Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility


By Jeff Grant

September 20, 2023 The celebrant’s greeting at the 9 a.m. Mass came with a light departure in advance of the Penitential Act.

Bishop John P. Dolan of the Diocese of Phoenix joked that as he arrived, “Stepping out of my car, I found this gaggle of Jesuits.”

Laughter rippled across the congregation of 700 plus worshippers inside Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix.

Oxford’s Learner Dictionary, defines “gaggle” informally as “a disorderly or noisy group of people.”

But the noise here reflected joyfulness, one of the traits associated with Jesuits.

The order is perhaps best known for their spirituality rooted in their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose vision was to “find God in all things” while seeking the “greater glory of God.”

Several Jesuits, including the order’s U.S. West Province Director of Vocations, Fr. Radmar Jao, SJ, joined Bishop Dolan and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares for the Mass. Fr. Daniel Nevares, SJ, Bishop Nevares’ nephew, was also on the altar.

Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares with his nephew Fr. Daniel Nevares, SJ

Bishop Dolan said it would be the first of several Masses celebrating religious orders that serve within the Diocese of Phoenix.

“Let us give thanks to God for the wonderful blessing of our Jesuit community. We’re very pleased to have the Jesuits West community here. We welcome them, one and all,” he said.

One of the global order’s four U.S. provinces, the West encompasses California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii and Utah.

“The beautiful gift of the Jesuit community is they come into a particular region of the Lord’s vineyard, and they…encounter Christ…in each and every person,” Bishop Dolan said.

Jesuits have served within the Diocese since its founding Dec. 2, 1969, though they have a much longer history in the Grand Canyon State.

Their contributions to the Diocese include the establishment of Brophy College Preparatory and St. Francis Xavier Parish in central Phoenix. They also operate the Kino Border Initiative, headquartered in Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Mexico, and the Phoenix campus of Omaha, Nebraska-based Creighton University.

A total of eight priests with the Society of Jesus serve within the Diocese. Four are at St. Francis Xavier, two — a priest and the vice president for ministry and identity — are at Brophy, and two serve at Creighton University’s medical center. They all live at the Jesuits’ community residence in central Phoenix.

Fr. Bob Fambrini, SJ, pastor of St. Francis Xavier and a longtime friend of Bishop Dolan’s, was gratified by the celebration. “I’ve worked in five different dioceses as a parish priest. This is the first time a bishop has approached us with an invitation to highlight our ministry in a Diocese and promote vocations,” Fr. Fambrini said. “It’s highly unusual.”

Their first activity in Arizona came in 1687, when Fr. Eusebio Kino, SJ, an Italian Jesuit, established a mission about 18 miles north of Nogales, Ariz., to serve the area’s Native peoples and protect them from Spanish settlers, who wanted to use them for slave labor. Nuestra Señora de los Remedios de Doágibubig, located at what is now Tumacácori National Park, was the second of 24 missions started by Padre Kino in the late 1680s to early 1700s.

Pope Francis, the Church’s first Jesuit pontiff, declared Fr. Kino venerable July 10, 2020 — putting him on a path toward beatification.

Fr. Kino’s work inspired the Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national program begun in 2009 by three Jesuit organizations and three others to work for “humane, just and workable migration between the United States and Mexico and promote policies that affirm the dignity of the human person and a spirit of bi-national solidarity,” according to KBI’s website.

Fr. Fambrini said KBI’s work includes education and literacy assistance to migrants being deported and waiting for deportation.

“I’m especially proud of work being done there. Our (Jesuit) numbers — are being stretched thin, fewer as time goes on, but our (Western U.S.) province has committed real presence on the border. Immigration is probably (the province’s) biggest social-justice issue,” he said.

In 1928, Jesuits were asked by Ellen A. Brophy, widow of businessman William H. Brophy, to establish a school to provide Catholic, Jesuit education to young men in the Phoenix area. Ellen Brophy supplied the land on Central Avenue as well as funds for the school’s construction. Brophy College Prep, with an enrollment of 1,387, is the only Jesuit high school in Arizona. It includes Loyola Academy — a tuition-free, on-campus middle school for 75-100 “underserved youth with academic promise.”

In 2021, Jesuit-based higher education came full force to the Diocese, when Omaha-based Creighton University opened a 195,000-square-foot Health Sciences Campus in downtown Phoenix. The campus includes a medical school, accelerated nursing program, physician-assistant program and doctoral programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy and pharmacy.

Creighton also manages the medical clinic at St. Vincent de Paul in downtown Phoenix, helping address the health care needs of the uninsured, under-insured and homeless.

“The Jesuits are an amazing community,” said Bishop Dolan.

“They have been remarkable within the life and the history of our Church. From their own, we have doctors — (Sts.) Robert Bellarmine, Peter Canisius — amazing martyrs in Vietnam, Japan, Korea, North America and Salvador,” he continued.

Bellarmine’s Feast Day is Sept. 17.

Bishop Dolan also said the Jesuits served as an example to how Catholics and Christians should live their faith.

“Indeed, we are all, in truth, members of the Society of Jesus. We are called, in the words of St. Ignatius, to give back to the LORD — not just carrying the name (Christian) like a badge we take off when we leave this room, but we are Christ for one another by grace.”

Fr. Radmar Jao, SJ

Forgiveness is one way to live this out.

He referenced the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew, 18:21-35, in which Jesus teaches his followers to forgive an offender “seventy times seven.”

“We are called to be Christ,” Bishop Dolan said, “therefore, we are called to forgive in the manner of Christ.”

Worshippers were gratified and joyful over the occasion.

Linda Fischetti, assistant principal of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral School, whose husband, brother and two sons all graduated from Brophy, and whose mother taught Spanish there for 25 years, said the Jesuits had a lasting impact on her family and her work.

“We were taught all the time what it meant to see the presence of God in everything and to live out the freedom within our faith to love, serve and sacrifice,” she said.

St. Vincent DePaul CEO Sharon Clancy cited the Jesuits’ role in her organization’s work “specifically because of the shared values we have — the cura personalis (a Latin phrase meaning “care for the whole person”). How that plays out in our clinic is (in) providing love, care and compassion to people in their moment of need for quality health care,” she explained.

“This is a wonderful celebration. (I’m) very grateful to be part of this.”

The Jesuits were equally thankful.

Fr. Jao, whose role includes accompanying, encouraging and providing resources to men considering the priesthood, said the Mass was an affirmation of the order’s work here.

“I find the Diocese very open and service-oriented, especially to migrants, people disenfranchised, or the poor,” he said. “There are many opportunities to share one’s gifts and talents to help those less fortunate or in need.”

“Bishop Dolan is setting a foundation, very much like Pope Francis in the sense of open arms and welcoming those on the margins, and saying, “there’s a home for you here.”

Reposted with permission from The Catholic Sun.