Bishop Oscar A. Solis installed in Salt Lake City
Friday, Mar. 10, 2017
SALT LAKE CITY — In separate ceremonies imbued with the ancient rites of the Roman Catholic Church, the Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis officially became the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
To begin the March 6 Vespers and Rite of Reception of the Bishop in His Cathedral Church, Bishop Solis knocked thrice on the door of the main entrance of the Cathedral of the Madeleine. The door opened. He entered and was greeted by Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw, administrator of the diocese; and Father Martin Diaz, the cathedral rector.
Msgr. Bircumshaw recited the ritual words of welcome: “We pledge to you our support and our praise.”
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, presided at the Vespers; Bishop Solis was the homilist.
After mounting the steps of the cathedral’s ambo to begin his homily, the bishop showed his typical humor with his opening comment. “Now I know why they call this the high Rocky Mountains,” he said, to laughter from the congregation, which filled the cathedral.
In his homily, Bishop Solis said he felt blessed to be part of the local Church. He expressed his gratitude to God for all his blessings, and to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, “for the confidence he has shown in me by appointing me to be the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. I am truly aware of the sacred responsibility of this office. I am also aware that I will be carrying on the great legacy of my more recent predecessors, Bishop George Niederauer, archbishop emeritus of San Francisco; and Archbishop John C. Wester, now archbishop of Santa Fe. And I saw another good predecessor of mine, sitting quietly and laughing at me – Bishop Bill Weigand – who zealously built up the community of this faith that was handed on to them.”
The bishop also asked the congregation to pray for him as he assumes his apostolic ministry. “I ask for your prayers, that our loving Lord will allow me to serve humbly, responsibly and faithfully as God’s worthy servant.”
He closed his homily with another light-hearted moment, saying that since he arrived he has felt the hospitality of the local Church, “and so with confidence, humbly, I will say, ‘Utah, here I am. I am totally yours. Even with the snow.’”
Mass and Rite of Canonical Possession
The Mass and Rite of Canonical Possession on March 7 was attended by Archbishop Christophe Pierre; Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province of San Francisco; Archbishop José Palma, of Cebu, the Philippines; Archbishop José H. Gómez of Los Angeles; the Hon. Salvador Medialdea, Executive Secretary of the President of the Philippines, 37 bishops, numerous clergy and religious from the diocese where Bishop Solis has served as well as those from the Diocese of Salt Lake City, representatives of the local ecumenical and interfaith community, government officials and the lay faithful.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre read the Apostolic Mandate appointing Bishop Solis to Salt Lake City. During his comments, the archbishop asked the congregation to pray for Bishop Solis, “that his apostolic ministry bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the clergy and faithful being entrusted to his pastoral care, and even to the community at large, especially those hurting materially and spiritually.”
The archbishop also thanked Archbishop John C. Wester, who was present, “for his eight years of dedicated ministry as the ninth Bishop of Salt Lake City;” and Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw, “for his valued service as diocesan administrator during what has been surely quite a long interim period.”
Archbishop Pierre then read an English translation of the Apostolic Letter of Appointment from His Holiness Pope Francis, appointing Bishop Solis to the Diocese of Salt Lake City. It read in part: “And so, venerable brother, having given careful consideration to the zealous ministry which up to now you have carried out in such a praiseworthy manner for the good of the Church, we judge that you are entirely suitable for undertaking the new episcopal responsibilities of sanctifying, teaching and governing in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.”
After the reading of the mandate, Bishop Solis was installed at the cathedral by Archbishop Cordileone, and acclaimed by the faithful. The bishop then greeted representatives of the faithful, the ecumenical community and civic community.
During his homily, Bishop Solis again expressed his gratitude to God and Pope Francis, and he touched on several themes, including the threats to religious freedom, the need to be inclusive of the diverse community, and that he would like to have a ministry of encounter and dialog.
“My dear brothers and sisters, as a faith community our task continues to live up to the challenge of building and strengthening our inclusive community of faith,” he said. “I do not claim to have all the answers. I know you waited so long and have put too much high expectations on me. Please may I remind you of my name: It is Oscar Solis, not Jesus Christ. I am not a messiah, but just a humble servant. So, I invite you and encourage you to work with me to create this culture of dialogue and encounter our Holy Father Pope Francis exhorts us. But not just any kind of dialogue, but a transformative one that leads us, together, to God.” (See a transcription of his homily at the link on the landing page.)
Among the representatives of the interfaith community attending the Mass were Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We look forward to partnering with Bishop Solis as we stand together and give witness to Jesus Christ as his disciples,” Elder Ballard said.
Mike Imperiale, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, expressed a similar sentiment. “The most important issue is just the proclamation of the Gospel and getting the word of Christ out into the community,” not just to their own congregations, he said.
Imam Muhammed S. Mehter of the Khadeeja Mosque, Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake City, said he appreciated Bishop Solis’ homily. “One of the things I loved most was the commonality on the aspect of taking care of humanity, regardless of race, regardless of gender, regardless of orientation, regardless of background,” the imam said. “What I loved most was how the reverend mentioned it’s humanity first.”
The civic community representatives included Melany Holland from Senator Orrin Hatch’s office, who said it was an honor to welcome Bishop Solis as leader of the 300,00 Catholics throughout Utah. “We appreciate his insights and his great love for people. We look forward to working with him on the many, many important issues” facing the community, she said.
Homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson, who attended on behalf of Gov. Gary Herbert. Said that because of Bishop Solis’ diverse background, “I think he will be a terrific asset to Utah.”
The out-of-town guests included several members of the National Association of Filipino Priests, an organization that Bishop Solis helped establish to represent the 800 Filipino priests in active ministry in the United States.
Bishop Solis is very inspiring, said Father Raymond Reyes of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. “He’d like us [Filipino priests] to really step up and show what we can do. He knows that there are different gifts that we bring to this country and so he is a great encourager to all of us.”
Being encouraging is a trait that Bishop Solis’ brother, the Rev. Ronald A. Solis, also appreciates, because the bishop helped his younger brother through college with both emotional and financial support. “He is a very good role model,” said Fr. Solis, who came to Utah for the installation ceremonies. “We looked up to him. … He manages to care for everyone, up to the last details.”
The lay faithful from the diocese also welcomed the bishop at the ceremonies.
“We finally have our diocesan father here at home,” said Maria Jose de Alba a member of the Spanish-speaking lay ecclesial ministry formation class and a cathedral parishioner. “He brings a lot of joy. This is a moment to reflect and to give thanks, and also to work harder in our ministries, following the pastoral guidance of Bishop Solis.”
“I thought his comments were very inclusive,” said George Pence, a St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center parishioner, who attended Vespers. “They were warm, they were gentle, they were pure. I think if I had to judge based on that one small introduction, I’m not only enthusiastic but very receptive to his leadership.”
“He just seems so very, very down to earth,” said Kay Sheehan of Christ the King Parish, who said she particularly liked that the bishop asked the congregation to pray for him. “I think he’s going to be a wonderful bishop for our diocese.”
During the Vigil and the Mass, the ambassadors from the three Catholic high schools who served as greeters and ushers said they were honored to participate.
“This is a pretty monumental moment for all of us,” said Jessie Zhu, a Juan Diego Catholic High School senior who is not Catholic but said it was a privilege to be present at the Mass at which the Filipino bishop was assigned to lead a diocese in the United States was installed.
Bishop Solis is a great blessing to the diocese, said Father Javier Virgen, Vicar for Hispanic Clergy and pastor of Saint Joseph the Worker Parish, particularly because “he is an immigrant also. He will be able to understand the reality that the diocese is facing right now.”
Also, because the bishop knows the multicultural reality, “He will be able to bring us together,” Fr. Virgen said.
Monsignor Robert Bussen, one of the five diocesan consultors and pastor of Christ the King Parish, said it is a great relief to have Bishop Solis installed, and that the diocese is full of happy expectation. Msgr. Bussen said he particularly liked that, in his homily, the bishop was welcoming to the entire community, that he spoke in Spanish as well as English, and that he said he was “looking forward to us being his family.”
Laura Vallejo contributed to this story.