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Matthew, Mark, Luke, John — a look at Utah’s Catholic bishops

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Perhaps, as you read this, the new bishop of the Salt Lake City Catholic Diocese has been announced. But as I write it, he hasn’t.

And given the track record of the Catholic hierarchy for sending superior leaders our way, I anxiously await the news.

The bishops I have known have been a cut above.

When William K. Weigand (now Bishop Emeritus of Sacramento) was picked for the Utah post, the Deseret News flew me to Boise to interview him and get a head start on the competition.

He was “Father Bill” up there, and the members of his flock were both delighted and despondent that he’d been called to bigger things in Salt Lake City.

I soon learned why.

In Idaho, Bishop Weigand showed the touch of a true pastor, skills he honed while serving among the poor of Latin America.

Once in Salt Lake City, he got a place to stay on the west side of town, turned down fancy wheels for a Volkswagen Rabbit and began to treat everyone — from monsignors to mendicants — as his brothers and sisters.

Just before he left to take the reins in Sacramento, I asked him if he missed the days when he was a simple parish priest.

“More than you’ll ever know,” he said.

Simple, unadorned, joyful. I think Bishop Weigand was a lot like the Gospel of Mark.

In 1994, George H. Niederauer (now Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco) became Utah’s Catholic bishop. He was a thoroughbred of a different color. He displayed a wonderful touch with interfaith relationships and a keen sense of perspective. He had a mind like a diamond cutter, and his little book, “Precious as Silver,” was a gem. After many years, it still sparkles on my bookshelf.

He proved to be wise and warm and had a knack for telling clean jokes that left me in stitches. His sermons remain some of the finest delivered in the state.

His insights, organizational skills and philosophical bent line him up, in my mind, with the Gospel of John.

And that brings us to Bishop John C. Wester, whose departure triggered this walk down memory lane.

If Bishop Weigand was the Gospel of Mark and Bishop Niederauer the Gospel of John, I see Bishop Wester as the Gospel of Luke — full of empathy, understanding and a talent for making human connections.

I met Bishop Wester just once in passing, but I have always seen him as one of the sanest minds in the West. Of course, that may be because I agreed with him 95 percent of the time.

I’ve been reading about his farewell events.

I think his most telling remark was, “If I could, I'd put you all in a headlock and tell you that I love you.”

That’s the Wester way.

In the end, I can only conclude that God loves Utah, judging by the caliber of men and women of faith he keeps sending our way.

That’s why I’m eager to see who’s next.

In my mind, we’ve had a Mark, Luke and John. Will the next man have a touch of Matthew about him? As many know, the Gospel of Matthew is often called the “teacher’s gospel.”

Historically, it’s the gospel that reaches the most people and touches the most hearts.

Email: jerjohn@deseretnews.com