Dual celebrations reflect on growth, future of diocese

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted shares memories of growing up with his grandfather as well as a vision for the near future of the Diocese of Phoenix during a Celebration of Hope at The Sheraton Grand Sept. 14 in Phoenix. He shared the same thoughts with parish leaders and other laity Sept. 13 in Flagstaff. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

Lisa Dahm and Ambria Hammel
The Catholic Sun

In a two-part celebration in Flagstaff Sept. 13 and downtown Phoenix Sept. 14 called “A Celebration of Hope,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted shared reflections of his own Catholic roots and his vision for planting seeds for the near future of the Diocese of Phoenix through the “Together Let us go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” campaign.“This is a campaign about evangelization and discipleship,” Bishop Olmsted said during the event. “At its core, the Lord is working through us to build the Kingdom of God. This campaign is about bringing people to Jesus — to experience the love and hope that only He can give.”

View bishop’s full address

Vince and Mary Margaret Johnson, parishioners of San Francisco de Asís in Flagstaff are fully on board with a campaign rooted in love.

“We are Cursillistas (members of Cursillo) and the idea of love, friendship and building of community is really important to us,” Mary Margaret said. “To bring people back to the Church, to strengthen people’s commitment to the Church is huge. It goes way beyond the monetary.”

The bishop called Catholics in the diocese to join the campaign in three ways: in prayer, through leadership and through a commitment that is both cheerful and deep. A byproduct of evangelizing and forming local missionary disciples is raising $100 million for earmarked grand endeavors across every mission and parish plus most area apostolates.

“The time to begin this campaign is now,” he said. “It will not be easy. It will require sacrifice rooted in faith; and the love of Jesus must be alive in our hearts.

“Together in Christ, the Lord will use us to build up every one of our 117 churches and missions into vibrant communities of faith, witnessing to the Kingdom of God.”

Speaking at the Flagstaff event in the San Francisco de Asís Parish center, Jack and Mary Jean Bublitz said they received a call 18 months ago from Bishop Olmsted to help him with the campaign, and they said “yes.” They quickly rediscovered the beauty and challenge of such of a large diocese.

“It’s almost unbelievable, such phenomenal growth,” Mary Jean Bublitz said. “One of the beautiful things about our community is the variety of people and cultures we serve. This growth and diversity is what makes our diocese so unique.”

Catholics celebrate Mass with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted at San Francisco de Asís in Flagstaff Sept. 13. Mass was followed by a Celebration of Hope unveiling the bishop’s vision for the immediate future of the diocese. The kickoff was repeated in Phoenix Sept. 14. (Lisa M. Dahm/CATHOLIC SUN)

Each parish will focus on its own goal toward the campaign, receive 35 percent of what’s contributed and discern among themselves the best way to use such funds. Immaculate Conception in Cottonwood served as a pilot parish for the campaign. They were charged with raising $701,000, but ended up raising 120 percent — $841,452. Some of it will help bring “Forming Intentional Disciples” resources to the parish. The Immaculate Conception campaign chairman, Mark Carlile, said he was impressed with the ease of the campaign through the campaign liaisons, and how it brought his parishioners together.

“The thought behind the campaign was evident,” Carlile said. “One of the things that impressed me was bishop has been praying about this for 10 years. I tried to think about the last thing that I prayed about for 10 years.”

Cristina Neira-Weston, who drove from her home in Kingman for the Flagstaff event, said she is looking forward to the energy the campaign will give to her parish. As the leader of the parish youth group, she is looking forward to expanding the youth program and increasing its numbers. She wants her students to know that God loves them.

“For my parish, I think it will help a lot,” Neira-Weston said. “As the teenage group leader, this is fantastic. It helps them not only to realize they have a home, but we have a large group and to have the bishop behind us. For me, it is important for them to know they have somebody behind them and that they are going to move forward, growing up.”

That’s the kind of vision Carrie Oertle has for her diocese. She’s among countless college students who belong to the All Saints Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State University in Tempe. Its members filled two tables for Phoenix’s Celebration of Hope for the future of the diocese.

The campaign’s multi-faceted approach that embraces everyone — from children and teens to married and single adults — is one aspect that captured Oertle’s attention. She dubbed the multi-generational vision “cool.”

Oertle will tangibly see part of her vision fulfilled. The second largest chunk of evangelization efforts within “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” will help strengthen all three Newman Centers within the diocese with other funding strengthening high schools.

The direct parish support can help her see a focus on young families realized. Oertle might have a model in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Scottsdale. Leaders launched separate Moms and Dads Clubs this month, which balances parent-only activity throughout the year with events for moms/daughters and dads/sons plus five full family events that begin with Mass.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted addresses a crowd of parish, apostolate and other lay leaders at the Sheraton Grand Sept. 14. The gathering kicked off the “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” campaign. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

Catherine Swingle, a junior at ASU who grew up at two East Valley parishes and is now part of St. Paul’s Outreach and campus ministry, felt like the diocese is known for having a very Catholic community. She said it will be good to have something to move on to after graduation. The “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” effort is designed to do exactly that.