46 years after ‘Roe,’ Jesus continually offers hope, says bishop at annual Mass for the Unborn

By Ryan Everson
The Catholic Sun

Just as Jesus transformed the water into wine at Cana, Jesus can transform our ministry, refill us and give us new hope despite the challenges we face in the pro-life movement, said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. The remarks came during the annual Mass for the Unborn Jan. 20 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, two days before the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The Mass began with a video presentation featuring the bishop, who encouraged Catholics to cherish the gift of life and to protect it. “It is God’s plan that we be His voice on behalf of the voiceless at this time in history,” Bishop Olmsted said.

In his homily, the bishop reflected on the day’s Gospel passage, “The Wedding at Cana” in John 2, as an example of how Jesus can help us as we struggle to fight the darkness and injustice in our society.

After 46 years of living under Roe, many Catholics feel “empty,” like the jars of wine in the Gospel. “We’re running out of hope, perhaps,” Bishop Olmsted said. “We feel like we’re running out of wine.” However, “without God, we can do nothing, and nothing is impossible with God.”

The bishop also emphasized the importance of marriage and the family, noting that it is important for Catholics to embrace this sacramental gift of the self, especially in our increasingly secular age.

“The sacred union of man and woman, according to God’s command, is of no importance to some elected officials. In fact, it gets in the way … marriage is the last place that some of our contemporaries expect Jesus to work miracles of life and love, but that’s exactly what He does.” Bishop Olmsted built on this by quoting Pope St. John Paul II’s St. Louis Address of 1999, saying, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”

At the end of the Mass, the bishop asked the pregnant women, who came from across the diocese, to stand for a special blessing. He then asked the fathers to stand so the couples could receive a blessing together as they prepared for the gift of human life already present in the mothers’ wombs.

Mike Phelan, the director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Respect Life, told The Catholic Sun this special Mass is important for the diocese because “being pro-life is at the core of being Catholic.”

“We do all we can to uphold the dignity of every human life,” Phelan said. “This is why we build hospitals, crisis pregnancy centers, charities, hospices and counseling centers. We Catholics are pro-life in our magisterial teaching and are called to be in how we live every aspect of life.”

Free copies of Bishop Olmsted’s new Apostolic Exhortation, “Complete My Joy,” were distributed to those in attendance after Mass. The exhortation, which was promulgated Dec. 30, 2018, articulates the importance of the family, the distinct nature of motherhood and fatherhood and the importance of openness to the gift of life.

“We do this [Mass] because we are remembering a horrible tragedy in our country, that there’s no protection for unborn children in any of the 50 states because of Roe v. Wade,” Bishop Olmsted told The Catholic Sun after the liturgy.

“We’re citizens of the country, as well as followers of Jesus, so we have to stand up as citizens and say this is a horrible injustice, a violent act of killing, and we’re praying for an end to that, and for the opposite, which is a really deep appreciation of human life as a gift from God that needs to be protected and nourished.”

Bishop Olmsted was ordained a priest in 1973, the same year Roe v. Wade was decided, and he has frequently said he knew then and there that defending the unborn would be an important part of his ministry as a priest.

“I feel like God has asked me from the beginning of my priesthood to be part of the people of God turning this around.”