Filipino bishop to head Diocese of Salt Lake City

by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News

One Catholic community’s loss is another community’s gain. The first Filipino bishop to lead an archdiocese in the US was named this week. 

Pope Francis, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and the diocese of Salt Lake City announced early Tuesday morning that the country’s lone Filipino American bishop, Oscar Solis, will be the new head of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. 

 “I look forward to going around in every corner of the state, in order to meet the people, and learn to know then, so I can learn to know how to love them and how to serve them. I know that Utah is a very beautiful state — I am excited to say this is my new home,” said Solis in a press conference with the Catholic diocese in Utah.

Solis has served the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for 13 years.

His new community didn’t hold back when trying to get to know their new bishop, and his stances on certain issues, from immigration to women in the church.

“I think the church position on immigration is really clear; we welcome the strangers in our midst,” he said.

“We are open to change. If God wills it, let it be.” 

Solis transfers from one of the largest Catholic dioceses in the country, to a region that is only 10% Catholic. 60% of the area is Mormon, a faith which the bishop says he admires.

“What a joy to see them. I admire their heart for the mission. I admire their heart and dedication to spread the good news, their beliefs, and their conviction.”

63-year-old Solis was ordained in his hometown of San Jose Nueva Ecija in 1979.

Five years later he came to the US, serving in Louisiana from 1988 to 2003.

Since 2004, Solis has been in Los Angeles serving as a Vicar for Ethnic Ministry, as director of the Office of Peace and Justice, and most recently, Auxiliary Bishop for the San Pedro Region.  

Jose H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, said in a statement that the diocese will meet him greatly.

“Our loss will be a gift to the family of God in Salt Lake City. I know that Bishop Solis will be for them a model of prayer and compassion and a great bishop.”

Gomez added that he expects Solis to become the leading voice for Filipino Catholics in this country, whom he says “are a beautiful sign of growth and renewal in our Church and in our country.” 

One of his colleagues, Father Rodel Balagtas, told Balitang America that the Filipino community is rejoicing over the appointment, and he has already sent his congratulations and prayers to Solis.

“Challenges are opportunities for growth – not to be seen from a negative perspective, but rather from a positive point of view. Challenges are occasions that test our identity, our character,” Bishop Solis said. “And it brings out the best in all of us. So we should not fear challenges – we should not fear changes – but rather open our hearts to God’s grace and will – and do the best we can.” 

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