SALT LAKE CITY — The Most Rev. George H. Niederauer, Archbishop emeritus of San Francisco and eighth Bishop of Salt Lake City, was laid to rest on May 12 during a funeral Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. His friend and former classmate, Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was the principal celebrant and homilist.
Bishop Oscar A. Solis celebrated a memorial Mass May 15 in the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City. Father Patrick Elliott, pastor of Holy Family Parish, who was ordained by Bishop Niederauer, was the homilist.
Archbishop Niederauer, 80, died May 2 of interstitial lung disease. He held a doctorate in English from the University of Southern California, and spent 27 years as an English professor, spiritual director, theology teacher and rector at Saint John’s Seminary in Camarillo and Mount Saint Mary’s College in Los Angeles before he was appointed Bishop of Salt Lake City by Pope John Paul II in 1994. After 11 years in Utah he was appointed the eighth Archbishop of San Francisco, where he was installed in 2006. He retired in 2012.
At the funeral Mass, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco welcomed the many bishops and priests who concelebrated the Mass, saying that their gathering was “a little bit of a consolation for all of us.”
Archbishop Cordileone also thanked the representatives of the interfaith community for their presence, saying that their solidarity “shows through most especially in moments such as this, when we come together to console each other on the loss of such a dear friend.”
Among those attending the funeral Mass were His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, and Elder Whitney Clayton, Senior President of the Quorums of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The representation of so many from your church indicates the warm collaborative relationships that Archbishop Niederauer and yourselves built up during his time as the bishop of Salt Lake City,” Archbishop Cordileone said to Elder Clayton and others from the LDS Church.
In his homily, Cardinal Levada spoke of his friend and colleague on both personal and professional levels.
Even as his health declined, the archbishop’s “store of witty sayings never abandoned him,” the cardinal said, and recalled hearing one of Archbishop Niederauer’s former students say, “He never taught a boring class.”
Even after retiring, the archbishop was sought after as a retreat leader, giving at least six week-long retreats in the year before he died, Cardinal Levada said.
“Archbishop George Niederauer lived his 80 years applying the truth of the Gospel to his own life as a Christian, and as priest and bishop, preaching and teaching others to join him on this journey. He did so with great intelligence laced with good humor. I think all of us who knew him would agree that he loved to laugh, and to see us laugh with him. He used the many gifts God gave him to great good effect, and we thank God for lending him to us for this long while,” the cardinal said.
The memorial Mass in the Cathedral of the Madeleine was concelebrated by Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general; Trappist Fr. Leander Dosch from the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity in Huntsville; Fr. Martin Diaz, rector of the Cathedral of the Madeleine; Msgr. Joseph M. Mayo, pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish; Msgr. Robert R. Servatius, retired; and numerous other priests of the diocese.
In his homily, Fr. Elliott recalled the archbishop as a mentor and friend who was warm, humorous, humble and generous. “He was just a great person to be with,” Fr. Elliott said, and recalled that the last time he was with the archbishop was at the funeral liturgy for Mary Michael Langen. Afterward, at the cemetery, “he took my arm as both of us hobbled over the rough ground,” Fr. Elliot said. After lunch, when the priest was about to leave, the archbishop said, “Thank you for guiding me across the tundra,” Fr. Elliot said.
Closing his homily, Fr. Elliott looked up and said, “No, George, thank you for guiding us all across the tundra.”
In his own remarks at the end of the Mass, Bishop Solis said Archbishop Niederauer left a tremendous legacy “as a shepherd of this local Church. His humility, his wit, his humor, and the witness of his own very life as a priest and as a bishop would be sufficient enough to inspire our hearts and our lives in order to continue the ministry that he shared with us” in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
“We say ‘thank you, Archbishop George,’ as we pray for him, that God will welcome him into his eternal home in heaven; and we ask his prayers for us, that the local Church in the Diocese of Salt Lake City will continue to lead the people in a vibrant faith, in a life of faith and love of God, and for God’s sake,” Bishop Solis said.