Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Solis was listening to his brother priests during a morning deanery meeting in San Pedro when his cell phone began to vibrate. He ignored it. It went off again. And then again, but he didn’t answer.
He had another meeting later that afternoon, so he couldn’t join the others for lunch. He checked his phone and noticed that it was the papal nuncio — Archbishop Christophe Pierre — who had been calling. Bishop Solis called him back.
“Am I in trouble? What did I do?” Bishop Solis quipped once the archbishop had picked up the phone.
“No, no, no,” Bishop Solis recalled Archbishop Pierre saying, then adding as a side note, “The papal nuncio has a great sense of humor, you know?”
“Bishop, are you by yourself?” the archbishop asked Bishop Solis.
“Yes, your excellency.”
“The Holy Father has appointed you to be the ordinary in Salt Lake City.”
“Oh dear! I am in trouble!” the bishop recalled in an interview with Angelus News, breaking into laughter.
Back in 2003, Bishop Solis was the first Filipino to be named a bishop in the United States when Pope John Paul II announced his appointment as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. His episcopal ordination on Feb. 10, 2004, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels marked the first time a bishop had been ordained at the cathedral.
Now, with his appointment to the Salt Lake City Diocese, Bishop Solis becomes the first Filipino to lead a diocese in the United States. After his installation in March, he will be serving a diocese of 300,000 Catholics that spans the entire state of Utah.
“Our loss will be a gift to the family of God in Salt Lake City,” Archbishop José H. Gomez said. “I know that Bishop Solis will be for them a model of prayer and compassion and a great bishop. And I fully expect that he will become the leading voice for the millions of Filipino Catholics in this country, who are a beautiful sign of growth and renewal in our Church and in our country.”
Bishop Solis called the appointment “a recognition of the diversity of the Church in America and the universality of the Church,” adding, “I know what it means to be a pastor, a shepherd of a particular diocese. It is a tremendous blessing and a responsibility and a privilege to be of service to the local Church in the United States of America, coming from the Philippines.”
Bishop Vicente Reyes ordained Oscar Solis as a priest in 1979 in San Jose City in the Philippines, Bishop Solis’ hometown. He was assigned influential roles in the Cabanatuan Diocese from the beginning of his priestly life. He served as rector of the diocesan high school and college seminary, the vocation director, a professor, and on the diocesan priests council.
In 1984, he was sent to Rome to pursue doctoral studies in canon law. He visited his family in the United States along the way and spent some time in pastoral work.
“I fell in love with parish life,” he said. “I never did parish work in the Philippines.” Bishop Solis discerned then that God was calling him to change course.
“That’s the mystery of God’s grace,” he said. “Just be open and be ready for surprises because our God is a God of surprises. Just like now!”
Full story at Angelus.