Bishop Oscar Solis introduced to Utahns

Bishop Solis is first Filipino-American to lead a diocese in the U.S.

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) - Bishop Oscar Solis thought he'd retire in Los Angeles.
But then he got a phone call.

"It was both surprising and shocking," said Bishop Solis.

The call came from the Papal Nuncio, a representative of Pope Francis.  The pope had a request.

"Pope Francis was asking me to become the 10th bishop of Salt Lake City," he said during his first press conference. "Of course it was like a curve ball from nowhere and I said 'Salt Lake City? Your excellency, am I in trouble?'"

It brought about laughter to those in attendance.  Several priests, monsignors and catholics attended the news conference where he was introduced to Utah.

Bishop Solis becomes the first Filipino-American to lead a catholic diocese not only in Utah but in the U.S.

"I had my plan but God had a different plan obviously," he said. "And so here I am.  I humbly submit myself to you as the new servant leader of the Diocese of Salt Lake City and a shepherd of the people of the state of Utah."

After twenty months, Utah catholics finally have a new bishop and a unique one at that.  Monsignor Colin Bircumshaw who has been in charge introduced the new bishop.

"My remarks are brief," he said. "The wait has been worth it."

Bishop Solis comes from Los Angeles where he served as auxiliary (deputy) bishop.  He was born and raised in the Philipines.

"Necisita para entender que tenemos solamente una familia," the bishop said in Spanish.
It meant he wanted Utah catholics to understand they are all one family, no matter their background.  
He said Utah's care for immigrants, refugees and the poor are a reflection of it's people.

"It's big in the sense of it's spirit, of it's heart, the heart of its church that cares for the people and it cares for everyone," he said.

He offered thanks to Pope Francis and appeared humbled that he was chosen.

"What a great Pope of many surprises, plucking a lowly Filipino-American bishop in L.A.," he said.
In Utah, the Filipino community is the largest of the 18,000 Asians practicing catholics.

And there is pride in Pope Francis' appointment.

Father Rene Roeillas is a pastor of St. Olaf's church in Bountiful.  He is also a Filipino.

"I hope with him, the spirt not only with the Diocese of Salt Lake City will be strengthened but especially for the Filipinos," Father Roeillas said. "That's why I am so excited to welcome our new bishop."

Marina Fernandez is also a Filipino-American.  She also is a spokesperson for "Misang Bayan" (Catholic community),
"Very proud yes," she said. "I've been getting so many text messages since early this morning about the announcement."

As for Bishop Solis who thought he'd retire in Los Angeles, the spirit has touched him.

"I am encouraged and excited to be here," he said. "From now on I say that this is my home. This is my church. This is my state and you are my family."

Bishop Solis will be officially installed at the Cathedral of the Madeline March 7 at 2:00 pm.  According to the diocese tickets will be required for the  service.  Solemn Vespers will be held in the Cathedral Monday evening at 7:00 pm.  A public reception will be held Tuesday evening, March 7, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Salt Lake City Marriott Downtown at City Creek, 75 South W seventh, with a public reception to follow.  

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