Lawyers, judges, lawmakers and elected officials will gather at St. Mary’s Basilica Jan. 26 for the annual Red Mass. Attorneys in attendance renew their oath of admission to the Arizona State Bar at the conclusion of the liturgy.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted will preside at the Mass, which marks the opening of the legislative session and is held to invoke the guidance of the Holy Spirit for those in the legal and legislative communities.
At Bishop Olmsted’s invitation, Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, will preach at this year’s Red Mass. Appointed by Pope Emeritus Benedict and installed in 2010, Bishop Flores holds a doctoral degree in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
In 2014, Bishop Flores made headlines when he penned a poignant letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry regarding the immigration crisis, telling Kerry that many of those who sought refuge in the U.S. did so because of escalating violence in their homeland.
“I hear from kidnapping survivors, often missing fingers as a sign of their ordeal. I hear from aged grandmothers who ask for my prayers for grandsons in northern Mexico who have not been heard from in months. They are kidnapped and presumed dead, but grandmothers are the last to lose hope,” the letter read in part.
When: 5:30 p.m. Jan. 26
Where: St. Mary’s Basilica,
231 N. Third St., Phoenix,
followed by a reception at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.
Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the public policy arm for the state’s Catholic bishops, said he was looking forward to the Mass.
“Every year we have been blessed by outstanding homilists, and I am sure Bishop Flores will be no exception,” Johnson said. “I would strongly encourage anyone who has ever thought of attending to do so at least once.”
Christina Estes-Werther, general counsel for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, is president of the St. Thomas More Society, a Catholic organization of lawyers in the Diocese of Phoenix that helps organize the Red Mass each year.
“It’s a way to really start off the new legislative year and to create fellowship for legislators and the legal community as well as for anybody that’s involved in the capitol area,” Estes-Werther said. “It’s just a really wonderful opportunity to spend time together but perhaps not in an antagonistic sort of way.”
Bishop Flores, she said, “has been involved in the immigration issue and that’s something that’s certainly important here in Arizona, to sort of convey what our message is as Catholics, that we’re all a community and we’re supposed to be serving each other regardless of country affiliation.”
The Red Mass was first celebrated in France during the Middle Ages. Clergy wear red vestments to symbolize the fire of the Holy Spirit they pray will guide lawyers, judges and lawmakers.