Bishop Stephen Blaire of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton is looking forward to Pope Francis’ first-ever visit to the U.S.
“Many are awaiting his arrival with great anticipation,” he said on Thursday. “Others are anxious as to what he’ll say.”
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia, arriving on Sept. 22.
He’ll attend a White House welcoming ceremony while meeting with President Barack Obama on Sept. 23.
Pope Francis will also take part in the multi-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, World Trade Center on Sept. 28.
“This will be a great moment for our nation,” said Blaire. “(Pope Francis) will speak for the common good of a just and peaceful world and will lift up the importance of respect for family and the dignity of every individual.”
Blaire is the bishop who pastors the 34 parishes and 12 missions in an area comprised of the following counties in Central California and the Mother Lode, including Alpine, Calaveras, Mono, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tuolumne.
Blaire was installed as the fifth bishop of Stockton – established in 1962 and originally part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of Sacramento – on March 16, 1999 at the Cathedral of the Annunciation.
As product of big family, Blaire, who was No. 12 in the pecking order of 14 children, was born in 1941.
He was raised in San Fernando Valley, where he attended local Catholic schools. A 1959 graduate of Queen of Angels High, Blaire entered St. John’s College and Seminary in Camarillo and was ordained on April 29, 1967,
His first assignment was that of associate pastor at St. Luke’s Church in Temple City.
He was a teacher and later an administrator at Bishop Alemany High in Mission Hills, beginning in 1972 and spanning 14 years of ministry in secondary education.
Blaire, who served as vice principal at Bishop Amat High in La Puente, returned to Alemany to become principal.
By 1986, he had become the Moderator of the Curia and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Blaire was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop on May 31, 1990, serving as a Viscar General for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and Regional Bishop of Our Lady of the Angels Pastoral Region.
It was Pope John Paul II who announced Blaire as the Bishop of Stockton back in 1999.
Since then, he’s been a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops along with Chairman of the Pastoral Practices Committee.
Blaire is also a member of the Committee for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs.
Locally, he served as president of the California Catholic Conference.
Currently, Blaire is the chair on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and a member of the Administrative Committee.
No doubt, he’s thrilled about the pontiff’s upcoming visit.
“(Pope Francis) comes as one who loves the poor, who deeply cares for the earth as our common home, and who abhors the throw-away culture which diminishes human life whether it be the unborn child or those approaching death,” Bishop Blaire added.