.- Eduardo Nevares, the new auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, intends to serve God with “gladness.” 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 Nevares’ family, originally from Monterrey, Mexico, was “very rooted” in their Catholic faith. His mother and father met in the church choir as teenagers. After marrying they had four children in Mexico.
“Daddy, seeing that he needed to provide more opportunity for the children, decided to come to the United States,” said the bishop, who was born in San Antonio, Texas and grew up in Houston.
In the U.S., Bishop Nevares’ father served as a church usher and at the credit union, always available to help the parish’s priests.
His mother continued to sing in the choir. After dinner, she would gather her children together and pray the family Rosary.
“I hated it because it was a very long and boring prayer, but it made an impression,” the bishop said. “Seeing the importance of prayer really started to impress upon me that God was something very important in her life.”
Nevares only attended one year of Catholic school. However, his mother would take him to Mass at Houston’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish after dropping off his older siblings at Catholic school.
“I remember one day (at Mass) I heard little bells ringing. And I asked my mother ‘What is that?’ And she said ‘Jesus is here.’ And I said ‘Oooh, wow.’
“Just the thought of having Jesus present at Holy Mass and seeing my mother’s living devotion to the Eucharist really made an impression upon me growing up,” 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.
“Seeing his kindness and joy really made an impression upon me.”
Noting his previous experience as vocations director in the Diocese of Tyler, CNA asked Bishop Nevares how Catholics can foster vocations.
“It all begins with the family,” he replied, saying this is one reason why Bishop of Phoenix Thomas Olmsted has planned to “fortify the sacrament of marriage.”
“That’s where all the vocations come from. Priests, sisters, brothers, deacons, we do not come flying down from heaven. We come from families.”
There are presently 22 to 23 seminarians for the diocese, a figure the bishop called “very good” 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 bishops’ position is based on the belief in the human dignity of every human person, including illegal aliens.
“Many 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. We’re very concerned about that.”
The proposed state law SB1070 was a concern also because it had “no consideration at all for the unity of the family,” such as when a husband, wife and children have different residency statuses.
Bishop Nevares noted that illegal aliens should not be seen as “aliens from outer space” but rather as “our brothers and sisters in Christ.” While a “handful” of illegal immigrants are involved in crime like the trafficking of humans, guns or drugs, “the majority are coming over here because they want to work and provide for their families back home.”
People come because of “dire need” such as hunger. “It’s 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 … we need to put ourselves in their shoes.”
CNA then noted the bishop’s response to the Arizona Republic’s question about whether Catholics were required to take a stand against same-sex “marriage” 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 “kind of new to all of the politics of this area” and the reporter caught him “a little off guard.”
He summarized Bishop Olmsted’s restatement of Catholic teaching that marriage does not depend upon government approval but is “a sacrament, a holy union that comes from God.”
“Because of that God-ordained commandment, that is on what the sacrament of marriage is based. Any other union is not of God.
“And 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 … 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.”
He explained that any good Catholic needs to vote for his or her conscience, which is “guided by the truth of the Word of God and the truth of the Catholic Church.”
Discussing his reception as a new bishop, Bishop Nevares recalled that the “exuberance” of the people was “very comforting and reassuring.” He intends to spend his first whole year meeting the people, the clergy and the religious of the “huge” Diocese of Phoenix.
He was “honored and humbled” that God chose him to be a bishop and that he has Bishop Olmsted, a “wonderful bishop,” as his mentor.
“He’s been a brother to me and I hope to be one day half the bishop that he is.”
“May I continue to ‘serve the Lord with gladness’ and share it with all I meet,” he told CNA, referring to his episcopal motto. “I’m very blessed to be here.”