Sacred Art Changes Hearts and Inspires Souls…

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with great joy that I bring to you the wonderful news of a new work of art by Ruth Stricklin, The Holy Family.  It has been unveiled and presented for the 50th Anniversary of the Diocese of Phoenix and this Year of the Family in which we remember the fidelity of Jesus and are urged to draw closer to Him in prayer and charity each day faithfully.  This beautiful painting is being exhibited permanently in the Diocesan Pastoral Center.


The Holy Family by Ruth Stricklin, an artist of Phoenix, for the 50th Anniversary of the Diocese.

I want to share with all of you Bishop Olmsted’s address from August 22 at the Nazareth House for the unveiling of this painting which shows us how the Holy Spirit has been moving in our Diocese during this 50th Anniversary Year and The Year of the Family.

Bishop Olmsted’s Address on August 22, 2019 at the Unveiling of The Holy Family

 Welcome to all of you this evening.  So glad that you could be here!  I have been looking forward to this for a long time.  I am delighted that we can celebrate the completion of this image of the Holy Family and see its connection with the 50th Anniversary Year of the Diocese of Phoenix.

Sacred art can change hearts and inspire souls.  In June, I had the privilege of traveling with the Friends of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Phoenix to California to visit two Cathedrals, which we do every year, we visit a Cathedral.  So, we visited the new Cathedral in Orange, which used to be called a Cathedral, but it wasn’t, and now is the “Christ Cathedral” formally known as the “Crystal Cathedral.”  Then, we visited the Cathedral in Los Angeles.  But, the two places that most moved our hearts was the Mission of St. John Capistrano, which has the only chapel in which Fr. Junipero Serra –who founded these missions along the western coast –the only place still standing where he celebrated Mass, where he was present, he actually conferred Confirmation on 204 Indians in that Chapel.

The other one is San Gabriel the Archangel.  That was the seventh mission founded by Junipero Serra:  the first one he had not been personally present to start.  He sent two of the Friars over there to do that for the Native American Indians.  Unlike the previous times, when they arrived at the place, something frightened the natives; and they were threatening the Friars with what looked like violent actions.  So, one of the Friars pulled out of his sleeve a painting of Our Lady of Sorrows.  It is still there, we prayed before the image there.  And, as soon as he showed it, the Indians fell to their knees in reverence before the image of Our Lady of Sorrows, this image.

As we were coming back, after the whole pilgrimage was over, on our way back into Phoenix out in Tonopah, I asked, “What was the most moving thing?”  And what was mentioned most often: “Praying before the image of Our Lady of Sorrows.”  This image is one where Mary is looking right up to her beloved Son in Heaven, and tears are flowing down her face.  As you look at that image, what came to me was this: “There is no way that Jesus will say, “No!” to what she is pleading.  This is His beloved Mother who stood at the foot of the Cross, who is there in His suffering, sharing the moment when He redeemed the whole world, and she is bringing to Him our intercession.  That is what changed the Native Indians and became the most popular image in all the missions.  In fact, they would take her from mission to mission as a way of helping people understand why we say, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Im His su

Sacred art can change hearts and inspire minds.  The Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph:  Why would we do this for the 50th Anniversary Year?  What makes this appropriate?  First of all because the Patroness of the Diocese of Phoenix is Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Already we have this great love for the Mother of God, and so, there was good reason to include her for sure for the Anniversary Year.  Secondly, she is the most successful missionary in the Church ever.  The most successful servant of evangelization is Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Once she appeared to Juan Diego, and through him was brought to the native peoples of central Mexico, within five years, nine to ten million became followers of Jesus Christ.  That is pretty successful!

With an incredible power that Mary has—her witness to Jesus—Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only image that was given to us by Mary.  All the others that persons saw, like Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Czestochowa—they are all ones described  through the artist, by the one who saw her, and the artists do the best they can to do that—which is no easy thing.  Like St. Faustina described Jesus as Divine Mercy, and they kept throwing the artist out, saying, “That is not it.  That is not it.  That is not it!”  But this one, Mary gave us herself.  Juan Diego went before the Bishop, and he met the Friars and gathered at Mary’s request.  When the flowers fell out from the tilma, in the middle of December—you didn’t have flowers except for burial—on the whole front of his tilma was Our Lady of Guadalupe.  That image and Our Lady’s plea transformed those Indians.  It stopped them from doing human sacrifice.  The main sacrifice was their own children.  They were convinced that if they didn’t kill one of their children and offer it to God, God would stop sending rain.  So, they would do a sacrifice which would make them weep, and that would move God to weep and give them crops.

Our Lady made it clear that they did not have to do that because God had given us His only Son, who died for us, whose heart was pierced.  Now, that is possible because the Mother of God allowed God to transform history.  So, Our Lady of Guadalupe is connected very much with the family, with the healing of false notions of what God wants for worship and how great an impact that had on the mothers and fathers and their children five hundred years ago in 1531.

It seemed appropriate to have Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Joseph and Mary, because Mary especially listened to the Word of God.  God’s words—she trusted what God spoke.  She trusted what God spoke to her through the Archangel Gabriel, which of course we have recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel.  She surrendered her plans to God’s plans, which had to be totally changed, obviously, when she was engaged to Joseph, and then she was asked to be the Mother of God.  The Holy Spirit came over her and overshadowed her.  As she is the one who said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done to me according to your word.” Mary successfully evangelized the Word that she surrendered to.

There is Mary’s affirmation of marriage and family.  Of the thirty-three years of Jesus’ life on earth, thirty of those were in the presence of Mary.  Now, if it was my idea about saving the world and coming into human history, why would He wait until He was thirty, and only have three years of active ministry?  What is happening here?  What does that tell us about family life?  What does that tell us about loving your husband, your wife, your child, your parents?  Something is being revealed to us about Mary’s life—through Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus.

The first miracle that Jesus performed was at a wedding day, and Mary was there, and He did not intend to do this miracle, but, she said, “Son, they have no wine.  They ran out of wine.”  The last words recorded in Sacred Scripture of Mary are these:  To the servants she says, “Do whatever He tells you.”  Listen to Jesus.  Do whatever He tells you.  He breaks bread for the multiplication.  He changed water into wine, which looked forward three years when He changed wine into His own blood, food for hearts and souls and bodies.  And when Jesus died on the Cross, Mary was there.

One of the first things that I did to celebrate the 50th Anniversary Year of the Diocese was on the Feast of the Holy Family in December—it started on December 8th as the Diocesan celebration at the beginning of the 50th Year, and then on the Feast of the Holy Family, the 29th of December the last year, I issued an Apostolic Exhortation to the Husbands and Fathers, the Wives and Mothers of the Diocese of Phoenix, Complete My Joy.  I thought it was important to talk about the fact that our Diocese, in its 50th year, to be successful to the mission we have in Jesus Christ, we need to love our wife.  We need to love our husband.  We need to love our children.  We need to love our parents.

Mary’s life is for God to enter into human history in the lives that are formed and inspired in the Church.  St. John Paul II said when he visited St. Louis in 1999, “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”  The future of Our Diocese depends to the degree to which our local Church has healthy and thriving families.  In this 50th Year, we have opened the Seminary.  It’s right across the street.  It is the former convent of this Parish, and we started nine days ago.  We have the seminarians from there with us.  Welcome!  Great to have you with us!  We called it the Nazareth House.

When we started the 50th Anniversary Year, I had no thought of starting the Seminary.  It came out of reflecting, praying for the cleansing of our Church by the scandal of a year ago and a sense of what we needed to do at the local Church to address that scandal:  to prepare spiritual fathers who would support husbands and wives, mothers and fathers of the Diocese.  How do we begin that in the best way?  It seemed like to have close to home, here in our Diocesan Family, the first two years of priestly formation would be very, very helpful.  I see it as a gift of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  I don’t know where else I got the idea, but it came to me about February 2nd, when Mary and Joseph got up to the Temple and present the child to God.  That whole image is a very powerful image.  It is a Solemnity in the Church because, it is such an important revelation of God entering into human history.  There were many people in the temple that, only two people recognized Mary, Joseph and the child:  both elderly, both persons of deep faith, and they were not surprised at all that He did not come as a conquering king or as a soldier, but as a babe carried by His mother and accompanied by His foster father.

We are not going to do a tour of Nazareth House tonight as some may wish to do.  We have to keep it as a formation house so they have their own fraternal life, but I am so glad the Seminarians are here, Fr. Paul Sullivan (the Rector), and other members of the faculty.  Some of you have asked how you can help.  Tonight, there is information from the Church that you can pick up about Nazareth House; so, please do that.  If you would like to make a 50th Anniversary gift to the Nazareth House, it would not be denied.

Sacred art can change hearts and inspire souls.  When my mother was eleven, her mother died after a long battle with cancer.  They took care of Grandma Nell in their home.  She had a kind of cancer in her stomach that lasted 3 or 4 years before she died.  My mom said, that when she died, she said to herself, “How can I go on without my mom?”  Then, it came to her to walk down to St. Malachy Church, which she was very familiar with.  She had the custom recommended by the Sister that taught her in the Catholic School to pop into the Church and kneel down and say, “Jesus, I love you!” Get up, run out and then enjoy recess!  Sister had promised that some day you are going to come into that Church, but rather than you saying, “Jesus, I love you,” you will hear Him say to you, “Margaret Ellen, I love you.”  That’s what she heard.  Gazing on the Cross and the tabernacle, that’s what she knew was Jesus’ message to her.  She then knew she could go on.  It just changed everything.  The beauty of the Church, the beauty of the presence of the King of the Universe in a little tiny box we call “the tabernacle” below the Cross.

Sacred art by intention changes hearts and inspires souls.  Let us praise God tonight for coming to save us again in a family.  Let us praise and thank Him for our moms and our dads, for our brothers and our sisters, for our parents and grandparents.  Let us thank Him for the family of the Church, and especially our family in the Diocese of Phoenix.  Let us give glory to God that we still have by God’s grace the gift of the beauty of marriage and family in our world.

I just want to say a word of thanks.  I want to thank Fr. Paul Sullivan, Fr. John Minieri and all who worked so hard to make Nazareth House a reality.  We just decided this three months ago.  It totally transformed the old convent of twenty-two rooms of Sisters, into an incredible work of art.  Of course, the Seminarians would say there is still a lot of work to do, and they are doing it! Thank you!

I want to say a special word of thanks to Ruth Stricklin, the artist of this painting.  I have been privileged to get to know Ruth and see her other works of art.  Certainly, it is God’s message to the Diocese.  I want to say a special word of thanks to the Sacred Art Gallery for promoting sacred art here in our Diocese.  This is really a gift for our Diocese, and the other artists that are here tonight as well, the artists who give us a little glimpse into the beauty of God which we need as much as getting a glimpse into the truth and the love of God.  Dostoevsky said, “The world will be saved by beauty.”


Sunday, September 8th, we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Vows of Mother Marie André, PCPA, the Abbess of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery in Tonopah, AZ:

Mother Marie Andre's 25th Anniversary

Mother Marie André Campbell, PCPA crowned and ready to celebrate her 25th Anniversary.

2019.9.08 Bishop and Priests

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted with Fr. Don Kline on his left and Fr. William (Billy) Kosco on his right, Fr. Anthony Phelps (second from right), and Deacon Dr. William (Billy) Chavira.

Bishop and Sr. Marie St. Paul

Bishop Olmsted and Sr. Marie St. Paul, PCPA, enjoying pictures of Mother Marie André, PCPA.

That same morning on Sunday, September 8th, we had the honor of celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Sister Laverne Fullem, IBVM, at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.


Fr. John Lankeit gave Sr. Laverne Fullem, IBVM a special blessing for her 70 years of her Religious Life and her Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.





September 5th, we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta!





Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity celebrate 150 Years since their foundation; 88 Years of serving at St. Peter’s Mission in Bapchule, AZ on the Reservation!

OSF Sisters Group Shot from 1960

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity w/ Franciscan Friars and the Native-Am Indian children.

Sisters in the Tree

The Sisters in a cottonwood tree!

Kids with agave

Sunday, August 25th, Bishops Olmsted and Nevares, Deacon Jim Trant and I celebrated with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity at St. Peter’s Mission in Bapchule, AZ.  The Sisters celebrated their 150th Anniversary of their Institute, 61st Anniversary of Sr. Thereselle’s Vows, the 60th Anniversary of Sr. Carol and the 50th of Sr. Martha Mary!


From Left to Right:  Sr. Martha Mary Carpenter, Sr. Thereselle Arruda and Sr. Carol Mathe, OSF.

Procession into St. Peter's Mission Church.JPG

The Bishops and Deacons process for Mass into St. Peter’s Mission Church on the Reservation.











Many blessings that I wanted to share with all of you!   Thank you to our Jubliarians for your fidelity to Our Lord, committing yourselves totally in poverty, chastity and obedience.  You are an inspiration to all of us as we strive to grow in holiness each day.  Remembering the fidelity of Jesus, we pray for the grace to live our state of life with fidelity.


Blessed Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross!  Let us rejoice in the victory of Jesus Christ!

Your Sister in Christ,

Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, Director of the Office of Consecrate Life


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