'He is the best,' says Our Lady of Lourdes principal

Friday, Feb. 03, 2006

Catherine Moore, principal

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY — "He is the best!" One evening in November 1994, I received several calls from friends and family in Salt Lake informing me Msgr. George Niederauer from Los Angeles would be our new bishop. At the time I was a student in the graduate school of religion at Fordham University. Jesuit Father Vincent Novak, the dean of the school, spent his summers celebrating Mass for vacationing priests in Los Angeles, and I hoped he would know our new bishop. While Fr. Novak didn’t know him personally, he offered to make some calls to his friends in Los Angeles. A few hours later I was summoned to Fr. Novak’s office for the report, "He’s the best." How did the people of the Diocese of Salt Lake get so lucky? was the enthusiastic response to Fr. Novak’s inquiry.

We have come full circle and now it is our turn to say to the people in San Francisco "He’s the best! You are so lucky!" Bishop Niederauer has enriched us with his ready wit, passion for literature, devotion to spiritual life of the church, and zest for life. Have we not joined with him in a gentle chuckle or a hearty laugh as he told us stories and made humorous quips in homilies or at meetings? Have we not wanted to run to our nearest bookstore to buy a copy of the story he referred to in his different messages to us? Haven’t our own spiritual lives been fed through the written words he shared with us in the Intermountain Catholic or his own book "Precious as Silver?" Haven’t we been gratified for the interest he has shown in our lives?

Whenever I met Bishop Niederauer, the personal inquiry about my own world has always touched me. "How is Lourdes doing?" "How is your mother?" A friend of mine shared, "He takes time to talk to individuals with a depth of sincerity that one would not expect." Bishop Niederauer has come to our communities, smiling, shaking hands, chatting – always present to us, his people.

As an educator, I am grateful for his influence and support. The issue of a just wage for teachers has been addressed in consultation with the Catholic Schools’ Office and the Diocesan School Board. He has influenced the on going discussion about the balance between keeping Catholic Schools affordable and salaries for teachers reasonable.

In September 2005, the principals gathered with Bishop Niederauer for a day of spiritual reflection and renewal. He gave us his undivided attention for the day – no business commitments, other duties, or distractions interrupted this day. It was our day to pause and reflect on our spiritual lives with our spiritual leader. I am especially grateful for his words and actions which demonstrated his support for the mission of Our Lady of Lourdes School.

Bishop Niederauer, may God bless you with peace and hope as you begin your new life as Archbishop of San Francisco. We are better for the time you have shared with us. The good news for us is that you will be our archbishop, too. God speed.

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