SALT LAKE CITY — Gary and Virginia Babler arrived at 5:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. Vespers at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on Monday. They came early in search of front-row seats, which, in this case, were near the back of the church.
The Most Rev. Oscar Solis, bishop-elect of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, would make his grand entrance from behind the gathered worshipers, and the Bablers wanted to be among the first faces he saw.
"It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it," said Virginia Babler, an account manager for Citibank.
The Bablers, who traveled from Layton for the service, were joined by hundreds of other Utah Catholics, who had waited nearly two years for the appointment of a new bishop — the diocese's 10th bishop.
"I wouldn't have missed this," said Edward Toogood, a small-business owner.
Watch the live stream of the installation mass.
Bishop Solis announced his arrival at 7:04 p.m. with three knocks on the doors of the main entrance of the cathedral, continuing a centuries-old Roman Catholic Church tradition marking the presence of a new bishop. He was greeted by Monsignor Colin Bircumshaw, administrator of the diocese, and Father Martin Díaz, the cathedral's rector, who were there to welcome him to his new home.
"We pledge to you our support and our praise," Monsignor Bircumshaw said.
The congregation, including several visiting Catholic leaders, echoed this sentiment with their smiles for Bishop Solis, who walked up and down each aisle flinging holy water over the crowd before making his way to the front of the church.
Vespers, or evening prayers, happen every day in Catholic churches around the world. The service is comprised of hymns, scripture readings, a brief sermon and prayers, and participants give thanks for their faith community and for God.
However, Monday's worship service was far from routine. It was a carefully choreographed welcome, requiring a frenzy of cleaning, planning and other preparation since Bishop Solis' appointment was announced on Jan. 10.
Delores Cordova, who serves as executive assistant to Archbishop John Wester, Salt Lake's previous bishop, in Santa Fe, noted that the service is designed to reflect the personality of the Utah Catholic community, as well as to acknowledge Bishop Solis' background.
"It's based on the culture and heritage of the diocese," she said.
The scripture passages, which were sung instead of read, were performed in three languages — Filipino, English and Spanish. Additionally, the St. Patrick Parish Tongan Choir and Diocesan Filipino Choir took part in the service.
Bishop Solis was born, raised and educated in the Philippines and moved to the U.S. in 1984. He's served in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles since 2004, where he's helped lead outreach to minority populations.
During his homily, which is the sermon offered after the Bible readings, Bishop Solis expressed his gratitude and excitement, translating some of his thoughts into Spanish.
"Our celebration signals a new chapter in this local church," he said. "Let us embark on this spiritual journey praying for one another."
Bishop Solis drew a few laughs from his new flock during the hour-long service, as he thanked participants for their continued support.
"With confidence, humbly I will say, 'Utah I am yours,' even with the snow," he said.
The festivities continue on Tuesday with an installation mass in the Cathedral of the Madeleine at 2:00 p.m. There will be a live stream of the event available on deseretnews.com.