MODESTO, Calif. (CNS) — Retired Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton died June 18 after a prolonged illness. He died at his retirement residence at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Modesto. He was 77.
The much beloved bishop was recalled by many both in California and across the country as a churchman who lived by a simple code: “We are here to serve, and to do it with a touch of class.
When he was installed as Stockton’s fifth bishop Jan. 19, 1999, he told the standing-room-only congregation, “Jesus said, ‘Remain in my love.’ These words, which were spoken by Jesus to his disciples, are spoken to each and every one of us.”
He said Jesus’ words express “the most central and profound truth of our faith. That we are loved by God, and we are called to love one another as God has loved us.”
He linked the sharing of that love to service. “We are committed to service in the world, to serve the kingdom of God in the world,” he said.
A native of Los Angeles and ordained a priest in 1967, Bishop Blaire retired in January 2018. Before being named to head the six-county Stockton Diocese, he had been an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles for nine years. He was succeeded by Bishop Myron J. Cotta, who at the time of his appointment to Stockton was an auxiliary bishop of Sacramento.
On the national level, Bishop Blaire served as the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pastoral Practices and has been a member of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. In 2009, he was elected to a term as chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace and Human Development.
In 2009, Bishop Blaire was one of the first bishops to sign the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation, sponsored by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. The pledge offers a series of steps that people can follow to reduce their impact on the environment.
Bishop Blaire also was a former president of the California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops.
In 2007 in an address about the work of the conference, he said the state’s Catholic bishops “as pastors” meet with the conference staff “as experts” twice a year to “discern prudential ways to bring the Gospel to bear on legislative, judicial or executive matters.”
“We are careful to select only those issues which have a significant moral component or affect the life of the church and her ability to freely minister to our people and in the community,” he said.
High on the California Catholic Conference radar were a host of issues, he said, including efforts to have conscience clauses removed from reproductive health legislation which would force Catholic hospitals or individuals to take part in abortions or other procedures in opposition to church teaching.
The address he delivered was during a conference on St. Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical “Populorum Progressio.” The work of the conference, he said, resonated with the pope’s well-known document.
“Listen to the opening words of the encyclical,” Bishop Blaire said, then quoted them: “The development of peoples has the church’s close attention, particularly the development of those peoples who are striving to escape from hunger, misery, endemic diseases and ignorance; of those … looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilization and a more active improvement of their human qualities.”
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103