HOMILY of Bishop Oscar A. Solis
Vespers & Rite of Welcome, March 6, 2017
Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City, Utah
Good evening, everyone. I am so humbled to be here tonight and honored to be with all of you to have this opportunity to celebrate Vespers, that is to pray together, especially together with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States; with Archbishop Bernardito Auza, (Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations) – my contemporary in the seminary, although I am a little bit older than him, but he is wiser; and Archbishop Jose Gomez, my former archbishop, brother and mentor; together with my brother bishops – what a joy to see you all here tonight to be with you in this moment of prayer – my family, who came over from the Philippines; my brother priests; deacons and their wives; women religious and men in the consecrated life, distinguished guests; and the faithful of our local Church here in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
During these vespers we are celebrating the Church’s ancient tradition of a prayer vigil. During this holy moment, it is to have a place of faith in Utah that we try to remember and honor. But this is also a sacred time, set aside to give praise, honor and thanks to God for his faithful love to us.
I feel so blessed to be part of our local Church, standing alive and strong for all these years, standing for the service of the people of this beautiful state of Utah, and as the sacramental and living presence of God among us. Please allow me then to express my sincere gratitude to God for all his blessings. In some particular way, I especially am grateful to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for the confidence he has shown in me by appointing me to be the tenth 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.
So tonight, my dear friends, we are here to seek God’s grace and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Let us all together ask the Lord to bless us and, in a very special way, to help me and guide and protect me, as I assume this 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.
Brothers and sisters, it is truly an honor to be assigned here in Utah. In the past few days since I arrived, I have felt the warm hospitality of my brother priests, deacons, religious men and women, and the lay people of this Beehive State. I have experienced the warmth of their love of God and for the Church, and so with confidence, humbly, I will say, “Utah, here I am. I am totally yours. Even with the snow.”
Furthermore, I would like also to invite you to reflect on the rich history of this diocese, where the roots or the seeds of the Catholic faith were planted more than 200 years ago by the first missionaries, Father Dominguez and Father Escalante. We owe them a tremendous debt for their missionary work and for the gift they have given us. It is also fitting to remember and celebrate this precious gift of faith in tonight’s gathering in this magnificent cathedral of St. Madeleine which was built by the first bishop of this diocese, Bishop Lawrence Scanlan, together with a handful of the faithful who formed the local church through all those early years.
The seed of Christian faith continued to grow and was nourished by those who followed them through the years. Many years later, I learned, this beautiful building was restored under the direction of Bishop William Weigand. His efforts were complimented with generous contributions not only from the Catholic community but as well as from the wider community of this state.
My dear friends, our celebration signals a new chapter in this local Church. We are grateful to God for the precious gifts he has given this missionary Church. Let us embark on this spiritual journey praying for one another, that we may recognize our common identity as children of God, united in love and concern for the common good for all people. We ask that God’s people here in Utah are led to encounter the living presence of the loving and compassionate God. We also pray that we will be able to work together to build his kingdom in love, justice and peace.
I believe that all things happen according to God’s will, and I ask, in a selfish way, that you pray for me.
Please pray that I will be a servant leader – with the heart of Christ: meek and humble, ready to listen and ready to give my life for the task that has been entrusted to my pastoral care. Pray for me to have the wisdom and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so I can serve and help the people encounter the saving presence of God in our midst; to have the courage to proclaim the Gospel of Truth and teachings of the Church even when it is difficult; and to help the People of God in building his kingdom among us.
In the letter of St. Paul to the Romans, which we just heard proclaimed tonight, the great evangelizer exhorted all of us to offer our prayers and ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the Lord.
[Mary, the Mother of God] showed us her loving obedience and gratitude, which are the perfect disposition of a true disciple of Christ. Therefore, in the spirit of Mary’s Magnificat, let us all together proclaim the greatness of God. Let us rejoice in God our Savior, who has looked upon us with favor, who lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry with good things. Let us invoke God’s grace for renewing our lives and our hearts in accordance with his will. For the Lord has not forgotten his promise of mercy – and how blessed are we to be gathered together tonight to give him praise, honor and glory!
Through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron saint of the Americas, may we, by the grace of God, carry out God’s will in our lives. Like the Virgin Mary, let us together proclaim the greatness of God to us and pray that God’s will be done.