinated into the Diocese of Phoenix, and the seven members of the Franciscan Friars of Holy Spirit made promises of poverty, obedience, and chastity to Bishop Olmsted on July 2, 2016.
On November 25, 2016, Bishop Olmsted ordained Brother Athanasius Fornwalt, FHS to the order of the diaconate. He is the first friar to be ordained as a member of the Friars of the Holy Spirit. Additionally, the community received three men into the novitiate on December 23, 2016.