The Most Reverend John C. Wester didn’t see it coming when he became bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City five years ago. “One day, I just got a call saying the Pope would like you to become the bishop,” says Wester, who was serving as Auxiliary Bishop in San Francisco. “And that was it.”
Since coming to Utah, Wester has met with Pope Benedict XVI twice and has fallen behind on paperwork as the result of a packed schedule fulfilling his three main responsibilities: teaching, governing and sanctifying. And since the diocese encompasses the entire state, Wester is on the road quite a bit, too.
About 400,000 Catholics are in the diocese, which includes parishes in Roosevelt, Wendover and Logan. “But it’s hard to estimate because of the number of undocumented migrants,” Wester says.
Given the church’s stance on immigration, Wester has taken on the debate and contributed to The Utah Compact—five humanitarian-based principles for looking at Utah’s immigration issues. He has also met with federal legislators and President Obama to work toward progressive immigration reform, traveled the world to support refugees, serves on the Catholic Relief Services board and has been given awards for his work in the community. Within the church, he promotes non-clergy leadership and the presence of Latino Catholics.
His motto is “Abide in Christ” from John 15:4. “The actual quote is ‘abide in me,’ but as a motto that might sound kind of self-serving,” he says. “It connotes that we’re living in Christ and we get our strength and nourishment from Christ.”
Keeping up with technology, Wester spreads the holy word on the diocese’s Facebook page and posts a weekly blog on the Intermountain Catholic newspaper website called “Tuesday Tapestry.” Recently, he started creating videos for the website, speaking with guests on themes ranging from Catholic Community Services to showing hospitality.
In his rare free time, Wester enjoys hiking, golfing and taking in Utah Symphony and Ballet West performances.