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Also A Pro-Life Center’s 45th Anniversary . . . Bishop Begins A Weekend With Catholic Physicians

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By DEXTER DUGGAN

PHOENIX — After his office day, Thomas Olmsted, bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, came down to the first floor at diocesan headquarters here about 5:30 p.m. to hear individual Confessions by members of the Catholic Physicians Guild of Phoenix (CPG) in a conference room.
These medical workers were holding an Advent Evening of Reflection on Friday, December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, that began with private prayer at the diocesan center’s chapel, with Confessions down the hall for those desiring that sacrament.
Like a physician’s, a bishop’s day may stretch into long hours.
After speaking face-to-face with penitents, Olmsted crossed the downtown plaza separating the diocesan offices from nearby historic St. Mary’s Basilica, the oldest Catholic parish in Phoenix, in order to celebrate the holy day’s 6:30 p.m. Mass there. CPG members occupied about five rows of pews on the right side of the church.
St. John Paul II had prayed and spoken at this church during his 1987 journey to the United States.
After Mass ended about 8 p.m., they returned to the diocesan center for a reception with snacks and some reflections offered by Olmsted. The bishop told them that one of his favorite phrases in the Mass occurs toward its beginning, where the congregation is invited to acknowledge their sins and so prepare to enter into the celebration of the sacred mysteries.
Like the Advent season itself, this invites people to reflect on their lives not in a way to become morbid or have a false sense of sin, but a true sense, he said.
Olmsted cited St. Paul saying that compared to the love of Jesus, everything else is rubbish.
It was nearly 9 p.m. as many people’s ordinary workweeks ended, but Olmsted, like some others in the episcopate, still was on duty.
The following morning, the feast of St. Juan Diego on a Saturday, December 9, Olmsted was on the job in public again, attending the 45th anniversary brunch of the First Way Pregnancy Center for women needing assistance, where he offered opening and closing prayers after he mingled with people outdoors enjoying snacks and joining in group photographs.
The anniversary was observed at the hilltop Mansion Club, affording a view of the Phoenix metropolitan area’s mountains in all directions. The club, the former winter home of the late Chicago magnate William Wrigley Jr., also offers tours.
Katie Wing, executive director of First Way, told the gathering before brunch that her facility has been “on the cutting edge of pro-life services since 1972.”
That was the year before the U.S. Supreme Court invented the previously unknown national “constitutional right” to permissive abortion, but some Arizona pregnant mothers already were going west, to contiguous California, where permissive abortion was legalized earlier.
The medical director of First Way, William Chavira, is a physician and also a permanent deacon with Olmsted’s Diocese of Phoenix.
Chavira recalled for the December 9 gathering that before Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico and transformed society there, cannibalism, polygamy, and child sacrifice were familiar.
Wing displayed a panel with a large image of Our Lady of Guadalupe kept at First Way. That image inexplicably had been on the reverse side of floor paneling at Phoenix’s former Planned Parenthood headquarters that was torn down a few years ago. Workmen who found the previously hidden image brought it to First Way.
“First Way is a life-affirming mission,” Wing told the brunch. “We care about all the lives that come to us.”
The keynote address was given by author and speaker Trent Horn, who warned against an “us versus them” attitude toward advocates of abortion. “We have to understand all of them are conflicted with and burdened by sin. . . . God desires the salvation of all men,” Horn said.
He pointed to the example of former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic manager turned pro-lifer Abby Johnson, who subsequently cited the importance of others’ prayers in changing her mind about what she was doing.
Abortion advocates shouldn’t be objects of hate “but objects of prayer,” Horn said, adding that “we’ll become very bitter, cynical people” if this is regarded as a war rather than “a rescue operation” of those on the other side.
However, Horn said, remember the important question of who the unborn are. He cited St. Paul saying to seek the truth, but do so in love. Horn also warned against falling into “the compromise trap” of the contraceptive mentality that creates anti-life attitudes. “That’s not compromise. That’s surrender.”
A convert to the Catholic faith, Horn concluded his talk by saying that “the idea of redemptive suffering” was one factor that brought him into the Church. As an answer to the question of why do good people suffer, one’s suffering may help another person in need, he said.
“We can take our suffering for other people through our union with Christ,” he said.

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