Being called by Christ ‘entails great risk’: Bishop Olmstead

The lives of priests and bishops entail great risk for they are placed in the middle of the most important struggles of human life, said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, the new bishop of the Diocese of Pheonix, in his first meeting with the priests of the diocese Dec. 19.

“It is not safe in worldly terms to be called by Christ to close communion with him and to be sent out in His name,” he said. “It is a great privilege; it is an undeserved honor; it is a blessing beyond all blessings; but it also entails great risk.

“It is not safe to make Christ the center of our life. He places us who are priests and bishops in the middle of the most important struggles of human life. … He arms us for battle against the evil one, giving us not the power of guns or smart bombs but the power of his mercy and the example of his humility,” he continued.

He recognized the challenges priests and bishops face in the shadow of scandals, “harsh criticism, ridicule and close scrutiny.”

In order to be effective ministers of the word, he continued, priests and bishops must receive ongoing formation and be disciplined about taking time for study and reflection. Enough time must be set aside for careful preparation of talks and homilies, as well. “Few things are as important as solid preaching and faithful teaching, and few require more work,” he said.

“Above all, we need to trust the truth and conform our lives to the truth,” he said.

Priests and bishops are the “principal guardians and dispensers of the sacraments of the Church,” he said. “It is a great privilege to offer the sacraments to our people, especially the Sacrament of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.”

The bishop told his priests that he has been deeply influenced by Pope John Paul II and that they should keep in mind three of the Pope’s favorite words: Be not afraid. “Let us trust Him and serve Him with generous joyful hearts,” he said.

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