With his mandatory retirement just two-and-a-half years away, Bishop Gerald Barnes used this year’s Combined Vicariate meetings to ask the leadership and staffs of diocesan parishes to ponder this question.
As part of his keynote talk, Bishop Barnes explained the formal process of how a new bishop is chosen for a diocese when the existing one retires. While the ultimate decision of the next Bishop of San Bernardino rests with the Holy Father, there is a multi-layered process of consultation in the selection of a new bishop. Bishop Barnes invited the faithful of the Diocese to be part of it.
“You have a say,” he said. “I’m proposing that before I send anything to Rome, that I consult with the parishes. In the next few months we’re going to come up with a tool to do that.”
Bishop Barnes tied the consultation on the next bishop into the celebration this year of the 40th Anniversary of the Diocese. He asked parishes to look back and learn about the history of the Diocese, to assess both its strength areas and challenges, and, finally, to identify what qualities will be needed in the next bishop.
“We need to do this a very transparent, honest way,” he said.
Some specific questions to guide these parish discussions will be provided to the parishes in March.
Held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, the Combined Vicariate meetings were held Feb. 7 (for the San Bernardino Pastoral Region) and Feb. 15 (for the Riverside Pastoral Region). The meetings also included breakout sessions on two critical topics of the moment: racism and youth.
Father David Andel, JCL, Judicial Vicar of the Diocese, gave the talk on racism. He emphasized the gift of diversity in the Diocese, comparing it to the heavenly banquet.
“Diversity is thrust upon our people in some way but it’s OK,” Fr. Andel said, referring to the many cultures present in the Diocese. “This is an appetizer for the main course of heaven.”
Fr. Andel acknowledged that the sin of racism exists in the hearts of many Catholics though, he noted, it is rarely confessed.
“How is it unlearned? Through kinship and encounter,” he offered, drawing from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.”
The breakout session on youth was coordinated by the Diocesan Office of Young Catholics. Ministers from that office first gave a summary of Diocesan responses that were collected last year for the upcoming worldwide Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. Attendees then heard from a panel of youth ministers, young adults and youth, themselves. Some of their messages challenged parishes to greater empowerment of youth or risk their exodus from the Church.
“We are losing a generation from the Church,” said 14-year-old Cecelia Negrette, who is involved in Youth in Action ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Bernardino. “It’s not because they’re being rebellious, it’s because they don’t feel invited to the home of the Father.”
At the close of the youth discussion, attendees were asked to go back to their parishes and hold listening sessions with their youth and young adults. They were also asked to reflect on how the parish, as a whole, can better incorporate youth and young adults into ministry, and how each individual minister can support youth and young adults and foster vocations.