By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks)
CHICAGO (JGL) – When Pope Francis called him and “asked me to be the 10th Bishop of Salt Lake City” in Utah, Filipino Auxiliary Bishop Oscar
Solis of Los Angeles, California said he was “surprised and shocked.”
According to Intermountain Catholic, a newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, when the call was made, the 63-year-old Bishop Solis told a press conference “the call came out of nowhere, he said, his first response was, “Am I in trouble?”
Bishop Solis said he only settled down after getting assurance from the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe (without “r” at the end) Pierre, that he (Archbishop Pierre) was on the other end of the line.
Solis made history when he became the first Philippine-born bishop to be assigned to a diocese in the U.S. Oscar Azarcon Solis, whose appointment as bishop of Salt Lake City, was announced on Jan. 10, 2017, was born on Oct. 13, 1953 in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija in the Philippines to parents, Anselmo de la Fuente Solis, and Antonia Ortega Azarcon, who are now both deceased.
Bishop Solis has two sisters, Celia S. Tapia and Maria Socorro S. Pacubas, and a brother, the Rev. Ronald A. Solis (Opus Dei). His three other siblings are also deceased.
According to the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, there are 160 Diocesan Bishops and 75 Auxiliary Bishops in the U.S. Five of these dioceses, including Salt Lake City, are vacant.
When the call was made, Solis was auxiliary bishop for the San Pedro Region of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which has the largest Filipino Catholic population in the country. Previously he served as the archdiocese’s Vicar for Ethnic Ministry and Director of the Office of Justice and Peace.
An auxiliary bishop is appointed to assist a diocesan bishop. Whether in a diocese or in an archdiocese, his title is bishop.
A bishop is usually chosen from three candidates called – terna – based on all materials collected and reviewed by the nuncio and a report (approximately 20 pages) with the nuncio’s preference and forwarded to the Congregation for Bishops in Rome for consideration.
MOVES TO METROPOLITAN ARCHDIOCESE OF SAN FRANCISCO
With his designation as Bishop of Salt Lake City, which includes the entire state of Utah, he leaves the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and becomes a suffragan (assistant) of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of San Francisco, which has jurisdiction over such other diocesesas Honolulu, Las Vegas, Oakland, Reno, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Stockton. The Metropolitan of San Francisco is headed by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.
Utah has a population of 2.9-M, placing the Catholic population in that state at 10 percent or 295,000 as of 2015, according to the website of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
The Diocese of Salt Lake City became vacant since 2015 or 20 months ago when then 9th Bishop John Charles Wester was appointed Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“The wait has been worth it,” said Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw, diocesan administrator, at the Jan. 10 press conference introducing the bishop to Utah.
Bishop Solis, the monsignor said, is “joyful, he is experienced, and multi-talented.”
Ordained a priest on April 28, 1979, Solis attended Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City in the Philippines. He served in the archdioceses of Manila and Cabanatuan. He also served as associate pastor at St. Rocco’s Church, Union City, NJ and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, Thibodaux, LA. In 2004, he was ordained auxiliary bishop and was named Episcopal Vicar for the San Pedro Region in 2009.
During the press conference, Bishop Solis spoke in English and in Spanish, and also replied in Filipino to a greeting from a Filipino priest, Father Renato Rodillas of Saint Olaf Parish.
At the press conference, Bishop Solis said he has been working very hard for the last 13 years in Los Angeles – “I would like to emphasize the words ‘very hard,’” he said, to laughter from those in the room, who included not only members of the press but Pastoral Center staff and diocesan priests and deacons – “and lo and behold, I received a very surprising and shocking phone call informing me that Pope Francis was asking me to become the 10th Bishop of Salt Lake City.”
“AM I IN TROUBLE?”
The call came out of nowhere, he said; his first response was, “Am I in trouble?
In response, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who was on the other end of the line, “made me feel at peace,” Bishop Solis said.
Since that call, he has felt many emotions, among them fear of uncertainty and gratitude for God’s blessings, he said.
His visit to Salt Lake for his announcement as bishop was only his second in the Beehive State. In the first, he went to Salt Lake City to officiate a wedding ceremony.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, complimented Bishop Solis for his work in the archdiocese. “His personal warmth and pastoral presence captivated everyone, Filipinos and all others alike,” the archbishop emeritus said in a press release. “Fortunately, his new home in Salt Lake City will not hinder in the least his leadership among the Filipino priests, and his energetic commitment to expand all models of ministry for Filipino Catholics everywhere.”
Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said in a statement that he will miss Bishop Solis, but could not be happier for him. “I have relied on his good advice and pastoral judgment, and I am inspired by his love and dedication to the people of the San Pedro Pastoral Region and the whole family of God here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. We are all going to miss him greatly,” the archbishop said.