SANTA FE (AP) – The hottest ticket in town this week is an invitation to the installation of John C. Wester as the archbishop of Santa Fe.
The guests include two cardinals, numerous Catholic bishops, a couple of abbots and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Carlos Maria Viganó, Pope Francis’s representative in the United States.
Many priests, deacons and seminarians also will be in attendance. Gov. Susana Martinez has a previous engagement, according to her office, but will be meeting with Wester on Tuesday one on one.
Of the 1,200 seats in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, few will be left over for ordinary members of the public. Even the staff members of the Catholic Center in Albuquerque don’t have reserved seats.
The doors to the cathedral will open at noon Thursday for the 2 p.m. installation Mass of the 12th archbishop of Santa Fe.
Another opportunity to see the new archbishop is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at vespers, or evening prayer service, at the basilica. Doors for that service open at 5:30 p.m.
The installation will begin with the purifying of the basilica by Tewa Indians. Eagle dancers from Laguna Pueblo will perform and members of Los Hermanos Penitentes, the Catholic lay brotherhood from northern New Mexico, will be singing hymns from medieval Europe.
At the start of the installation, Viganó asks Wester a series of questions beginning with whether he accepts the position as the new archbishop.
Wester gave his final and emotional homily Sunday at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City where he has been the diocese’s bishop since 2007. He preached on his gratitude to God and quoted from poet T.S. Eliot saying, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
There was also a public reception for Wester on Sunday night attended by the Utah governor and representatives of other faith communities.
Wester, 64, is succeeding Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, who has reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 for Catholic bishops.
When Wester’s appointment was announced in April, Stephen F. Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies in Washington, D.C., described him as “pastoral, caring, brilliant, open and welcoming,” as well as “very committed to serving those in poverty, immigrants and other marginalized populations.”
Wester grew up in San Francisco and was ordained a priest in 1976. He was assigned to various Catholic schools and parishes in his home state before being named auxiliary bishop of San Francisco in 1998, during the tenure of now cardinal William Levada, his mentor and one of the members of the Congregation for Bishops which recommends candidates to the pope.
In Salt Lake City, he worked with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on legislation to ban discrimination on sexual orientation and supported expansion of Medicaid and immigration reform.
KRQE News 13 will live stream the event online and on the KRQE News 13 app.