Retired Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton died June 18 after a prolonged illness at his retirement residence at Our Lady of Fatima parish in Modesto, Calif. He was 77.
The beloved bishop was recalled by many 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, Bishop Blaire told the 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.’”
A native of Los Angeles, he was ordained a priest in 1967. Before being named to head the six-county Stockton Diocese, he had been an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles for nine years. Bishop Blaire, who retired in January 2018, was succeeded by Bishop Myron J. Cotta.
On the national level, Bishop Blaire served as the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pastoral Practices and was 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, he was one of the first bishops to sign the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation, sponsored by the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.
Bishop Blaire also was a former president of the California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops.
In a 2007 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.”
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. —CNS