AVONDALE, Arizona — In a joyous transition punctuated by church tradition, rich, uplifting music and a call to abide in God’s goodness, love and blessing, Bishop John P. Dolan was installed as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix Aug. 2.
Bishop Dolan, the former auxiliary bishop of San Diego, took on his new role during a Mass attended by about 1,400 worshippers at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Avondale, outside of Phoenix.
The congregation included Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a lifelong Catholic, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers and representatives of numerous lay organizations that work within this diverse, nearly 44-square-mile diocese of 1.1 million Catholics.
Among prelates in attendance were Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles; Cardinal-designate Robert W. McElroy of San Diego; and other bishops from the Southwestern United States.
Also present were priests, seminarians and deacons from Phoenix and San Diego as well as women religious.
“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, representing the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre.
Reading from the official letter from Pope Francis declaring Bishop Dolan the head of the diocese, Msgr. Caveada said: “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.”
After Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, presented Bishop Dolan the crosier and led him to the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, the congregation broke out in applause.
The new bishop’s homily offered no sweeping plans or dramatic proposals, but was rather a simple call to live in the goodness, love and blessedness of God, who created all things and loves mankind.
He told the congregation that to be blessed is to live as “highly favored and holy” in the presence of God.”
“You could hear the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through him. 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 Father Antony Tinker, community servant of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit congregation, 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,” the priest said, reflecting on the bishop’s homily. “Be good to other people, and that will be a blessing to this community.”
“It seems like he’s including everyone. That is what’s beautiful,” said Rose McHenry, a parishioner at St. Catherine of Siena Church in 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.
“He’s a great listener,” said Bishop Dolan’s brother, Matt, of San Diego. “He really sits down and listens to what people say. He works with people.”
In a brief interview with The Catholic Sun, the diocesan news outlet, after his installation, 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.”
A San Diego auxiliary bishop since 2017, Bishop Dolan served there also as vicar general, vicar for clergy and moderator of the curia. He was ordained a priest in 1989 and spent time in various San Diego parishes for the next 28 years.
He succeeds Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who had led the Diocese of Phoenix since 2003.
The pope accepted his resignation June 10 and named Bishop Dolan his successor the same day. Bishop Olmsted is 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to submit their resignation to the pope.
Grant writes for The Catholic Sun, the news outlet of the Diocese of Phoenix.