Thomas Kearns, a Ss. Simon and Jude parishioner, prays during the Oct. 7 Mass that kicked off the Phoenix Diocese’s celebration of the Year of Faith.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted welcomed the Year of Faith Oct. 7, a time during which Pope Benedict XVI has called Catholics to a deeper knowledge of the teachings of the Church.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted greets parishioners after an Oct. 7 Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, which marked the beginning of the local celebration of the Year of Faith.

“Faith opens the door of our heart to Jesus Christ,” Bishop Olmsted said during his homily at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral. “It brings us out of the darkness of doubt and despair into the Lord’s wonderful light.”

In wisdom, faith sustains those in sorrow, he continued. In the face of temptation, faith prepares the soul for spiritual battle.

“Faith lights our way on earth and opens the door to eternal joy,” the bishop said.

The choice to live out the faith has everlasting consequences. It is truly a question of eternal life or death, the bishop said.

His two-part pastoral letter, co-written with Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares, guides Catholics through the Year of Faith. Bishop Olmsted highlighted some of those steps in his homily, especially a return to the confessional. That’s where the new evangelization begins and sets lives on the solid foundation of truth and mercy, he said.

The bishop offered practical steps for every Catholic whether priest, deacon, religious, lay person, teacher or elder. The homebound may experience loneliness, for example, but he reminded them that Christ knows how to make suffering a road to holiness and a path to peace.

The bishops addressed the longest section of the pastoral letter to married couples.

“The need in our nation for your faith in Christ and your witness to God’s plan for marriage has never been greater,” the bishop said. “Without them, our country will collapse.”

The basic way to do that, he said, is to keep the Lord’s Day holy together as a family. Praying together also strengthens marriage and family, the basic units of society, the bishop said. It’s a time to support each other in sorrow and celebrate each other’s joy. He also urged making family meals a high priority.

“It is the prized place for forging bonds of love in the home,” the bishop said.

The Diocese of Phoenix is posting a wealth of resources online at to help families grow in faith together. The website includes links to resources on Scripture, catechesis and prayer as well as monthly prayers and activities for the family.

It has also planned a five-day Eucharistic Congress at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, a sacred music concert Nov. 27 at Xavier College Preparatory and other events throughout the year. Parishes and schools are also finding ways to celebrate.

St. Benedict Parish invited Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas for an afternoon of reflection and renewal on faith, particularly how to grow and share that gift. Bishop Kicanas reminded the 50 or so people gathered Sept. 22 that being a people of faith goes far beyond praying, paying and obeying.

“Faith is not just an academic effort. Faith is a relationship — a relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said.

So Bishop Kicanas hopes Catholics use the Year of Faith as a time to nurture that relationship with Christ. That will give them the confidence to consistently bring the Gospel values to the “biting questions of human society in our day,” he said.

That has the power to create witnesses for the faith, likely the most powerful tool of evangelization, the bishop said. Bishop Kicanas is one of four U.S. bishops taking part in the Synod on Evangelization at the Vatican Oct. 7-28.

“People are moved by witnesses, not by teachers,” he said

Catholics can also support the new evangelization through works of charity, he said. The Tucson Diocese is considering hosting a service day for its 76 parishes.

Such actions are already an integral part of local schools within the Phoenix Diocese — yet students and faculty are committing to more. Fr. Dan McBride, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Chandler, commissioned eight extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, four of them new, at a school Mass Oct. 11 welcoming the Year of Faith.

Students at St. Gregory School compiled a top 10 list of things they can do to live out the Year of Faith.

Year of Faith

  • Oct. 29-Nov. 2: Eucharistic Congress featuring Mass, adoration, reconciliation and rosary at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral
  • 7 p.m. Nov. 27 Singing the Mass: A Sacred Music Concert at Xavier College Preparatory

Info and other events:

10 a.m. Sundays, English Mass in Rome at the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, three blocks from St. Peter’s Square. Info: