Calling Christ "the source of hope" and saying the "future of the church in Phoenix depends on Jesus Christ," Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted humbly took charge of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix on Saturday in colorful pageantry at Sts. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix.
"With faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the love of God in my heart, I do accept the pastoral care of the people of the diocese of Phoenix," he said in his oath. "I resolved to serve faithfully the church of this diocese."
At 10:26 a.m., Olmsted was presented a silver crozier, or staff, symbolizing his office, then sat down in the bishop’s chair as the 1,200 packed into the cathedral vigorously applauded its fourth bishop.
Olmsted, 56, who had served since 2001 as the bishop of Wichita, Kan., was installed six months and two days after Bishop Thomas O’Brien abruptly resigned following his involvement in a fatal hitand-run on June 14 in Phoenix, a tragedy coming after months in which O’Brien was under fire for how he handled child sexual misconduct cases going back two decades. He goes on trial Jan. 12 in the hit-and-run. He was among about 20 bishops who attended the historic event and took prominent seats on the chancel.
The last installation of a bishop in the Valley was in January 1982 when O’Brien was installed at Wells Fargo Arena at Arizona State University.
O’Brien, 68, drew prolonged applause four times during the two hour and 15 minute installation and Mass. "I want to recognize the fruitful ministry of Bishop Thomas O’Brien who is with us today," said Archbishop Michael Sheehan of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M., who was named apostolic administrator for the transition period.
"Under Bishop O’Brien’s guidance, the church has experienced incredible growth. He opened more than 25 parishes in this diocese of Phoenix, built many churches and schools," hosted visits of Pope John Paul II (1987) and Mother Teresa (1989) and saw the completion of the new Diocesan Pastor Center.
In his 26-minute homily, Olmsted talked briefly about the misconduct, saying that Christ’s love "impels us to face the scandal of child abuse squarely and to combat it with honesty and determination. Christ makes himself one with the littlest and the most wounded among us. Whatever we do to them, we do to Christ."
In a televised service of rich, triumphant liturgical music by soloists and choir, the language of speakers switched smoothly and continually between English and Spanish in recognition that 54 percent of parishes have a majority of Hispanic parishioners.
"I come with the intention of following in the example of Saint Juan Diego, the faithful servant of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas," he said in Spanish.
The Most Rev. Gabriel Montalvo, papal ambassador to the United States and nuncio in Washington, D.C., was to have led the rites of installation, but fell ill with the flu and canceled his trip to Phoenix. Sheehan and the Most Rev. James Kelleher, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas handled the chores and sat at Olmsted’s sides on the chancel.
Sheehan touted Olmsted’s seasoned experience and asked God to confer three things: Wisdom to make good judgments, the grace of strength to make decisions, and "peace in your heart, peace so that you can sleep at night despite the challenges." He drew laughter when he said he was happy to turn over diocesan reins to Olmsted and return his full-time work in New Mexico.
"You have come a long way in 34 years, since becoming a diocese in the Catholic Church," Sheehan said, "Let me tell you something, Phoenix, O Phoenix: The best is yet to come."
"Today begins a new chapter in the wonderful life of the diocese of Phoenix," said Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, the highest ranked cleric on hand, adding that "the lifeblood of our faith in Jesus Christ" is like the Colorado River that provides nourishing water to the Southwest, including his southern California.
A seven-man mariachi band, Mariachi Valle Del Sol, paraded behind Olmsted as he exited the cathedral, while more than 25 members of a Hispanic parish displayed a huge banner and sang joyously to welcome the new shepherd of almost 480,000 Catholics across the four-county diocese of central and northwestern Arizona.
Members of Roman Catholic Faithful held up placards (among them "We Love Orthodox Bishops" and "Chancery Leadership is Full of Dissidents") along the sidewalk calling for the new bishop to adhere strictly to Catholic doctrine, including tough disciplining of priests and investigating any priests sympathetic to liberalizing policies related to homosexuality.
"We welcome the bishop and we sure want to support him because it will be really hard to reverse the direction of the last two decades," said one sign-holder, George Beltran of Mesa.
Jim Galbraith of Mesa, a member of Church of the Resurrection in Tempe, who is in training to become a deacon, said Olmsted comes as a "man of peace, a man of intellect and a man that will bring a renewed spirit into our diocese. I see this as a renewal of our wonderful Catholic, universal faith."