Addresses and Homilies

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

Message to the Knights of Columbus
127th Supreme Convention
August 4-6, 2009


States Dinner Program
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix

In AD 1880, Arizona got connected to the rest of the world. The first telephones were installed that year, and on March 20, 1880, the Southern Pacific Railroad reached Tucson. It was a momentous occasion. The Mayor of the town, the Honorable R.N. Leatherwood, was so thrilled that he sent telegrams to the President of the United States and other dignitaries. He even sent a telegram to the Holy Father in Rome. The text of the telegram read as follows:

“The mayor of Tucson begs your honor of reminding your Holiness that this ancient and honorable pueblo was founded by the Spaniards under the sanctions of the Church more than three centuries ago, and to inform Your Holiness that a railroad from San Francisco, California, now connects us with the entire Christian world.
R.N. Leatherwood, Mayor”

We don’t know if the pope ever got the Mayor’s message. However, some pranksters of the town, learning of the telegram to the pope, crafted a reply of their own, forged the signature of His Holiness, and sent it to the Mayor. It read as follows: “His Holiness the Pope acknowledges with appreciation receipt of your telegram informing him that the ancient City of Tucson at last has been connected by rail with the outside world, and sends his benediction, but for his own satisfaction would ask—where in hell is Tucson?”

Perhaps some of our brother Knights from beyond Arizona had similar thoughts when it was announced, a few years ago, that the 2009 Supreme Convention would be held in Arizona… in August weather! “It’s a dry heat!”

Welcome to Arizona!
Welcome to the Grand Canyon state!
Welcome to the youngest of our Nation’s contiguous states, achieving statehood only in AD 1912.

Welcome to an ancient land that has been inhabited for thousands of years by Anasazi, Hohokam and Mogollon peoples, by Navajos, Hopis, Apaches, Pimas and many other Native Americans.

Welcome to a land where the Church has been handing on the Good News of Christ and celebrating the Sacraments for nearly 500 years.

Our most famous missionary in Arizona was named Padre Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit priest from Italy. In a biography by Ben Clevenger, the author puts the following words in the mouth of Padre Kino:

“There is nothing easy about this land… There’s nothing soft or dainty about it, or even comfortable. It juts and stabs and trips and bites, and the summer sun is so harsh it sears your eyes and broils your flesh. It rarely rains, but when it does, it often rains too much…The animals and insects and reptiles are openly hostile. Even the vegetation is against us. The plants are forever jabbing and stick and stinging us, as if they wished to discourage all human contact…Still, as harsh as the desert is, I love it here. I can hardly imagine living anywhere else.”

Those of us who live in Arizona agree with Padre Kino. We love it here. And we love welcoming visitors, especially the Knights of Columbus and their families, and all the priests and bishops and cardinals and other dignitaries. Welcome. Muy bienvenidos a todos.