PHOENIX — When Presiding Magistrate, the Hon. John Lamb, takes the bench in Tolleson City Court, he brings more than his nearly 40 years of legal experience to a case.

Before taking the bench at some point during his day, Lamb takes time with God and considers those who’ll appear in front of him.

“I pray for the people who come to my court,” he explained during a reception after this year’s Red Mass, held at the historical St. Mary’s Basilica in downtown Phoenix, for Arizona’s legal profession and legislators.

Celebrated since 1970, the Red Mass brings together attorneys, judges, paralegals, officers and others in Arizona’s legal system, along with lawmakers and their staffs, to worship and pray for the state’s new legislative session.

“I always say, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.’

Tolleson’s top judge since 2018, Lamb sat in the state court system for 20 years – including Superior Court in Navajo County – and later as tribal court judge for the Yavapai-Apache Nation and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, before coming to the West Valley.  A lector at St. Theresa Parish in Phoenix, where he also is a member of the Knights of Columbus, Lamb also lectors and serves as a eucharistic minister at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Tolleson. But he takes a Biblical approach to his court duties.

“We’re there to give out justice, but there’s always room for mercy,” he said while enjoying a mix of beef and chicken tacos and an empanada.

“You just need to balance those things — mercy and justice — and try to be respectful of everyone’s human dignity, no matter who comes through the door; you have to respect them as a person, and that comes from the Bible as well.”

Those ideals are also never far from the mind of Angelina Nguyen.

A wife and mother of three who attends St. Mary Magdalene Church in Gilbert with her husband, Dan, Nguyen investigates allegations of discrimination, harassment
and retaliation within one of America’s largest public universities.
Nguyen said her faith plays a key role in her factfinding as a Complex Case Management Specialist.

“My faith informs everything we do, including how we approach the legal profession.
I interview and investigate. Part of the dynamic is to be able to see people in the image and likeness of God in my interactions with them, as well as presenting the truth in my questions and my reports,” she said.

Dan, a stay-at-home dad who educates the couple’s three children – Joseph, 11; Theresa, 9; and John, 4, echoed his wife.

“I think the LORD gives us different opportunities to manifest His love in this world. The more we stay fixated on Him, the more He makes it clear as to how He would like for us to mirror His love for others,” he said.

“She incorporates me and the children into her line of work just by participating in something like this – the Red Mass; being able to participate in prayer with the rest of the legal community.”

Bishop John P. Dolan, the celebrant, opened the Mass by asking the Lord to grant legislators and attorneys “wisdom and fortitude.”

Attorneys in attendance also renewed their Oath of Admission to the Arizona State Bar immediately afterward.

All attorneys, including non-Society members, are invited to attend.

This year’s congregation included Arizona State Supreme Court Justices Kathryn H. King, who read the First Reading, and William G. Montgomery; as well as Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Daniel Kiley, who led the Intercessions, and state Rep. Neal Carter of San Tan Valley, who represents Arizona’s 15th legislative district. The district includes most of Carter’s hometown, as well as Queen Creek and part of Mesa.
First celebrated in 13th-century England to mark the opening of Parliament, the Red Mass’ celebrant was vested in red, and the Lord High justices were robed in brilliant scarlet, giving the Mass its name.

Red also is the liturgical color of the Holy Spirit.

The Mass is organized by the St. Thomas More Society of Phoenix, an association of Catholic attorneys and legal professionals. The society seeks to inspire and strengthen the faith of the Maricopa County legal community by following the example of St. Thomas More, its patron saint and martyr. Phoenix’s is one of many society chapters across the United States.
A 15th-century lawyer and chancellor of England, More was beheaded for refusing to acknowledge King Henry VIII as head of the Church or the king’s annulment from his first wife.

“We gather together tonight at this historic basilica, the oldest Catholic church in the city of Phoenix, to give praise and thanksgiving to almighty God, who is the author of all life and the supreme legislator of all our laws,” said Fr. Chris Fraser, the Diocese of Phoenix’s Judicial Vicar, as he opened his Homily.

Fr. Fraser touched on the salvation and grace that comes through Jesus Christ.
“Jesus forgave sins. That is true judicial power,” he said.

“There is no god who can convince you that you are worth saving and that you are forgiven other than the God of Revelation; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God and Father of Jesus Christ, in communion with the Holy Spirit,” he continued.

“The death and resurrection of Jesus is truly the greatest (story) that’s ever been told.
If the Gospels are not true and Jesus is not who He claimed to be, then we are all being fooled. We are truly lost,” Fr. Fraser continued.

“We need to hear the Gospel and the Good News of redemption, forgiveness and mercy now more than ever,” he said.

Legislators and attorneys came with various issues on their hearts.

Rep. Carter pointed to the challenge of retaining programs amid the need for budget-cutting. But he is concerned over another topic.

“As a Catholic, the number-one thing on my mind is the abortion initiative (currently) being circulated.”

Proponents are continuing to gather the required signatures to place on the ballot a public question asking Arizona voters to broadly expand abortion rights, effectively undoing the impact here of the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson ruling overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

“God created man, which means there is something greater than mankind who we are answerable to. There is something greater than me, certainly. We should conform to His teaching,” Carter said.
Others agreed.

“We pray it fails,” added Arizona Catholic Conference Executive Director Ron Johnson, calling the measure extreme and dangerous.

“It would do away with a lot of the safety standards for doctors to perform abortions, parental rights, parental consent,” he said.

Johnson noted the bishops in the conference, including Bishop Dolan, released a video this week detailing their position.

Attorney and past president of Arizona Right to Life John Jakubczyk, who attends Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Scottsdale, prays that enough Catholics and others who are pro-life would develop a sense of urgency on the matter.

“I continue to pray for an end to the killing and that people will stand up and recognize the sanctity of human life — every human being — just to continue that hope that people will wake up,” he said.

St. Thomas More Society President Juan Ramirez, a parishioner St. Thomas Aquinas in Avondale, mentioned the increasingly acrimonious political atmosphere.

“At the end of the day we’re all friends, neighbors and family members, and co-workers. We have to see each other frequently, so you have to remember to be respectful and kind to others. We may disagree, but at the end of the day, we all want the same thing: what’s best for our families and our communities. I think if we can temper the emotions and focus on the good of others — and avoid personal attacks – just be kind and respectful to each other (things will be better.)”

Judge Lamb agreed. “Of course, I pray for my family. (But) I pray for our country to be healed from this division. We’re so separated. I wish we could come together more. I hope this election cycle we might be able to do that,” he said.

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