.- Eduardo Nevares, the new auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, intends to serve God with âgladness.â In an Oct. 12 interview, he discussed his exuberant reception by the faithful, his upbringing in a devout Mexican-American home, immigration, and the importance of the family as a source of vocations.
Bishop Nevaresâ family, originally from Monterrey, Mexico, was âvery rootedâ in their Catholic faith. His mother and father met in the church choir as teenagers. After marrying they had four children in Mexico.
âDaddy, seeing that he needed to provide more opportunity for the children, decided to come to the United States,â said the bishop, who was born in San Antonio, Texas and grew up in Houston.
In the U.S., Bishop Nevaresâ father served as a church usher and at the credit union, always available to help the parishâs priests.
His mother continued to sing in the choir. After dinner, she would gather her children together and pray the family Rosary.
âI hated it because it was a very long and boring prayer, but it made an impression,â the bishop said. âSeeing the importance of prayer really started to impress upon me that God was something very important in her life.â
Nevares only attended one year of Catholic school. However, his mother would take him to Mass at Houstonâs Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish after dropping off his older siblings at Catholic school.
âI remember one day (at Mass) I heard little bells ringing. And I asked my mother âWhat is that?â And she said âJesus is here.â And I said âOooh, wow.â
âJust the thought of having Jesus present at Holy Mass and seeing my motherâs living devotion to the Eucharist really made an impression upon me growing up,â Bishop Nevares told CNA.
He also cited as formative his experience of a priest who also served as his scoutmaster. Because his father worked the late shift, the priest would take his brothers to their scout meetings.
âSeeing his kindness and joy really made an impression upon me.â
Noting his previous experience as vocations director in the Diocese of Tyler, CNA asked Bishop Nevares how Catholics can foster vocations.
âIt all begins with the family,â he replied, saying this is one reason why Bishop of Phoenix Thomas Olmsted has planned to âfortify the sacrament of marriage.â
âThatâs where all the vocations come from. Priests, sisters, brothers, deacons, we do not come flying down from heaven. We come from families.â
There are presently 22 to 23 seminarians for the diocese, a figure the bishop called âvery goodâ but not enough for a Catholic population of almost 800,000. He expressed hope that over the next three to five years the number of seminarians will double or even triple.
In addition to vocations, Bishop Olmsted has tasked his auxiliary bishop with assisting bilingual ministry and ministering to the diocese's almost dozen ethnic groups.
On the topic of immigration, Bishop Nevares said the Arizona bishopsâ position is based on the belief in the human dignity of every human person, including illegal aliens.
âMany of them have died trying to cross into the U.S. because of the devastating heat of the desert or have drowned in the rivers. Weâre very concerned about that.â
The proposed state law SB1070 was a concern also because it had âno consideration at all for the unity of the family,â such as when a husband, wife and children have different residency statuses.
Bishop Nevares noted that illegal aliens should not be seen as âaliens from outer spaceâ but rather as âour brothers and sisters in Christ.â While a âhandfulâ of illegal immigrants are involved in crime like the trafficking of humans, guns or drugs, âthe majority are coming over here because they want to work and provide for their families back home.â
People come because of âdire needâ such as hunger. âItâs not easy to leave your family, country and culture with just the clothes on your back to look for work. These people are in flight â¦ we need to put ourselves in their shoes.â
CNA then noted the bishopâs response to the Arizona Republicâs question about whether Catholics were required to take a stand against same-sex âmarriageâ in California or other states.
"That gets into individual conscience," he had told the paper. "I would hate to make a sweeping generalization."
In the Oct. 12 interview with CNA, Bishop Nevares said he was âkind of new to all of the politics of this areaâ and the reporter caught him âa little off guard.â
He summarized Bishop Olmstedâs restatement of Catholic teaching that marriage does not depend upon government approval but is âa sacrament, a holy union that comes from God.â
âBecause of that God-ordained commandment, that is on what the sacrament of marriage is based. Any other union is not of God.
âAnd so therefore the Catholic Church has defended the sacrament of marriage against any and every type of perversion. Because if we get away from the union of man and wife, which is holy and of God â¦ then we open the door to any kind of perversion, whether it be homosexual marriage, other kinds of sexual attractions, man-boy, woman-girl, and whatever else.â
He explained that any good Catholic needs to vote for his or her conscience, which is âguided by the truth of the Word of God and the truth of the Catholic Church.â
Discussing his reception as a new bishop, Bishop Nevares recalled that the âexuberanceâ of the people was âvery comforting and reassuring.â He intends to spend his first whole year meeting the people, the clergy and the religious of the âhugeâ Diocese of Phoenix.
He was âhonored and humbledâ that God chose him to be a bishop and that he has Bishop Olmsted, a âwonderful bishop,â as his mentor.
âHeâs been a brother to me and I hope to be one day half the bishop that he is.â
âMay I continue to âserve the Lord with gladnessâ and share it with all I meet,â he told CNA, referring to his episcopal motto. âIâm very blessed to be here.â