The first anniversary of my installation as Bishop of Salt Lake City, March 7th, 2018, is coming so fast that I didn’t realize that it is almost a year since I arrived in the diocese. I could not help but reminisce with humble gratitude and joy about the many blessings God has bestowed on me during this year. It has been a great experience to visit all of our Church communities, parochial schools and most of the missions throughout our diocese. What a great source of inspiration to meet and get to know God’s people entrusted to my pastoral care and to work closely with my brother priests, deacons, women and men religious, as well as lay leaders who serve this wonderful diocese with such dedication. I have learned of the impact the various parish ministries have on our mission of evangelization in furthering God’s kingdom in our midst. I continue to be humbled and grateful to be the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
It was truly exciting to have gained first-hand experience of the diversity in the State of Utah: the people of every cultural and religious background, social status and economic level. We speak different languages, yet we gather around the altar of sacrifice to share in the Eucharistic meal of the Lord. We are then sent forth as missionary disciples of Christ to engage in a transformative dialogue, with enthusiasm and joy, to build bridges in carrying out our mission of evangelization.
During my first months, I issued my pastoral letter, “A Springtime of the New Evangelization,” sharing my personal reflection on the divine providence of God for us in the State of Utah and presenting a vision for our diocese as we begin our spiritual journey together. I proposed some priorities for our collaborative diocesan pastoral endeavor: Faith Formation, the Holy Eucharist and Catholic Identity, Priestly and Religious Vocations, Social Justice and Culture of Life, as well as Ecumenism/Interfaith Dialogue. We are currently in dialogue with the priests and lay leaders hoping to soon present our diocesan Pastoral Plan.
In my first homily here in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, I expressed my fear and trepidation of assuming my episcopal ministry. However, the chances of celebrating the anniversaries of our parishes and the dedication of new or renovated churches brought fulfilment and happiness. The warm hospitality and the strong faith of the people in every place I visited as well as the dedication of our priests, deacons and religious are truly inspiring.
The first year was marked also by the visit of the Patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church from Lebanon – Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi. Other interesting events were leading the annual St. Patrick’s Parade as Grand Marshal, joining the Ecumenical Common Prayer with the Lutherans on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and our diocesan celebration of the 100th year of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. It was a privilege to work with various faith leaders and members of different interfaith communities on social justice issues such as immigration reform, especially advocacy for the DREAMers, racism, and respect for life issues to end abortion, assisted suicide and capital punishment. These events paved moments of encounter and dialogue that builds bridges within both the local Church and the wider community. We all share one mission as followers of Christ – to be of service to each other and to provide hope to all people.
I further mentioned that transformation or trans- figuration does not happen magically or instantly. Like Saints Perpetua and Felicity, two martyrs we remembered at my Installation Mass, we too are called to be courageous witnesses of our faith in God in the midst of the many challenges we face.
The coming years for the Diocese of Salt Lake City may be filled with challenges, but we are full of hope as we entrust our endeavors to God’s loving hand. I welcome even more with great excitement the opportunity for us in our local Church to come together as one faith community to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, the foundation of our unity – unity with God, with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us move forward with confidence and trust in Divine providence, invoking our Blessed Mother to watch over us and guide us on our spiritual journey.
The Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis
Bishop of Salt Lake City