SAN FRANCISCO — The Most Rev. George H. Niederauer, Archbishop of San Francisco, celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on April 30 with a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco.
"We can give thanks to God for the example of a shepherd in our midst who has heard the admonition of Saint Peter [to tend the God’s flock], and who has lived it for these 50 years," said His Eminence Cardinal William J. Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in his homily. "And I think that all of us who know you, dear archbishop, would say that you have indeed lived up to this injunction: to your friends, your coworkers, to the parishioners where you have helped out, but perhaps most notably to the generations of future priests at Saint John’s Seminary where you served successively and so successfully as professor of English literature, as spiritual director and as rector of the seminary, overseeing the formation of so many future priests for the various dioceses of the Southwest. When you were chosen as bishop of Salt Lake City, it might be said that the background which most prepared you to serve the people of God in that vast diocese of Utah was that you had been a servant to your brother priests and that, as you came here to the Archdiocese of San Francisco, you brought that same quality of seeking to stand before the Lord as one who serves."
Archbishop Niederauer was ordained to the priesthood on April 30, 1962 for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. From 1987 to 1992 he served at St. John’s Seminary, first as rector, then as spiritual director as well as an instructor of English literature. On Jan. 25, 1995 he was ordained Bishop of Salt Lake City, a position he held for 10 years before being named eighth Archbishop of San Francisco on Dec. 15, 2005.
As Archbishop of San Francisco, he also is metropolitan archbishop of the ecclesiastical province of San Francisco, which includes the suffragan diocese of Honolulu, Las Vegas, Oakland, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Stockton.
At the Thanksgiving Mass, Archbishop Niederauer welcomed those who came from southern California and Utah, "two places along my path to ‘the city’ and the Archdiocese of San Francisco," he said.
Among those who attended from the Diocese of Salt Lake City were a number of clergy, including Bishop John C. Wester, who said that Archbishop Niederauer’s motto, ‘To Serve and to Give,’ "is perfect because that’s what he does. He’s a real pastor and I admire him greatly. He’s a real servant of Christ. He’s been an inspiration to me in my own ministry."
Bishop Wester served a year as auxiliary bishop under Archbishop Niederauer. "I look back on that year with great fondness and happy memories," he said.
Also at the Mass was Maria Cruz Gray, director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, whom Archbishop Niederauer asked to give the first reading in Spanish. "It was such an honor, I could not pass it up," she said.
During the greeting of the Mass, Archbishop Niederauer said the Eucharist is a perfect way of giving thanks. "This is far too early for Thanksgiving Day but this is nevertheless a day of thanksgiving," he said, adding that for him, it was very much a day of thanksgiving "to God, for calling me to 50 years of service and who knows how many more years of service to him and his church, to his people."
In his homily, Cardinal Levada, who was a seminary classmate of Archbishop Niederauer, also looked to the future of their testimony of faith.
"We are soon to finish the official ministry which we serve now," he said. "We shall not finish, however, being priests in the name and the example of our Lord the Good Shepherd.... For surely the world in which we live needs the testimony and the witness of Christian faith and of priestly lives .... Perhaps it will be our time to give special witness to the desire to be with the Lord forever."