Today, as we begin the New Year, our hearts are filled with gratitude, as our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has named The Most Reverend John C. Wester as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Bishop Wester, like our first bishop, Lawrence Scanlan, comes to us from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, where he has served in numerous pastoral positions. At present, he is the Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General in the archdiocese.
Bishop Wester will be installed during a Mass in The Cathedral of the Madeleine on Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 1:30 PM.
The bishop was bom November 5,1950, in San Francisco, California, and ordained a priest for the archdiocese on May 15, 1976. He was ordained bishop September 18, 1998.
Bishop Wester has vast experience in both the pastoral and administrative ministries of the Church. He has served in Catholic education, has been a pastor, vicar general and vicar for clergy, as well as the administrator of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. I am sure that Bishop Wester will be a good shepherd for us, following in the footsteps of the great bishops who have gone before him.
Before presenting Bishop Wester, I wish to express my gratitude to the diocesan consultors, the Pastoral Center staff, the clergy, religious and laity of the diocese, who are so very kind, faithful and supportive, especially during this time of transition.
Bishop Wester, we welcome you with the warm embrace of traditional Utah hospitality and pledge to you our loyal support. Your new diocese is expansive in territory and vibrant in the faith life of its people. The growing Catholic population, especially our Hispanics, brings hope and challenge for the future.
It is my privilege to present the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, The Most Reverend John C. Wester.
The following statement was made Monday, January 8, 2006 at a press conference at the Diocese of Salt Lake City by Bishop John C. Wester.
Standing before you today, I am filled with gratitude and awe at the prospect of my new ministry here in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, a diocese that encompasses the whole of this magnificent state of Utah. I thank God for the providential and loving grace that has beckoned me here and I pray that this same loving and gracious God will guide me as I become a servant leader in your midst as well as a fellow pilgrim of faith. I am profoundly grateful to our Holy Father for his trust in me and I am hopeful that I will be able to follow his example of selfless devotion to our Church. I also wish to express my growing gratitude to Monsignor Terry Fitzgerald for all he has done to welcome me, making my beginning here as pleasant and smooth as possible. And I am particularly grateful for the warm welcome you have given me today. As I prepare to begin my ministry of service in your midst, I look forward to forging friendships with you and all our sisters and brothers in Christ in the years ahead.
There can be no mistake about it: I am definitely the "new kid on the block!" I have a lot to learn and I therefore must be an attentive listener to you, the priests and deacons, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. As your bishop, my first obligation is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ "in season and out of season." I can only do this effectively if I know you well and have a firm grasp of your priorities, concerns, dreams and plans. In a particular way, I wish to learn from our priests, my most important collaborators in my ministry as your bishop. With them, I hope to continue the excellent work of Archbishop Niederauer in promoting beautiful liturgies, sound faith education programs, loving and compassionate service to the poor, prudent stewardship of our resources, and parishes that flourish throughout the diocese.
So many ethnic groups make up the rich tapestry of this local Church. I look forward, therefore, to listening to and learning from people from all over the world who have made Utah their home. Utah is growing in leaps and bounds and our Church is the better for it as we welcome the stranger among us and grow ever richer as a multicultural church.
Me alegra que en la diócesis haya muchas personas que hablen español. He estado tratando de perfeccionar este bello idioma y espero que los hispanos de nuestra comunidad me ayuden a mejorarlo. De cualquier manera, sé que ustedes son muy pacientes y me apoyarán con sus oraciones del mismo modo como me inspiran con su fe vibrante. Tan solo el mes pasado, tuvimos una peregrinación de 12 millas en honor a nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Veo mi transferencia a Salt Lake City como una extensión de ese peregrinaje de fe en el cual soy guiado por el ejemplo de María y su intercesión por nosotros, sus queridos hijos.
(I am pleased that there are so many who speak Spanish in the diocese. I have been trying to master this beautiful language and I hope the Spanish speakers in our midst will be willing to tutor me in this regard! In any case, I have learned that you are very patient and I know you will support me with your prayers as you inspire me with your vibrant faith. Just last month we had a 12 mile pilgrimage in honor of our Lady of Guadalupe. I see my transfer to Salt Lake City as an extension of that pilgrimage of faith in which I am guided by Mary's example and her intercession for us, her dear children.)
A wonderful relationship exists between this local Church and the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was deeply impressed by the fact that many leaders of the church attended Archbishop Niederauer's installation in San Francisco last February and I look forward to building on the strong ties that the Archbishop and former bishops, as well as the catholic community, have developed over the years with our brothers and sisters. Indeed, I understand that there is a wonderful ecumenical and interfaith spirit in this diocese and I am eager to add to this dialogue even as I benefit from it.
As a fourth generation San Franciscan, I have deep roots in the city of Saint Francis and will always cherish my wonderful family, priest brothers and many friends in the City by the Bay. At the same time, I am proud of the many connections between San Francisco and Salt Lake City. Archbishop Alemany, the first bishop of San Francisco, was intimately involved with the affairs of this local Church in the mid to late 1800's. And of course, Archbishop Niederauer was the eighth bishop here. And now I am privileged to become your ninth bishop as I embrace a new home, setting down roots in this City by the Lake. I am keenly conscious of the rich legacy that has been handed down through the preceding generations. In particular, these last twelve months have given me a glimpse into just how difficult it was for you to say goodbye to such a wonderful human being and bishop as George Niederauer. He is certainly an exemplary man of the Church and I wish to thank him today for his friendship and encouragement this past year, anticipating that I will be even more grateful to him in the years ahead as I benefit from his sound leadership in Salt Lake City for over eleven years.
His Excellency, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio of our Holy Father in the United States, reminded me that on the shores of another large body of water, some 2000 years ago, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, called his first disciples. I cannot begin to explain the joy, excitement, and yes, even the trepidation that I now feel as I seek to follow this call of the Lord here in Utah, on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. I give thanks to our loving God for the Providence that has placed me on this path, in the direction of this great state, and I ask for your prayers as I prepare to take up my new ministry, dedicating myself to you as I begin a new chapter in my life.
In 1851, John Soule, an Indiana newspaperman, gave some sage advice that Horace Greeley made popular: "Go West, young man." Well, this is not 1851, I'm not so sure how young I am anymore and I'm moving East, although only about 750 miles! You and I are beginning an exciting journey of faith together. I ask Saint Mary Magdalene to intercede on our behalf that we will receive God's abundant blessings on this exciting pilgrimage. I am especially pleased that today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. This feast day marks the beginning of Christ's public ministry in which He revealed the love and compassion of God. I pray that this same Christ will raise his arms of benediction over us all, just as the Father blessed Him with the power of the Holy Spirit, and that God's love and compassion will guide our steps on the journey ahead.