By Jeff Grant, The Catholic Sun

PHOENIX — Roman Catholic members of Arizona’s legal profession, including judges, lawyers, clerks and paralegals gathered at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in downtown for the 53rd annual Red Mass Wednesday night.

The Mass, marking the opening of the first session of the 56th state legislature, was sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society of Phoenix, and was celebrated by Bishop John P. Dolan and concelebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Arizona Supreme Court Justice William G. Montgomery administered the Oath of Admission to the State Bar of Arizona to over a dozen new attorneys, part of the congregation of an estimated 200 in attendance.

Immediately afterward, worshippers were invited to attend a reception with the two bishops.

In his homily, Bishop Dolan reminded the congregation that no legal system is perfect but urged its members to rely on the Holy Spirit to try to make the system better, and to remind themselves that despite human imperfections, they are still loved by God.

“That’s the beautiful gift we get to celebrate today,” he said.

Christina Estes-Werther, a former policy adviser to then-Gov. Jan Brewer and former state Election Director, as well as a St. Thomas More Society member, said the gathering is beneficial from both a spiritual and professional standpoint.

“We might share the same faith but have different policy ideas. With that shared background there is a firmer starting point, a mutual understanding (for discussion). To take that hat off sometimes is helpful, just knowing you’re another human being, and you have a family, a life; everyone has stressors, looking at it from that common ground is really helpful.”

Originating in 13th century England, the Mass marked the opening of Parliament and derives its name from the color of the priests’ vestments. Members of all faiths were invited to attend.