Bishop Wester's gifts: Marking 50 years of service and devotion
"God, through divine revelation, through scriptures, through Jesus Christ and sacred tradition, has revealed certain truths that have great standing and sacredness and foundation that cannot be even compared to, you know, someone comes along and says, 'Well now this is true and then that's true.'"
It is because of revelation and traditions that Bishop Wester said he feels compelled to defend his religion's moral stance in support of traditional marriage.
“We love everybody. God loves everybody. Not just some people or those who agree with the Catholic Church. God loves everybody and we believe that firmly," he said. “But we believe that there are truths that must be upheld."
The church's stance is based on love, he said. While some have made accusations of bigotry toward those who do not support gay marriage, he has worked to create a balance in which he can acknowledge each person's worth and share the message of God's love while staying faithful to his church's teachings.
“You have to form your conscience properly. We believe that as a church we have an obligation to help people to do that," he said. "But, if they disagree, if they’ve considered it and they just don’t agree with us, that’s their prerogative. We don’t hate them because of it. We don’t treat them as less a human being because of it," he said.
"We try to work with them as best we can and try to stand shoulder to shoulder and do what we can — find common ground and work with people, and keep presenting them Christ’s love and God’s love and God’s compassion."
Easing the suffering
A significant portion of Bishop Wester's ministry has been involved in promoting immigration reform, both locally and nationally. He sees immigration reform as a means of easing the suffering of immigrant families and as "an optimist by nature" is hopeful that reform will come this summer.
"I think there is a desire on both sides of the aisle to fix a broken system, because I think both sides recognize it as broken, so I believe that there would be a possibility," he said.
According to local activist Tony Yapias, Bishop Wester's optimism is not unfounded. He expects change of some form to come this summer, if not through Congress then through executive order.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama released his plans to move forward with executive orders on immigration reform, after House Speaker John Boehner continued to say the House would not vote on immigration reform this year without changes by Obama.
In Bishop Wester's conversations with religious and civic leaders regarding immigration reform, the bishop has shown an ability to "speak the truth in love" according to Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church Pastor the Rev. Steve Klemz.
The two have worked together on immigration reform since Bishop Wester's appointment. While the Rev. Klemz and Bishop Wester do not agree on matters such as women clergy and gay marriage, they have more similarities than differences, Klemz said.
"What I've learned from him is what it means to be a person who reflects Christ's own presence and community, and it begins with his heart," he said. "I think that's what I value most with Bishop Wester is the way that he speaks the truth with love."
The formative years
Born in 1950, the young boy Wester attended public school until fourth grade before moving to a Catholic School. He "had a solid Catholic upbringing," he said, saying the rosary daily and attending Mass even while on vacation. He began attending Mass daily in the sixth grade.
His parents took on the traditional roles of the wife as homemaker and husband as the breadwinner.
"Mom and Dad were a team, and we knew that we could not play one against the other," he said. "The greatest gift Mom and Dad gave us was their love for each other."
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