About the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix is committed to helping the faithful encounter the living Christ through conversion, communion and solidarity. Led by the Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, more than 1.2 million Catholics make this diverse, vibrant, and faith-filled diocese their home.

The faithful worship, receive the sacraments and participate in the many activities and social events at one of the 94 parishes and 23 missions. More than 15,000 students attend one of the 29 Catholic elementary schools, seven high schools and 29 preschools in the Diocese of Phoenix.

And thanks to the community’s generous support of the Charity and Development Appeal, more than 70 community and charitable organizations are able to provide hands-on help for seniors, the homeless, those who have lost jobs, women who have been abused, and families in crisis.

Charity, Education and Economic Impact

  • Each year thousands of Catholics throughout Arizona donate and support more than 70 community and charitable organizations that serve the poor, elderly and marginalized regardless of faith, race, and socio-economic class. More: dphx.org/cda

  • When the Diocese of Phoenix was established on Dec. 2, 1969, by Pope Paul VI, the Catholic population numbered around 200,000. Today there are more than 1.2 million Catholics living throughout the 44,000 square miles (nearly 300,000 households) that make up the Diocese of Phoenix, including representation from Hispanic, Filipino, Native American, Vietnamese, and African communities.

  • The 94 parishes and 23 missions throughout the state are the primary ministry of the Diocese of Phoenix, and are centers of community, support for families, and catalysts for spiritual growth.

  • Education will always be a major priority for the Diocese of Phoenix, with 29 Catholic elementary schools, six stand-alone preschools and seven Catholic high schools, serving more than 15,000 students.

  • An estimated 99 percent of Catholic school students graduate from high school; 98 percent go on to attend college.

  • This past school year, K-8 schools had nearly 8,700 students enrolled. High schools had nearly 5,000 students enrolled (including Brophy College Preparatory, which is Jesuit-owned).

  • The Diocese of Phoenix employees more than 4,000 people, working in churches, schools, charities, cemeteries and other ministries of the Church.

  • Over the course of the last 10 years (2008-2017), the Diocese of Phoenix has engaged in more than $285 million in construction projects, which includes building/improving churches, schools, offices and other facilities.

History of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix

The Diocese of Phoenix was established on December 2, 1969, by Pope Paul VI. The Diocese, which is comprised of 43,967 square miles, includes the counties of Maricopa, Mohave, Yavapai, and Coconino (excluding the territorial boundaries of the Navajo Indian Reservation), and also includes the Gila River Indian Reservation in Pinal County.

Arizona and the Valley of the Sun (Metro Phoenix) are rapidly growing areas in the Southwest, and the Diocese of Phoenix has grown with it. When the Diocese of Phoenix was established in 1969, the Catholic population numbered around 180,000. There were 51 parishes, 61 missions, and a total of 182 Diocesan and Religious priests. Today, those numbers have drastically changed.

The history of the Catholic Church in Arizona is synonymous with the growth and history of the State of Arizona. Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries were the forerunners of the European civilization who brought European culture and Catholicism to the Southwest.

The beginning of the Catholic Church in Arizona can be traced back to the year 1539; 47 years after Columbus discovered the Americas. A Franciscan friar named Marcos de Niza traveled up through the Gulf of California into a northern territory, which had never been explored. He planted a cross on the land and named it “the New Kingdom of St. Francis.” As a result, Padre Marcos de Niza is called the discoverer of Arizona and New Mexico.

Quick Statistics

Established: December 2, 1969

Diocesan Patroness: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Diocesan Boundaries: 43,967 square miles including: Maricopa County, Mohave County, Yavapai County, Coconino County (except Navajo Indian Reservation), and the Gila River Indian Reservation in Pinal County.

Total Catholic Population: 1,225,677 Estimated Individuals; 296,652 Catholic Households

Diocesan Priests (Includes retired, sick or absent): 136

  • Extern Priests: 78
  • Religious Priests: 93
  • Permanent Deacons: 222
  • Religious Brothers: 7
  • Religious Sisters: 134
  • Seminarians: 40
  • Parishes: 94
  • Missions: 23
  • High Schools (Diocesan and Private): 7
  • Elementary Schools: 29
  • Pre-Schools: 29
  • Catholic Cemeteries: 6
  • Catholic Funeral Homes: 2

Present Bishop: Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted
Installed December 20, 2003

Auxiliary Bishop: Most Reverend Eduardo A. Nevares
Ordained July 19, 2010

Former Bishops:
Most Reverend Thomas J. O’Brien
Installed: January 18, 1982
Retired: June 17, 2003
Died: August 26, 2018

Most Reverend James S. Rausch
Installed: March 22, 1977
Died: May 18, 1981

Most Reverend Edward A. McCarthy
Installed: December 2, 1969
Transferred to Miami, Florida: July 7, 1976
Died: June 7, 2005

Updated: June 19, 2019