Bishop Oscar Solis is the second priest with links to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who has been called to lead the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
On Jan. 25, 1995, Msgr. George Niederauer, who directed the Cardinal Timothy Manning House of Prayer for Priests and previously was rector of St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, was ordained as bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. A St. John’s classmate of Cardinal Roger Mahony ordained a priest in 1962, Bishop Niederauer in 2006 was installed as archbishop of San Francisco; he retired in 2012.
Two other recent Salt Lake City bishops also have California connections. Preceding Bishop Niederauer in Salt Lake City was Bishop William Keith Weigand, who was appointed bishop of Sacramento in 1993. Originally a priest of the Boise City (Idaho) Diocese, Bishop Weigand retired in 2008.
Bishop Niederauer’s successor in Utah was former Auxiliary Bishop John Wester of San Francisco, who served in Salt Lake City from 2007 to 2015 until he was appointed archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
And going back further, Archbishop John Joseph Mitty of San Francisco served as bishop of Salt Lake from 1926 to 1932 before being named coadjutor archbishop of the Bay Area archdiocese. He served as San Francisco archbishop from 1935 until his death in 1961.
Bishop Solis will become the tenth bishop of Salt Lake City, which was initially created as the Vicariate Apostolic of Utah in 1887. Four years later (Jan. 27, 1891), the Diocese of Salt Lake was erected, and on March 31, 1951, its name was changed to the Diocese of Salt Lake City, covering the state of Utah, approximately 85,000 square miles. (At one time, the diocese included portions of Nevada until the Reno Diocese was erected in 1931.)
In 1951, the state’s Catholic population was approximately 25,000, less than 4 percent of the state’s total. Today, Catholics in Utah total 300,000, or double the total in 2004, and represent an all-time high of 10 percent of the total population of the state, with 48 parishes serving the diocese.
As of 2014, diocesan priests in Salt Lake City totaled 62, the highest number in 50 years, although total priests totaled only 69, owing to a sharp decline in religious order priests serving the state. The diocese also includes 75 deacons (an all-time high), 29 female religious and 14 male religious.