SAN BERNARDINO—When it came time to create the Diocesan Archives Office in 2005, Peter Bradley was the obvious choice to lead it.
As the curator of Diocesan history, he could offer a firsthand account of events of the still young Diocese. After all, the start of his journey in lay ministry for the Church of San Bernardino coincided with the birth of the Diocese.
“I applied to the Diocese of San Diego,” Bradley says of his journey west from his native New York in the late 1970s, “and I was hired by the Diocese of San Bernardino.”
In the 42 years since his hiring as a youth minister for the new Diocese, Bradley has held an impressive list of leadership positions in diocesan ministry. He has served as director of two different diocesan departments and three different diocesan offices, two of which he was the founding director.
On June 30, Bradley will retire, taking with him a treasure trove of institutional knowledge about the Diocese. He was celebrated in a farewell gathering held June 2 on Zoom.
“Full-time ministry is a wonderful way to live out your life of faith,” he says, reflecting on a career working for the Diocese.
Bradley said the atmosphere of new beginnings, innovation and planning for the future that characterized the early years of the Diocese was appealing. The founding Bishop of the Diocese, Phillip Straling, created an Office of Parish Services in 1980 and tabbed Bradley to be its first director. The focus was helping to strengthen lay leadership at the parish level to meet the demands of a growing Catholic population. The positions of parish business manager and pastoral associate were created during Bradley’s time as office director.
After two years, Bradley was named director of the Straling Leadership Institute, a precursor to the Ministry Formation Institute (MFI). This was another important ministry in educating and forming the laity to play a greater role in the life of the local church.
Of Bishop Straling, Bradley says, “he gave me an opportunity to be part of a new diocese. It’s a very unique Catholic experience and I’m grateful for it.”
In 1996, Bradley became Director of the Department of Catechetical and Theological Formation, overseeing the diocesan catechetical office, youth office, Straling Leadership Institute, campus ministry and Media Center. He was a key figure in assisting new Ordinary Bishop Gerald Barnes in completing the Diocesan Planning Process, which produced the Diocesan Vision and Four Core Values. Five years later, he took the helm of the Department of Pastoral Services, another large collection of ministries.
When Bishop Barnes sought to create an Archives Office, he turned to Bradley to serve as its first director. It was a significant shift, taking him “from external ministry to internal ministry,” he recalls.
“I have a love for history and the Archives allowed me to do that,” he says.
He built upon the Diocesan Archives that had been started by Dr. Bruce Harley, and then oversaw key documentations needed in the celebration of the 25th Anniversary and 40th Anniversary of the Diocese. He has also created a training program to strengthen sacramental record keeping at the parish level. Bradley also penned a semi-monthly column, Heritage Road, in the diocesan newspaper, highlighting moments of historical importance in the Diocese.
“Thank you for keeping us rooted,” Bishop Barnes said during the June 2 celebration. “You’ve helped us to tell and retell our story.”
For his work in service to the Diocese Bradley has, through the years, received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award, the Universal Church’s highest honor for lay ministers; the Amar Es Entregarse Award, given by Bishop Barnes to those who live out his Episcopal Motto; and the St. Bernardine Award, given to Church employees with at least 10 years of continuous service who have impacted the Vision of the Diocese.
When asked about the many different ministerial positions he has held in more than 40 years with the Diocese Bradley says modestly that they were all grounded in the idea of service.
“We base our ministry on our Gospel values, on our basic dedication to the Church,” he says. “From that there’s a broad spectrum of opportunities for each generation to serve the Church.”