Archbishop Wester lauded as 'gracious,' 'a great friend'
Friday, Jun. 05, 2015
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Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks at the farewell reception for Archbishop Wester. See more photos on the Intermountain Catholic Facebook page.IC photos/Marie Mischel
SALT LAKE CITY — Catholics and non-Catholics alike gathered May 31 at Little America to bid farewell to the Most Rev. John C. Wester, the ninth Bishop of Salt Lake City, who on June 4 will be installed as the 12th Archbishop of Santa Fe.
The evening began with Gov. Gary Herbert presenting proclamation signed by himself and Lieutenant Gov. Spencer Cox that declared that, throughout his tenure in Utah, Archbishop Wester “has led initiatives to strengthen families and individuals in our community, mostly spiritually but also temporally … [and] provided leadership locally and nationally on a number of interfaith and humanitarian efforts to address important social issues, particularly poverty, immigration and education.”
On a personal note, the governor said he considers it a privilege to have worked with Archbishop Wester on many occasions, and he appreciates the prayers the archbishop has offered for Herbert and his wife.
Accepting the proclamation, the archbishop said, “I can only receive it on behalf of so many in this room who work with me and in this wonderful diocese.”
Opening his remarks at the reception, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “Well, you are losing your wonderful bishop, and I am losing one of my very dear friends.”
While playing golf, the two churchmen discussed various community issues and concerns, Elder Ballard said. “It’s been a marvelous experience for me, and on behalf of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the whole Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I want to extend our love to you, our very best wishes for you.”
In closing, Elder Ballard asked for the Heavenly Father’s blessing for the archbishop.
In her comments, Maria Cruz Gray, director of the Diocese of Salt Lake City’s Hispanic Ministries, said that when Archbishop Wester came to Utah eight years ago, “He started to walk with us with the gentleness of a friend. Announcing the good news of the Gospel, he made us feel welcome, not only in his words, but in his openness and compassion. I will never forget seeing him standing at the door of every church he visited, greeting everyone, lending his ear to every faithful and making sure that they went home feeling that they had a home in their faith community.”
The archbishop learned Spanish, participated in cultural activities like the Our Lady of Guadalupe festivities, and shared the love of God with everyone, including those of different faiths, Gray said.
“No one can say that the steward of the House of God was a foreigner or an alien, or that we were foreigners in his presence,” she said.
The Right Rev. Scott B. Hayashi, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, said he has been consistently impressed with the way that Archbishop Wester always firmly grounds his comments in Scripture and theology. He added that he prays the next Catholic bishop of Utah “will embody all the care and graciousness that we have come to expect from the diocese and from Bishop Wester in particular.”
As the program ended, the Very Rev. Martin Diaz, president of the Catholic diocese’s Presbyteral Council, presented the archbishop with a gift from the priests and parishes.
In his comments, Archbishop Wester expressed his gratitude to the “beautiful, precious people” of Utah “that give me life, that form me and fashion me and who cooperate with God’s grace to help me to fulfill my ministry.”