At Christmas, Bishop George H. Niederauer often shares an anecdote. As a little boy, he says, he walked out and saw all the wonderful gifts that Santa had left for him, then turned to to his parents and said, "Where's the rest of it?"

The anecdote is telling, not because it shows what a selfish child he was, but because it shows what a good-natured, confident, kind-hearted Catholic bishop he has become. He is a master teacher with a common touch. And though it is a cliche as old as the hills, in this case it is true. When Bishop Niederauer leaves to become the archbishop of San Francisco, that city's gain will be Salt Lake City's loss.

But then most who have come to know the bishop have suspected he was destined for higher things. As a peacemaker with the skill set of a polished diplomat, Bishop Niederauer has not only blended and lifted the local diocese, but whether giving a high-minded speech about Catholic novelist Flannery O'Connor at BYU or sharing a knee-slapping joke about a woman named "Helen Brown," he has had perfect pitch for local interfaith relationships.

Now, he moves on to more challenges. In his 10 years in Salt Lake City, he served as the shepherd for 200,000 Catholics, including 84 priests. In San Francisco he will pastor 425,000 Catholics and 225 priests. Here, the state of Utah was his home turf. In California, his influence will reach from Utah to Honolulu.

In recent years, the bishop has received the Gandhi Peace Prize, and served on the Utah Alliance for Unity and the Coalition for Utah's Future. Whatever task awaits, he has positioned himself well to take it on.

In 2004, the bishop released a small inspirational volume called "Precious as Silver." The book, a little gem, had moderate success but was deserving of much more. Filled with insight and homespun advice about the life of the spirit, the bishop's personal "manual" also offered this nugget of wisdom as its concluding paragraph:

For the faithful disciple, what Jesus values and prefers is what matters most. When we listen with open, humble hearts and minds, he promises to lead us in his way, by his light, to the fullness of his life. Let us listen and follow together, as his disciples.

What makes Bishop Niederauer precious is that ability to both lead and follow.

We offer him our sincere congratulations, gratitude and best wishes.

Godspeed.