TUCSON, AZ–Calling it a “historic occasion,” Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson encouraged Latter-day Saints and Catholics to stand side-by-side in their joint responsibility to protect freedom of worship throughout the world.
Bishop Kicanas, past vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and current chairman of the board of directors of Catholic Relief Services, presented a stirringly inspirational young adult fireside as the guest speaker before nearly 300 students and others at the LDS Institute of Religion in Tucson.
Invited by the LDS Institute director, Norman Gardner, counselor in the Tucson Arizona North Stake and member of the regional public affairs committee, Bishop Kicanas spoke before the gathering including each of the stake presidents and LDS bishops of the five student wards. Brother Gardner said he was humbled by the thoughtful message of unity presented by someone so in tune to the needs of the world. That message was apparent as the Catholic Bishop, with humor, and touching stories, told how the interconnecting histories of Catholics and Mormons, our common ideals, and many of the issues that have affected both churches have placed their members on common ground.
He told how many Catholics have recognized the goodness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bishop Kicanas described how during one organizational meeting the question came up how Catholics could improve their public image. One person said that they had all seen the recent “I’m a Mormon” advertising campaign. The bishop said everyone agreed that would be a great way to introduce themselves so, to the delight of the Institute students, he enthusiastically introduced himself and said, “I’m Bishop Gerald Kicanas, and I’m a Roman Catholic!”
Quoting Cardinal Francis George speaking at Brigham Young University early last year, Bishop Kicanas encouraged members of both religions to come together to be “spiritually united” in their effort to practice their beliefs. His theme was “Our shared history, our shared values, our shared challenges.”
He said one challenge LDS young adults don’t have any trouble with is singing. He said how impressed he was with the stirring opening hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” as well as the vocal duet, “I Feel my Savior’s Love,” sung by Kathryn Christensen and Kelsey Thomas, accompanied by Michelle Newbold, all students at the University of Arizona.
He stressed, “Religion isn’t something that stays in the church…. Religion is not a set of privately held beliefs, but rather, it is a means to practice our beliefs in society.” “Religion is not a set of privately held beliefs, but rather, it is a means to practice our beliefs in society.”He said, “We need to raise our voice when it’s not popular.” Eventually we shall see that “we are more and more in conversation one with another, that you have a heart just like mine, a concern just like mine.”
At the end of his message, Tucson Arizona Stake President Gary Rasmussen invited the students to ask questions of the leader of more than a million Catholics throughout Arizona. He told how one of his favorite Bible stories was the Prodigal Son, that God’s forgiveness is for all. The students got the biggest heart-felt laugh when Bishop Kicanas was asked if he had read the Book of Mormon. He honestly said he had not, but, concluded, “And the next time I am here, I will have read the Book of Mormon!”