A Legacy of Human Formation: Archbishop Olmsted Models Discernment


By Kirstin Bublitz, The Catholic Sun

Sr. Anthony Mary Diago, RSM, director of the Office of Consecrated Life, recalled the time her college roommate announced that she thought she was called to religious life. Back then. Sr. Anthony Mary was shocked. Sr. Anthony Mary explained that her friend was a professionally trained pianist and was on her way to becoming a choir director.

“I said to him, ‘It’s hard for me to imagine you in a monastery, praying all day and not using your gifts.’ It was mysterious to me that she had the opportunity to marry, but she felt called not to marry.

Now, this friend has been a sister for seventeen years, lives in Russia and is the Superior General of the Sisters in Jesus the Lord. Having a front row seat to watch the Lord work in her college roommate, Sr. Anthony Mary wondered what God’s plan was for her vocation. For the first time, she wondered if God’s plan was different from her own plan to study law and eventually get married.

“It got me thinking and thinking about what it means to have a vocation.” Thinking of her college roommate, Sr. Anthony Mary said, “It was not just a desire she was following, but rather a call from God she was responding to. There was a bigger plan than she had expected. So I said to myself, I never asked God what he wanted from me for my life. I wanted to ask him and find out what my vocation was. The best offering I can make to God is to follow him as he has designed for me.

Sisters walk through the desert at a discernment retreat for young women in the Diocese of Phoenix

It was her friend’s openness to the Lord that allowed Sr. Anthony Mary to be open, to discern that the Lord was calling her to something completely different from what she thought her life would be like. She has been with the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan for over eleven years and has served in the Diocese of Phoenix for seven and a half years.

Serving as a liaison between consecrated religious brothers and sisters in the diocese and Bishop Olmsted, she experienced the fruits that come from Bishop Olmsted welcoming new orders and individuals discerning new vocations into the diocese. It welcomed a diocesan hermit, twelve new religious orders, the establishment of the Franciscan Brothers of the Holy Spirit, two consecrated virgins, and many others.

Sr. Anthony Mary highlighted how Bishop Olmsted promotes vocations in the diocese.

“Bishop Olmsted is truly a man who inspires the formation of the human person to be integral and holy. He inspires everyone to live for God, to know that he is a beloved son or daughter and is destined to glorify God, whether as a priest, a religious, a married person with a family or someone else. one who serve the best they know how to do in one state.

Sr. Anthony Mary recalled that a priest in the diocese approached Bishop Olmsted after feeling called to become a hermit. The priest discerning this new vocation was not the only one to be discerning with his vocation. Bishop Olmsted discerned with him.

“Not all the bishops have the courage to try it. It is unusual for a priest to want to be a hermit, and it is a very intense and thorough process of discernment. Not every bishop will have the courage to try something so different, but he is so open to the Holy Spirit guiding him, directing him and going in directions he never imagined.

Pr. Eugène Marie de la Trinité signs an oath of fidelity with Bishop Olmsted as he makes his perpetual profession as a diocesan hermit.

Working with Bishop Olmsted and seeing how he attracts the vocations of others became all the more real when Sr. Anthony Mary’s roommate from the college came to visit her before she was elected superior general of her order. As the apostolic administrator of the Byzantine Eparchy of Phoenix, which encompasses thirteen western states, Bishop Olmsted is very familiar with the church in Russia and the difficulties that come with evangelization there, as the friend experienced. of Sr. Anthony Mary.

Sr. Anthony Mary fondly recalled the time when her college roommate, the same roommate who inspired Sr. Anthony Mary’s religious vocation, met Bishop Olmsted. Sr. Anthony Mary emphasized that the Bishop’s gift of affirming those in their vocations is a universal feeling among those he meets. She felt the effects of her affirmation.

“He’s an incredible spiritual father. When they met, he was completely aware of all the challenges she faces in Russia, and he had a complete appreciation for her calling so much so that it gave her incredible affirmation. of her vocation and her courage to face more challenges than she has within her community.

Sr. Anthony’s friend Mary was elected Mother General two weeks after speaking with Bishop Olmsted. Sr. Anthony Mary believed that speaking with Bishop Olmsted gave her the courage she needed to face the challenges God had in store for her.

Prof. Antony Tinker, FHS, receives his habit and religious name from Bishop Olmsted at the 2016 investiture of the Franciscan Brothers of the Holy Spirit. (Billy Hardiman/The Catholic Sun)

Prof. Paul Sullivan, vocations director for the Diocese of Phoenix, also had first-hand experience seeing how Bishop Olmsted affirms vocations. Prof. Sullivan is currently the Parish Administrator of St. Gregory Parish and Rector of the Nazareth Formation House for Seminarians in the Diocese.

Prof. Sullivan explained the origins of Nazareth House, saying how blessed the diocese is. “It came after [Bishop Olmsted’s] prayers. He believes that we have a very important responsibility to train men as best we can to be as united to Jesus Christ as possible, and this especially happens at the beginning of training. Bishop decided it would be good for us to have our own seminary.

“It’s great to see vocations working among young people and guys who are honestly saying, ‘Okay Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?'”

Bishop Olmsted takes his role very seriously as responsible for the discernment and formation of seminarians. When a young man is accepted into Nazareth House, Bishop Olmsted is very attentive and is very close to this process. He gets to know the young man, and while at the seminary, Bishop pays attention to the seminarian’s preparation and his current level of training. He gets to know each of the seminarians personally: he reads all the records, meets them, and spends time with them, even taking annual hikes to places like Mogollon Rim and Mt. Lemon.

Besides the practical formation with the seminarians, Bishop Olmsted helped in their formation through the various documents he wrote. Not only inspiring seminarians at Nazareth House, Bishop Olmsted has inspired people of all vocations with his many writings such as Veneremur Cernui: Down in Adoration Fallingan Exhortation on the Eucharist; In the breachan exhortation to men, and Complete my joyto the mothers and fathers, husbands and wives of the Diocese of Phoenix.

Prof. Sullivan explained that many seminarians have read and found inspiration in In the breach, written to inspire men in their personal relationship with Jesus. “There is a desire for holiness, a desire for closeness to the Lord and I have seen a great increase in joy, an increase in zeal among the young people as a result of this document.

“Bishop Olmsted is anchored in the Lord, Jesus Christ, so his leadership is discernment, seeking the will of the Lord, making preventive decisions. His style of leadership follows his style of prayer: faithfulness.

Bishop Olmsted, Fr. Paul Sullivan, and the seminarians of the time (including Fr. Harold Escarcega, Fr. Estevan Wetzel, Fr. Gabriel Terrill, Fr. Nathaniel Glenn, Fr. Dan Vayno, Dcn Miguel Solis and Fr. Ian Wintering) hike Oak Creek Canyon in 2015.

Cathy Carlson, director of religious education at San Francisco de Asis Parish in Flagstaff, Arizona, also witnessed the bishop’s leadership style rooted in faithfulness to the Lord. She was volunteering religious education at the SFdA school when the bishop’s letter, gift from abovewas released in May 2005, where Bishop Olmsted officially announced that the age of confirmation was raised from high school to third grade.

Carlson had been volunteering since his eldest son was religiously educated, helping the principal at the time. When this DRE left, Carlson was asked to come in full-time, mid-transition for confirmation.

Although Carlson said the transition was not easy, she trusted Bishop Olmsted’s discernment. She explained that many families were confused, thinking how 3rd graders be educated on the Holy Spirit?

It was at a huge Pentecost Mass in Flagstaff held at the NAU Dome, the same year the change was made, that Carlson heard Bishop Olmsted speak about the Holy Spirit, and all became clear to her.

“He said, ‘I want to tell you that as a bishop, I don’t even understand the Holy Spirit.'”

It was Bishop Olmsted’s humility that helped her realize that it is not about fully understanding the Holy Spirit, but about receiving the graces that come from accepting the Holy Spirit into your heart. – something children do even better than adults, she argues.

“With children, when you say, ‘The Holy Spirit will be with you, and the Holy Spirit will help you,’ they know it’s true; they believe that because their hearts are so open.

As a mother herself, to her two now grown children, Carlson is grateful that her children received the sacrament of Confirmation in third grade. She thought back to when she received the sacrament as a high school student and compared it to 3rd the graders she witnesses receive the sacrament. As a parent, she breathed a sigh of relief knowing that her children had received sacramental graces much earlier. She also felt it was a gift for her and her husband – a help to them as parents.

“Children face a lot of difficult things. Children as young as second graders must defend their faith on the school playground. The world is really tough right now. [But] I know the Holy Spirit walks with them, and I feel like they have a team. They have a ground team [and] a heavenly team that all works for their highest good, and all for the glory of God.

Just as Sr. Anthony’s friend in Russia and the seminarians felt affirmed in their vocations, Carlson felt the same from Bishop Olmsted. Tears welled up in Carlson’s eyes as she recalled the moment. It was after the SFdA blessing, the first mass in the church, that Bishop Olmsted toured the adjacent school, blessing offices and classrooms.

Carlson was waiting outside his classroom, eager to greet the bishop. She remembered thinking about years of work in the church leading up to this moment – ​​working in the trenches, embracing the difficult tasks that come with working for the church, feeling overwhelmed.

“He looked around and he was like, ‘So this is where all the magic happens.’ And he looked at me and he said ‘God bless you in all your good works.’ I get emotional because it’s not him saying it, it’s the Lord saying it I feel his connection to the Lord so strongly, and I’m so thankful for how he has led us all these years I trust him even when he makes tough decisions, like bringing[ing] validated at 3rd grade, it was hard but I know it was the right thing and I see the fruits of it.


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