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combined-vicariateAs the COVID-19 pandemic continues, putting 300 or 400 people together in a room at the Diocesan Pastoral Center for the annual Combined Vicariate meetings was not an option this year.

Thankfully, the Church of San Bernardino has gotten the hang of virtual meetings and the Combined Vicariate meetings were able to be held via Zoom and YouTube. The San Bernardino Pastoral Region’s meeting took place Feb. 4, and the Riverside Pastoral Region met Feb. 10.

It was the first Combined Vicariate meetings with Bishop Alberto Rojas as the Ordinary Bishop of the Diocese and he used the occasion to speak to parish leaders and staff members about the blessings and difficulties of the past year as well as the hopes and plans for 2021 and beyond.

He suggested that the pain and struggle of the pandemic has presented an opportunity to strengthen faith.

“When many people are searching for answers, that becomes an opportunity to walk with them,” Bishop Rojas said during his keynote to the San Bernardino Pastoral Region. “There are still a lot of unknowns with the pandemic but we know that God is in charge.

“Let us live the present moment with hope and rooted in Christ.”

Bishop Rojas structured his talk around three “moments” in which he asked participants to reflect on some basic questions:

• What are you most grateful for?

• How do you rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, and persevere in prayer?

• What do you see as the next steps?

• How are you willing to collaborate and take responsibility for those actions?

• What should the timeframe be?

Following the keynote address, participants were invited to attend one of three breakout sessions on Zoom. One, led by Father Jim Clarke, was entitled “Evangelization: Where Do We Go From Here?” Another, “Growing Young: The Authentic Art of Accompanying the Young Church,” was led by Armando Cervantes, Director of Young and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Orange. The third breakout was entitled “Diocesan EOC and HR Policies and Procedures for COVID-19 in 2021.” It was led by Diocesan Emergency Operations Collaborative (EOC) Director Ann Marie Gallant.

The day began with a multi-media prayer coordinated by Vice Chancellor Deacon Michael Jelley. It set the tone for the day’s theme, “Forever Grateful,” and included prayers recited in 14 different languages along with a song written by Father James Gibson in honor of the present Year of St. Joseph.

Bishop Rojas closed the meeting by answering some questions that had been submitted in advance by participants. They ranged from how to best minister to youth to the Church’s role in politics to how to best include the many cultures present in the Diocese to his vision for the Diocese. As he has often stated, Bishop Rojas called on the faithful to share their knowledge and experience of the Diocese with him.

“I encourage you to help me evaluate what we do,” he said. “I can say that my vision is your vision.”