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First Filipino-American Bishop to Lead Diocese to Be Installed

The first Filipino-American bishop of the Roman Catholic Church to lead a diocese is scheduled to be formally installed in Salt Lake City Tuesday.

RELATED: Vatican Names First Filipino-American Bishop to Lead Diocese

The installation for the 63-year-old Bishop Oscar Azarcon Solis is scheduled to take place at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Solis, whose appointment was announced in January, will replace John C. Wester, who was appointed archbishop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2015.

Image: Bishop Solis
Bishop Oscar Solis Archdiocese of Los Angeles

In a January interview with NBC News, Solis said he learned of the appointment in December.

"During my morning deanery meetings in San Pedro, I missed several phone calls coming from the papal nuncio [the diplomatic representative for Vatican City]. When I called back, my first remark was, 'Your Excellency, am I in trouble?' " Solis said in January."After that call, my life has been changed completely. Archbishop Cristophe has convinced me to say yes — and I say yes, very humbly."

The Diocese of Salt Lake City — which serves the entire state of Utah — is home to more than 300,000 Catholics, according to the Catholic Church.

Born on Oct. 13, 1953, in San Jose City in Nueva Ecija province, Philippines, Solis attended seminary in Tagaytag City, and was ordained a priest in April 1979, serving in southern Nueva Ecija and the Archdiocese of Manila.

He pursued his doctoral studies in canon law in Rome and later worked on the pastoral level, serving in various parishes in New Jersey and Louisiana.

SOLIS
Then Bishop-elect Oscar A. Solis takes questions during a news conference at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles in 2003. Ric Francis / AP file

In December 2003, Solis was named auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles by Pope John Paul II, becoming the first Filipino American promoted to the episcopacy in the U.S. He was also the first bishop to be ordained in the city's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels the following year.

As the first Filipino American to head a U.S. diocese, Solis said it is a "gift" for an immigrant from the Philippines to be recognized in the church. He sees the appointment more as an opportunity to "learn and work collaboratively with the people of Utah."

"It just so happens that I am Filipino, but in essence, I am a priest — where I am called to do mission to proclaim the Gospel, that's where I go," he said. "We apply ourselves to what God has decided. … It is a privilege to be carry out this sacred responsibility to live out the mission of Christ."

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