SALT LAKE CITY — The annual Bishop’s Dinner is a fundraising event to support the Cathedral of the Madeleine, but this year it also served as an introduction of the Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis to the wider faith community. He was installed as the 10th Bishop of Salt Lake City six months ago, so for many, the Sept. 6 fundraising dinner was the first opportunity they had to meet him.
The dinner also paid tribute to the Most Rev. George H. Niederauer, eighth Bishop of Salt Lake City and Archbishop emeritus of San Francisco, who died May 2 at the age of 80.
On the tribute video, Archbishop Niederauer, who founded the Bishop’s Dinner, said, “The cathedral for us is at the heart of the worshiping, the teaching, the gathering, and the serving of the Church.”
After the tribute to Archbishop Niederauer, the video segued into an introduction of Bishop Solis with interviews from parishioners throughout the diocese who met him when he visited their parishes to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation or for other events.
Bishop Solis, in an interview on the tape, said the Cathedral of the Madeleine is the mother church for the entire diocese, and “it is about the people. It is the people who believe in God, and who put up efforts and sacrifices in order to have a living testimony of God’s presence. This is home for everybody to celebrate our faith, our life, and our spirit of community.”
In his comments at the dinner, Bishop Solis admitted to being nervous after seeing the video; he acknowledged that it is a humbling experience to “have wonderful and great predecessors.”
Employing his usual self-deprecating humor, he drew laughter from those gathered for the dinner with comments such as, “I was asked to see to it that I inspire you in order to be more generous and open in your giving. I think it’s working the other way around. Instead of me inspiring you, you are perspiring me.”
The dinner was a gathering “to celebrate who we are as a faith community,” he said. “We are a faith community, not only as a Catholic community but as God’s family because we are able to transcend our cultural boundaries and even our own faith affiliations. It is so nice to see various leaders of various faith groups and denominations being part of a Catholic function.”
The cathedral, he said, “is a living symbol of the community spirit of the people of Utah, reflective of the wonderful relationships of everyone, whether you are Catholic or non-Catholic.”
As the spiritual home of the Catholic faithful as well as many others who enter the doors to enjoy its beauty and the presence of God, the Cathedral of the Madeleine “represents the love, dedication and sacrifice of many generations of Catholic and non-Catholics who supported this sacred ground as a place of worship so it can withstand the passage of time and the varying elements of the changing seasons and weather in Utah,” he said.
Among those who attended the dinner were Elder M. Russell Ballard and Elder Ronald A. Rasband, representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Alan and Kathleen Lund, whose donation contributed significantly to the reconstruction of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Monticello, which will be dedicated on Sept. 27; Khosrow B. Semnani and his wife, Ghazaleh, founders of the Maliheh Free Clinic; the Consul of Mexico in Utah, José Borjón and his wife, Blanca; the mayor of Midvale, Joann Seghini; homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson; Deacon George Reade, chancellor of the diocese, and his wife, Mary; Chancellor Emeritus Deacon Silvio Mayo and his wife, Mary; and Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, the diocese’s vicar general.
Rod Decker was the master of ceremonies.
Attendance at this year’s dinner was higher than at the past two events, “which I would expect with a new bishop,” said Patricia Wesson, the cathedral’s director of development. “I think people wanted to show their welcome and support of Bishop Solis.”
Father Martin Diaz, rector of the cathedral, said he was thankful to the many Catholic parishes, priests and people of the Diocese of Salt Lake City for their support of Bishop Solis and the Cathedral of the Madeleine. He expressed gratitude for the private foundations and members of the wider faith community for their support, as well.
This year’s dinner raised more than $150,000; the annual budget of the Cathedral is $900,000, not including the Good Samaritan Program, so “It is easy to see that the Bishop’s Dinner provides a significant portion of our operating income,” Fr. Martin said. “In its many programs and ministries, the cathedral welcomes a cross section of our community, from concert lovers to contemplatives, from the down-and-out to the out-of-towners. The cathedral welcomes people of all faiths, even some who have no faith.”