For Bishop Oscar A. Solis, DD, VG, serving the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for the past 11 years has been a faith-filled journey and continuous source of joy.
“It’s always a joy to do what I love to do — being a priest,” he recently told The Tidings. “I always enjoy working with the people and with my brother priests.”
Bishop Solis, who has been the auxiliary bishop for the San Pedro Pastoral Region since 2009, explained that his role as episcopal vicar is not simply to “police” the priests serving across the region, but to offer hands-on support.
“I’m not there as a police officer, but as a person who will support them … to become good pastors and good priests,” said Bishop Solis, who previously served as head of the Office of Ethnic Ministry and the Office of Life, Justice and Peace.
Born into a family of seven siblings in the Philippines, Bishop Solis entered the high school seminary and spent time studying law thereafter. He was ordained to the priesthood in his hometown in 1979, and went on to serve as a parish priest in Quezon City, and later as rector of the seminary of the Diocese of Cabanatuan, located in the southern Nueva Ecija province of the Philippines.
In 1984, Bishop Solis began serving in the United States, first as an associate pastor for parishes in the Archdiocese of Newark in New Jersey. Later, he served in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, in southeastern Louisiana. During his tenure as pastor of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Thibodaux, he was informed that he had been selected to serve as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
On Feb. 10, 2004, he was ordained a bishop by Cardinal Roger Mahony, who was archbishop of Los Angeles at the time. In that historic moment, Bishop Solis become the first bishop ordained in the still-new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and also the first Filipino-American bishop to be ordained in the U.S.
While serving on the Cultural Diversity Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Solis learned that there are hundreds of Filipino priests serving in dioceses across the country. After consulting with numerous fellow Filipino priests, he helped create the National Association of Filipino Priests-U.S.A. (NAFP), which presents a three-day conference every three years “to provide a venue for them to gather together, foster unity and share information.”
“Our aim is not to separate ourselves, but to make Filipino priests more efficient in their ministry as able partners in the evangelizing mission of the Church,” explained Bishop Solis. The next NAFP conference will be in Houston in 2017.
“As priests and as bishops, I think that it’s part of our ministry [and commitment] … to help our ministers become better servants of the Gospel … so that they can become better collaborators and partners in our mission in the Church,” he added.
Bishops-elect Joseph V. Brennan, David G. O’Connell and Robert Barron will soon be joining Bishop Solis and his fellow local bishops, as well as the archbishop and the priests of the archdiocese in supporting that very mission, making it a “a wonderful moment in the life of our Church in Los Angeles,” said Bishop Solis.
“This moment is three-fold exciting because we are getting the three-fold blessing of three new bishops,” he said. “When the blessings pour down, they pour like rain!”
Bishop Solis said he is very pleased with the selections of Bishops-elect Brennan, O’Connell and Barron — describing them as “three wonderful shepherds” — adding that he welcomes them “with open arms, wholeheartedly.”
“They are great assets to our Church, all bringing their own particular and unique gifts they will contribute to our mission in Los Angeles,” he said.