SALT LAKE CITY — Pope Francis has named Bishop Oscar Azarcon Solis, an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, as the 10th bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
Bishop Solis, 63, was the first Filipino-American bishop ordained in the United States. He comes to Utah after serving in the Diocese of Los Angeles since 2004.
He fills a position that has been vacant for more than 20 months.
In 2009, he was named Episcopal vicar for the diocese's San Pedro region, which encompasses Long Beach and southern Los Angeles County. The region includes 67 parishes, eight high schools, four hospitals and one parochial mission.
Bishop Solis speaks English, Tagalog, Spanish and Creole, according to a Los Angeles Times article on his ordination published in 2004. Some 3,600 people attended his ordination.
Bishop Solis will be introduced at a press conference at the Diocese of Salt Lake City at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
His Salt Lake predecessor, Archbishop John C. Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, said he met Bishop Solis while each served their respective archdioceses in California.
"He’s very kind. He’s very pastoral. He really likes people a lot. He loves the church. He’s a good leader. He’s already been in charge of that region, which is quite extensive and large. He brings with him a lot of experience and a good heart. I think he’ll fit in very nicely in Salt Lake City. I’m happy for the diocese. He’s a good man," Archbishop Wester told the Deseret News.
Born in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, Philippines, Bishop Solis was ordained a priest on April 28, 1979, after attending Divine Word Seminary in Tagaytay City. His first assignments were in the Archdiocese of Manila and the Diocese of Cabanatuan.
In the mid-1980s, he ministered in the United States, first in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, and then in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux Louisiana.
Bishop Solis selected the Episcopal motto "Fiat Voluntas Tua," which means "Your will be done," from the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10. The phrase echoes the Virgin Mary’s response of “yes” at the Annunciation, reflecting her answer to God’s call that she be the mother of the Savior.
The official installation of The Most Rev. Oscar Solis as 10th bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 7, at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, 331 E. South Temple. Tickets will be required.
A public reception will be held that evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Marriott Downtown at City Creek, 75 S. West Temple.
Solemn Vespers will precede the installation, to be conducted in the Cathedral of the Madeleine at 7 p.m. Monday, March 6.
Bishop Solis succeeds The Most Rev. Wester, who was appointed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe on April 27, 2015, and installed in early June of that year after serving as bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City for eight years.
Archbishop Wester said Bishop Solis is "a good pastor first and foremost. He has quite a good sense of humor and he’s very humble. I’m struck by the fact that he’s a humble person. He’s a good listener. He listens to people and doesn’t come in with his mind made up. He’s very attentive to people."
Bishop Solis brings with him "a lot of the rich customs of the Catholic Filipino community, which is very rich. You’ve got a lot of wonderful pastoral expression. He’ll bring that whole perspective, which I think is very positive," Archbishop Wester said.
There are 300,000 Catholics in Utah in 69 parishes and missions in the 85,000-square-mile Diocese of Salt Lake City. Sixty percent of Utah Catholics are Hispanic, 34 percent white and 5 percent Asian, according to the diocese.
Mass is celebrated in English, Spanish, Filipino, African dialects, Korean and Polish.
The diocese includes 69 priests, 76 deacons, 27 religious women and 10 seminarians.
There are 17 Catholic schools in Utah that serve 15,770 students, according to the diocese.
Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw has overseen the Salt Lake diocese as its administrator since Archbishop Wester's departure more than a year and eight months ago.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, the process of selecting candidates for bishop usually begins at the diocesan level “and works its way through a series of consultations until it reaches Rome.”
“It is a process bound by strict confidentiality and involves a number of important players — the most influential being the apostolic nuncio, the Congregation for Bishops, and the pope. It can be a time-consuming process, often taking eight months or more to complete.”
In the case of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, the position has been vacant for more than 20 months.
The appointment of bishops is a responsibility that rests solely with the pope, who may select anyone he chooses.