by Jared Bray, ABS-CBN News
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s new Catholic leader introduced himself to the Filipino community during a special welcome mass and reception Friday night.
Though he’s only been here for a couple of weeks, Bishop Oscar Solis said he already feels at home.
“I felt the warmth of the hospitality of the Utah people,” he said. “They don’t have to be Catholics. Everybody is welcoming me.”
The transition from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City has gone smoothly, but Solis acknowledges that leading the Church in Utah comes with a unique set of challenges.
Among them is the physical size of his diocese. Based in Salt Lake City, it consists of 45 churches spread throughout Utah’s 85,000 square miles.
“I’m excited to reach out and visit all of those communities, and meet them. And find out how they’re doing, how they’re doing in their life, how they’re doing in their relationship with God,” he said.
Solis also spoke about ministering in a state where only 10 percent of the population belongs to the Catholic Church while nearly 60 percent belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“The mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the mission of the Catholic Church is one: to promote the common good of the people,” he said.
Solis noted that he’d like for the churches to work together to help those in need — including immigrants and refugees.
“We need to advocate and speak on behalf of the voiceless, on behalf of the poor, and those marginalized by our society.”
That’s an issue that some of the state’s Filipino civic leaders would like to assist Solis with, such as immigration lawyer Marlene Gonzalez.
“I would like to be able to help him provide information to immigrants wherever they need,” she said. “Perhaps the Church can sponsor certain ‘know your rights’ presentations.”
Though he faces complex issues as he begins his ministry in Utah, Solis said his goal is simple.
“I want to be with the people,” he said. “I want them to feel the joy of having God in your life.”
That was evident during a post-mass reception, when Utah’s new shepherd spent nearly two hours meeting with individual members of his flock.