Archbishop George Niederauer has died today, May 2, 2017 at Nazareth House in San Rafael, within the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He was 80 years of age and had been living at Nazareth House for several months following a diagnosis of interstitial lung disease. Archbishop Niederauer was the eighth Archbishop of San Francisco.
George Niederauer was born June 14, 1936 in Los Angeles, the only child of George and Elaine [Sullivan] Niederauer. After attending Catholic elementary schools, he began studies in 1950 at Saint Anthony High School in Long Beach, where he met 14-year-old William Levada. (Their close friendship has spanned 65 years, and Cardinal Levada returned from Rome in recent weeks to be by his side.) After high school George Niederauer entered Stanford University for one year, and then entered the seminary formation program in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In 1958, he received his B.A. in Philosophy from Saint John Seminary in Camarillo. He then completed a four-year program in Theology at Saint John’s Seminary, and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. During his seminary studies he also received a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Loyola University (now Loyola-Marymount) in Los Angeles.
Archbishop Niederauer was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles 55 years ago, on April 30, 1962. After serving in a parish assignment, and earning his doctorate in English Literature from the University of Southern California, he was appointed to Saint John’s Seminary College where he taught English and served as spiritual director. During his years at Saint John’s he was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope John Paul II, with the title of Monsignor. He was appointed Rector of the Seminary in 1987 and after a five-year term, he had completed 27 years of service to the formation of future priests at the seminary. Monsignor Niederauer then served as co-director of the Cardinal Manning House of Prayer for Priests.
On November 3, 1994 he was appointed Eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Bishop Niederauer’s episcopal ordination took place at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on January 25, 1995. He served for 11 years in Utah, where he received praise from both Catholics and Mormons alike for his strong sense of social justice, deep concern for peace, and commitment to nonviolence. In 2004, he published a spiritual reflection on the Christian Life, titled, Precious as Silver: Imagining Your Life with God. He was appointed Archbishop of San Francisco on December 15, 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI, and was installed February 15, 2006. Archbishop Niederauer succeeded his classmate and friend, then-Archbishop William J. Levada, who had been appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to serve in the Vatican as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the previous May.
As Archbishop of San Francisco for the next six years, Archbishop Niederauer was known for his spiritual leadership, intelligence and wisdom, compassion and humor, and was always focused on his responsibility to live and teach the faith. When he was named Archbishop, he was asked what he would want the people of the Archdiocese of San Francisco to know about him. He answered, “I’ve chosen the motto for my coat of arms, ‘to serve and to give’, because I am convinced servant leadership in the Church defines the role of the bishop. This is the message of the Gospel, as in the reading from Mark, Chapter 10, which was included in my Installation Mass. There we hear James and John asking for special places next to Jesus. He says to all his apostles that the one who would ‘be first among you must be the servant of the rest because the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many.’ Leading by serving: it’s easily misunderstood, but it seems central to me.”
Archbishop Niederauer retired as Archbishop of San Francisco on October 4, 2012, and moved to Menlo Park, where he lived with Cardinal Levada in residence on the grounds of Saint Patrick’s Seminary & University. During his nearly five years of retirement, he generously responded to frequent requests to give retreats – to bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, and to seminarians. In January this year, he moved to Nazareth House for care during his final illness.
Thursday, May 11: (Updated 5/3/17)
Viewing at 3:30 PM
Vigil at 7:00 PM
Mission Dolores Basilica, 3321 16th Street., San Francisco
Friday, May 12:
Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 AM
Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, 1111 Gough St., San Francisco
Please join Cardinal Levada, Archbishop John Quinn, Bishop Bill Justice, Bishop Ignatius Wang and me in praying for the repose of the soul of Archbishop Niederauer.