Phoenix bishop calls for 'humility and courage' to face difficult years ahead

Bishop Thomas J Olmsted CNA file photo CNA Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix. CNA file photo.

The Church must face the fallout of the abuse scandal with humility and courage, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has said, while predicting "very difficult" years ahead for the Church.

"We need a spirit of humility, but also courage and praise for the mercy of God who is always present and working within us," said Olmsted in an interview published by the Catholic Sun Nov. 22 to mark the 50th anniversary of the diocese. 

"There's a need for a sense of humility, especially with what we have had to face in the terrible scandal," said Olmsted. "When those who are ordained to serve others are actually taking advantage of others, that's a horrible scandal." 

Olmsted said that humility in the face of failures was essential in seeking God's forgiveness and mercy. 

"The Lord works well in a humble heart. It's fertile soil for Him to work," he said. 

In addition to humility, Olmsted said, the Church today must also be courageous, and look to the Bible for guidance on how to persevere through challenging periods.

"It is especially at times when we looked weakest or when things seemed hopeless, like Good Friday, when the biggest explosions of grace and wonder occur," he said. "That's true for us now."

When people surrender their will to God, the bishop explained, "we find He does things we never expected." These unexpected answers of God "give us courage to trust Him in whatever comes along next." 

Olmsted has led Phoenix for 16 years--nearly a third of the diocese's history. He said he had no previous experience of the area upon arriving in Arizona, and was very unsure as to what it would be like to lead the diocese. Despite this, he explained that he feels "very much like the spiritual father" to the Catholics of Phoenix, and that he is "deeply moved by being here." 

Phoenix is the fastest-growing city in the country, something that Olmsted said has caused him to rely more on his trust in the Lord that things will work out.

"We are growing very, very fast, and if the Lord asks us to live at this time in history, we trust that He gives us the grace to respond at this time in history," he said. 

The new people arriving to the area are from all over the country and the world, "bringing gifts themselves that are going to be good for us as a community." It is important that everyone, regardless of origin, seek to learn from each other.

Olmsted said that he believes the influx of new people to the diocese has "brought us a broader sense of being Catholic."

Catholics "are called to go out to all the world," he said. "In many ways, a lot of the world is coming to us. The one thing that unites us is Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith, and the Catholic faith moves us beyond where we are." 

Noting that Jesus had ordered people to teach all nations, Olmsted said that in Phoenix's case, "a lot of that is to welcome those who are coming here. We go out to those who have come to us, and we welcome them." 

While Phoenix is growing as a diocese, the bishop's view of the Church in the coming years is frank.

"I think the years immediately ahead are going to be very difficult," he said. "We continue to struggle with a large part of society that doesn't believe in God any longer. So, I think that challenge is there."

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To combat this mentality, Olmsted said that the Church has to be one with "an even deeper rootedness in Christ." 

"But you know, the light is most brilliant and most wonderful when there's darkness. We need to expect that the Lord will ask us to have a real, living faith," he said.

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