Bishop Olmsted: Church Has Role in the University

Phoenix Prelate Underlines Task of Evangelization, Serving Truth

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PHOENIX, Arizona, DEC. 21, 2009 ( The bishop of the Phoenix Diocese is affirming that the Church has a necessary role in the university, which is primarily that of evangelization.

Bishop Thomas Olmsted stated this in a pastoral letter, «Serving Truth in the University,» which was released to the public Dec. 12.

In the letter, he discussed a plan for Catholic ministry, especially through the Newman Centers, at two universities in his diocese, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

«A Newman Center takes up the task of promoting the vital interaction between faith and reason, the two harmonious ways to the truth, which is always one,» the bishop wrote.

He continued: «This interaction fosters not only a greater love for truth itself, but becomes a vibrant witness to the goodness and beauty of human life.

«The discovery of truth through faith and reason has the power to draw students into a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true.»

The prelate expressed concern over the «substantial distortions of truth» that can hinder university students from discovering and serving the truth.

In our «postmodern university communities,» he noted, «materialism, relativism, secular humanism, sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse» are «pervasive.»

True freedom

«These gravely limit true freedom or even disable young persons’ capacity for truth and love,» Bishop Olmsted affirmed.

Thus, he said, the Church has a mission of evangelization in the university setting, especially through the Newman Center. He listed three components of this evangelization: visible witness, proclamation and conversion, and ongoing conversion and sacramental life.

«In the university environment,» the prelate said, «the Newman Center provides this visible witness primarily through the sacred liturgy, through which Christ’s unchanging beauty radiates.»

As well, he added, this witness comes through «promoting the inalienable dignity of the human person at all stages of life, a commitment to marriage and to social justice, and the integration of knowledge, especially through the authentic interaction between faith and reason.»

The bishop called on the Newman Centers to guide students «to the font of grace that is the Eucharist.»

«The Blessed Sacrament, which is Jesus Christ himself, is the goal toward which all campus evangelization is directed, as well as the source from which campus evangelization receives its efficacy and strength,» he affirmed.

Bishop Olmsted also underlined the importance of encouraging frequent confession, «to ensure that students have ample opportunity to be reconciled to God and the Church.»


He stressed the role of the Newman Center in preparing students for the sacrament of marriage.

The prelate affirmed: «While remote preparation begins in the womb and is primarily taught by parents in the family, the years of university study are to be a time of reinforcement and maturation, where the sacrament of marriage is honored and discerned.

«It is in this stage of formation that pastoral guidance should help to equip those discerning marriage to engage in honorable courtship.»

«A Newman Center must provide a faithful and courageous education in chastity,» he said. «Indeed chastity is not a mortification of love as some suppose, but rather a condition and impetus for authentic love.»

As well, the prelate pointed out, «it is particularly the work of priests serving at Newman Centers to ensure that the students understand basic principles of prayer and discernment that will enable persons to better know and respond to God’s will for them.»

Bishop Olmsted underlined the need for collaboration between the university ministry and the diocese.

«This collaboration will help young people remain closely connected to the life of the Church especially in the transition to and from university life,» he affirmed.

Bishop Olmsted concluded, «It continues to be a privilege and joy to work in close conjunction with our university communities.»

«These indeed are vast oceans of life, creativity and thought,» he said, «which have been and must continue to be waters teeming with faith and charity.»

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