BOUNTIFUL — Filipino Catholics are part of a growing community within the Diocese of Salt Lake City — and they are excited and proud to have one of their own leading the church in Utah.
At St. Olaf Catholic Church in Bountiful, Filipinos from across the Wasatch Front gather every Sunday afternoon for Mass.
Each week, Father Rene Rodillas, pastor of St. Olaf, brings the word of God to Filipinos in their native language. And, he can't wait for Bishop Oscar Solis to make history as the first man from the Philippines to head a United States diocese.
"I was so happy that the Filipino bishop was designated or elected as shepherd to our Diocese of Salt Lake City," says Father Rene.
Parishioners are humbled and thrilled by the Vatican's choice. Hector Bergonia, a parishioner at St. Olaf, plays guitar and sings at the Filipino masses. He says, "Actually, I was very surprised by the choice of Solis. It was unexpected, it just came out of the blue."
Father Rene knows Utah Catholics will make Bishop Solis feel right at home here, just like they did when he arrived in the state a decade ago. "I felt so welcome and that's why I did not experience what they call homesickness," says Father Rene.
The hope in this community is that Bishop Solis will inspire new growth and diversity in Utah's Catholic flock. "I hope that he would bring more Filipino clergy to our diocese because we are also in need of priests in the Diocese of Salt Lake City," says Father Rene.
Bergonia says he already likes what he has heard and read about Bishop Solis. "I was so impressed that he could bring people of different backgrounds together and do well for the Catholic Church.
On a Sunday in late February, Father Rene prepared parishioners to welcome Bishop Solis and the holy season of Lent. He reminded his flock that they are all here on Earth to build God's kingdom of justice and peace.
"We are diverse but we are united, especially in our worship," says Father Rene.
At St. Olaf, Father Rene already has plans to honor Bishop Solis this November. That is when the Diocese of Salt Lake City will mark the 10th anniversary of celebrating a traditional Filipino Mass each Sunday in Utah.