Visiting archbishop at Red Mass: ‘Alleviate suffering,’ stay true to Church’s mission

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Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, preaches at the Red Mass Jan. 23 at St. Mary’s Basilica. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Political seasons and politicians come and go, but for more than 700 years, the Red Mass has brought together lawyers, judges, public officials and community leaders to pray for the God’s strength and guidance.

In the Diocese of Phoenix, the Red Mass is held at St. Mary’s Basilica in late January each year and organized by the St. Thomas More Society, a group of Catholic legal professionals who seek to integrate their faith into the practice of law.

Clergy in attendance wear red, recalling the fire of the Holy Spirit. The crimson hue also reminds the congregation of the 16th-century martyrdom of St. Thomas More, patron of civil servants and attorneys and later proclaimed by Pope St. John Paul II as the patron of statesmen and politicians.

The image of St. Thomas More, patron of legal professionals and elected officials, is placed in front of the altar during the Red Mass Jan. 23 at St. Mary’s Basilica. The Phoenix chapter of the St. Thomas More Society, an organization for Catholic attorneys, organizes the annual Mass. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, the invited homilist at this year’s Red Mass, was trained as both a civil and canon lawyer. Prior to his appointment to the episcopacy, he served as an appellate judge and in-house legal counsel for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In his homily, the archbishop challenged those in attendance to take to heart the lesson offered by the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

“We are challenged by the Gospel to respond to anyone who is in need and our response must be concrete,” Archbishop Listecki said. “We are called to do something, to alleviate the suffering and to have compassion for our brothers and sisters.”

In a homily peppered with humorous anecdotes, he also encouraged attendees to practice their faith resolutely. “Be judged by the Gospel and the teachings of the Church. Faithfulness is what our community needs,” Archbishop Listecki said. Christians, the archbishop said, are “risk-takers and commit themselves to a vision of life that is not always shared by our materialistic and secularist society.”

Members of the Arizona State Bar renew their oath at the Red Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica Jan. 23. The Red Mass is celebrated every year at the beginning of the legislative season. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Referring to the call of Pope Francis for believers to embrace a missionary spirit, Archbishop Listecki encouraged the crowd to “go into uncharted territories of our communities and declare allegiance to the Church’s mission.” Those territories include support for the pro-life cause, traditional marriage, respect for immigrants and attention to the poor.

“It’s a risk, but caution cannot prevent us from the truth. We proclaim the truth because we love our brothers and sisters who deserve the truth,” Archbishop Listecki said.

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic dioceses of Arizona, lauded Archbishop Listecki’s homily for “reminding us to put God before everything else in our lives.”

Ron Johnson (far left), executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, joins a group of bipartisan Catholic elected officials who served as lectors at the Red Mass Jan. 23 at St. Mary’s Basilica. They are, from left to right, State Rep. T.J. Shope, State Rep. Jill Norgaard, State Sen. Catherine Miranda, State Rep. Travis Grantham, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Mikish and Arizona Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin. Miranda received the 2018 St. Thomas More Award from the Phoenix St. Thomas More Society, an organization for Catholic legal professionals which organizes the annual Mass. (Tony Gutiérrez/CATHOLIC SUN)

State Rep. Jill Norgaard, Dist. 18, said she attends the Red Mass each year. “I like to go because I can meet other people who are faithful and adhere to their faith and practice their principles,” Norgaard said.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Mikitish is also a regular attendee at the liturgy that kicks off the legislative session. “The Red Mass sets the tone and has a message for your work for the entire year. It’s a great way to start off the year,” Mikitish said.

State Rep. Travis Grantham, Dist. 12, a St. Mary Magdalene parishioner, had never attended a Red Mass before but said he found it impactful.

“It wasn’t what I expected,” Grantham said. “We’re all very hypersensitive about the issues that matter to the Church.” He said he appreciated the encouragement to “look out for each other, love our brothers and sisters, do what’s right and follow the Lord’s guidance.”

State Sen. Catherine Miranda, Dist. 27, was honored with this year’s St. Thomas More Award. According to Christina Estes-Werther, president of the St. Thomas More Society, Miranda showed courage in supporting pro-life legislation.

Miranda said while receiving the award is a great honor, “merely the feeling of helping and making a difference in the lives of others is enough satisfaction for me.”