By Jeff Grant, The Catholic Sun

AVONDALE — The episcopacy of John Patrick Dolan has begun.

In a joyous transition punctuated by Church tradition — rich, uplifting music and a call by the new bishop to abide in God’s goodness, love and blessing — Dolan was installed as the fifth bishop in the Diocese of Phoenix’s nearly 53-year history on Aug. 2 during a Mass attended by nearly 2,000 worshippers and clergy at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Avondale.

The congregation included Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a lifelong Roman Catholic; Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers; priests, deacons, seminarians, women religious, and dignitaries and members of Catholic organizations, including Catholic Charities of Arizona, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Phoenix, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Peter Claver, the Order of Malta, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, and the Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great.

Rev. Fred Adamson raises the Papal Bull naming Most Rev. John P. Dolan the fifth bishop of Phoenix. (Brett Meister | The Catholic Sun)

Clergy included a number of bishops, of note: Roger Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles, and Cardinal-designate Robert McElroy, the current bishop of San Diego, where Dolan has served as Auxiliary Bishop.

“The Holy Father has now called you to be the chief shepherd here in Phoenix. And he asks you to be courageous in imitating the heart of the Redeemer,” said Msgr. Luca Caveada, secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in the United States, who then read the Papal Bull — or official letter from Pope Francis — declaring Dolan the Ordinary of the Diocese of Phoenix.

The name “bull” is derived from the lead seal, or bulla, traditionally affixed to such documents. The nunciature is the office where the Apostolic Nuncio exercises his diplomatic mission.

Often the papal nuncio – the ambassador of the Holy See – reads the letter. However, The Most Rev. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, could not attend.

Bishop John P. Dolan greets Bishop Emeritus Thomas J. Olmsted at the August 2022 installation. (Brett Meister | The Catholic Sun)


Just before the bull was read, retiring Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted addressed the gathering in what would be his final remarks as ordinary.

The installation of a new bishop is a joyous occasion for those serving the Diocese, he said.

“But it’s also a joy for so many, who, though not Catholic themselves, love God and love their neighbor, and see the Catholic Church as a trusted friend and co-worker in the services of the Gospel and in the service of the whole human community,” he continued

“We rejoice today because a new bishop means the life and work of the Church will continue here, in this part of the world.”

Olmsted then noted about a half million Californians have moved to Arizona over the past few years and thanked God for giving the diocese a native San Diegan.

“I assure you of my prayers, my fraternal love as you begin your episcopal ministry here,” Olmsted said.

Bishop Dolan, who turned 60 in June, was appointed San Diego Auxiliary Bishop in 2017. He also served as vicar general, vicar for clergy, and the moderator of the curia there, as well as a priest for 28 years at various San Diego parishes. He was ordained in 1989.

After thanking Bishop Olmsted for his service to Phoenix, Msgr. Caveada addressed Bishop Dolan.

“Your excellency, the transition from the oceanfront diocese you have known to a desert diocese will be a challenging one. But Christ, who taught and worked miracles on both the water and in the desert, will be with you and will surely give you the needed strength for the great mission ahead of you,” the monsignor said.

“We are confident that you, venerable brother, are able to exercise this office fittingly, given that you have diligently fulfilled your ministry as auxiliary of San Diego. Therefore, with the consultation of the Congregation of Bishops, by the fullness of power of our apostolic authority, we release you from the bond of the aforementioned (auxiliary), and we appoint you Bishop of Phoenix, granting to you the due rights and imposing the relative obligations in accordance with the norms of the Code of Canon Law.”

Bishop John P. Dolan grasps his crosier – now decorated with cholla cactus – and sits in the cathedra (chair) used by Most Rev. Edward A. McCarthy, first Bishop of Phoenix. (Brett Meister | The Catholic Sun)


Msgr. Caveada then turned over the Apostolic Mandate to Fr. Fred Adamson, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Phoenix. Fr. Adamson, accompanied by chancellor Dr. Maria Chavira, displayed the document to the College of Consultors and the congregation. A panel of anywhere from six to 12 priests, the Consultors assist the bishop in governance of the diocese in accord with the provisions of Church law (Canon 502).

Msgr. Caveada then asked Dolan if he was ready to fulfill his office.

“You are called by the Holy Spirit to serve Almighty God and the people of the Diocese of Phoenix in faith and in love as their shepherd. Having already accepted the appointment of the Holy Father, are you willing to serve the people of the Diocese in the tradition of apostolic faith of the Church?”

Bishop Dolan responded, “With faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and with the love of God in my heart, I do accept the pastoral care of the People of God in the Diocese of Phoenix. I resolve to serve faithfully the spiritual needs of this local Church.”

Dolan’s installation now complete, clergy and the congregation broke out into applause, and Archbishop of Santa Fe, NM, Most Rev. John C. Wester, presented Bishop Dolan his crosier, a hooked staff carried by bishops as a symbol of pastoral office. Archbishop Wester then led Dolan to the cathedra, the bishop’s chair.

Minutes later, Dolan delivered his first homily as bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix.

Bishop Dolan imparts his first homily to the people of Phoenix at his August 2022 installation Mass. (Joseph Pillado | The Catholic Sun)


He would start with a moment of levity. After greeting the congregation and acknowledging online viewers, he quipped, “Hi Mom and Dad.,” drawing laughter.

His message was uncomplicated.

“As we begin our journey together… may I offer three proposals: Simply, be good, be love and be blessed.”

“Be good without trying.”

Referencing the day’s First Reading from the Book of Genesis (1:26-31 and 2:1-3), the bishop said, “God made all things in His own image and likeness, which is good. We should recognize that good and live in it.

“My friends, from the beginning, we were fashioned to be good. In fact, very good. Not by our own efforts, but as Pope Francis reminds us, ‘in a gratuitous and unmerited way.’”

“Yet, I wonder if we can rest with that.”

“I like to think of an artist who stands back from her painting with a sense of satisfaction. God looks upon us and His entire artistic work of Creation, and says, ‘very good.’ You, my friends, are God’s work of art. His masterpiece.”

Second, the new bishop urged: Be love.

“God is love. And whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him,” he said, referencing the First Letter of St. John before quoting Jesus’ instructions to His apostles in John’s Gospel: ‘Abide in my love. If you abide in my love, you will have joy, and your joy will be complete’” (1 John 4:16, John 15:9-11).

“You cannot give what you have not first received,” the bishop said. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

“We are called to remain in Divine love before we set about doing loving things.”

The motivation to love is everywhere, he continued.

“Just took at the war in Ukraine, or our nation’s political divide, our mass shootings or the way in which we still treat people of (other) cultures, color, creed or orientation. Even within our churches, there is such a divide on social media, television, radio broadcasts that leads to hatred. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother he’s a liar,” the bishop said, again referencing St. John’s First Epistle (1 John 4:20).

Bishop Dolan elevates the chalice used by St. Pope John Paul II on his 1987 visit to Phoenix during Dolan’s Installation Mass.(Joseph Pillado | The Catholic Sun)


Finally, he said: Be blessed.

To be blessed means to be highly favored and holy as God is favored and holy.

“Christ, on whom His Father’s favor rests, extends the same favor on us who are poor in spirit, who mourn, are meek, and hunger and thirst for righteousness. These first of the eight beatitudes speak to shedding the garments of our ‘otherness,’ which leads to divisiveness and hatefulness, and to replace that with the garment of Christ, who is good, who is love and who is blessed,” the bishop said.

“Will you join me in resting in goodness and the goodness of others? Will we abide in His love and celebrate together the loveliness of others? Will we rejoice together in our blessedness and bless others along the way? If so, let us go forth. And as we do so, let us draw close to this altar, the source and summit of all that is good, all that is love, and all that is blessed.”

The message was well-received; worshippers hailing the call to love and holiness.

“Bishop Dolan preached a message of love, blessing and grace. You could hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through him. What a wonderful day it is for our Diocese. You just felt joy in this church today,“ said Stephen J. Zabilski, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix.

“These are beautiful foundations,” said Fr. Antony Tinker, community servant of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit, which serves the area’s Native American population. “Love God above all else, love your neighbor as yourself; experience the great love of God and abide in that love. Be good to other people, and that will be a blessing to this community,” Fr. Antony said.

Bishop Dolan welcomes attendees at the Mass of Installation August 2, 2022, at St. Thomas Aquinas. (Joseph Pillado | The Catholic Sun)


Others lauded a tone of inclusiveness for the diverse Diocese of 1.1 million Catholics stretching across nearly 44 square miles.

“It seems like he’s including everyone. That is what’s beautiful,” said Rose McHenry, parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena in south Phoenix and a member of the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary. The Knights are the largest historically African-American Catholic lay organization in the United States.

Elaine Guitar, the parish manager for Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Havasu City, nearly 200 miles and a 3-and-a-half hour drive from Avondale, applauded Bishop Dolan’s plans to spend time listening to laity and religious in his initial years, adding that a key is understanding their diverse needs and backgrounds.

“I’d like to see him be a bishop for everyone and stay true to himself,” she said.

Chris and Carey Gass of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Tempe were celebrating the new bishop on the day they also marked 25 years of marriage. A deacon at his church, Chris praised Bishop Dolan’s emphasis of traditional Catholic values.

“We need to see Christ’s face in others. He mentioned in his reference to Genesis that we’re made in the image and likeness of God, and we have to recognize that in everybody we meet,” Gass said.

“If you’re new, you don’t want to do too much at one time. You want to let everyone know who you are. He did a good job of that,” said Carey Gass.

View more photos from the Installation Mass

Dolan will spend his next couple of years getting to know his flock. He was scheduled to celebrate his first Mass at the Cathedral of Ss. Simon and Jude, the Diocese’s mother church, Sunday, Aug. 7. Other events are expected as well.

“He’s a great listener,” said Bishop Dolan’s brother, Matt, who drove Monday morning with his family from San Diego for the installation.

“He really sits down and listens to what people say. He’s not a person who says, ‘I have these ideas, and we’re going to do it.’ He works with people. I’m always amazed at how he can have an idea, bring it to fruition, and get everybody to go along with it,” Matt Dolan said.

In a brief interview with The Catholic Sun afterward, Bishop Dolan said his appreciation for listening is derived largely from his experience in mental-health ministry.

“I had the opportunity to walk with people. I have a deeper appreciation for spiritual ministry and counselors,” he explained. “I say, ‘just listen rather than making a judgment.’ It goes a long way. Just listen, and get to know a person,” he said.

“His plan is to really emphasize a call to be good, be loved and be blessed,” Fr. Antony said. “We ask God for His Spirit to move in this Diocese so we can do that. I do think that will be his mission, and I pray for the Spirit of God carry out that mission.”

Bishop Dolan presents a crucifix to Our Lady of Guadalupe during the Installation Mass. (Brett Meister | The Catholic Sun)