A New Father To Lead Us

06-19-2022Pastor's LetterFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

A season of change has come to the Diocese of Phoenix with the appointment of Bishop John Dolan, who will take over the helm in August from Bishop Olmsted. In many ways, the new Bishop is in a position to take the Diocese to the next level.

For those of you who were around eighteen years ago, our Diocese was very much in the ashes. It was not a good time. But through Bishop Olmsted’s leadership we lived up to our name and rose from the ashes. Bishop Olmsted built up the infrastructure of the Diocese which in turn helped the parishes and various apostolates to really begin to thrive. There was a lot of behind the scenes grunt work that had to be done to deal with the wreckage of the past and put in place new structures that have helped us avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. On top of that Bishop Olmsted has helped managed the incredible growth of the Diocese. And as we can attest, start new parishes, build new churches, schools, monasteries and social service apostolates to serve the needy and marginalized. Bishop has also greatly increased the numbers of priests, deacons, consecrated women who serve in our Diocese and enabled lay people to assume positions of leadership in the Church. As a result, we are on firm footing and in fact, in my humble opinion, are one of the strongest portions of the Body of Christ in the US.

So, our new Bishop can now focus on continuing to build up the Church and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without so much attention being paid to infrastructure and organizational issues. That is, if he can figure a way to not get dogged at every step by the media. If you watched the Press Conference you know what I mean. The local press was quick to lay down the markers. They are trying to figure out what narrative they want to tell about him. And of course, for them the most important thing “is he liberal or conservative”? They fit everything into those two and only those two categories. They are trying to craft a narrative based on a few hot button issues like immigration, clerical abuse, LBGTQ etc.

Whether the new Bishop is right/left, liberal conservative should not be the question we are asking. Rather, “is he a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ”? Still Bishop Dolan didn't get two minutes before facing the media firing squad. First question to the new Bishop from the Press: “should the Church be involved in the politics of immigration?” Really? Isn’t this the same press who constantly accuse the Church of being too involved in politics (see Pelosi and Holy Communion)?

Then came the mandatory question about the Abuse crisis. The new Bishop hadn’t been here for five minutes so how was he to know what was done in the past or how the Diocese deals with the issue. Every accusation has been investigated and dealt with. Any new accusations are turned over to law enforcement and the assignments a cleric or lay person has had are publicly notified about the accusation. It has been quite some time since a new allegation of abuse has been made in the Diocese. Even a few years ago when Arizona lifted the statue of limitations on abuse allegations, the Diocese was not flooded with new complaints of past abuse. So, we have been transparent and continue to be transparent. Will we ever finally be done with the issue? I hope so. But until then we will continue to be vigilant and keep our eyes open and not repeat the horrors of the past.

There was also the obligatory LBGT gauntlet for the new Bishop to try to navigate. He was apparently temporarily pastor at a parish in San Diego that had a sizable LBGT population. And apparently, he was very kind and friendly, as he said, “I sought to build bridges which is hard work but better than the alternative”. Right away one side was praising him as ‘LBGT friendly’ and the other denouncing him as ‘pro-gay’. For heaven’s sake, he was being a pastor and you can’t conclude from that that he is one way or the other. In fact, it may be evidence that he is a really good leader, pastor and shepherd.

On our part, let us welcome him with open hearts and open minds. And let’s show him that the Diocese of Phoenix is not a pit filled with rattlesnakes waiting to strike.

Please keep him in your prayers.

Love, Fr. John B.