The diocese held its annual Combined Vicariate Meeting on Feb. 13 for the San Bernardino Pastoral Region and Feb. 19 for the Riverside Pastoral Region.
Bishop Barnes began his address by providing a sampling of comments received in the survey for the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family. It was administered in the Diocese over several weeks in November and December of last year. The responses were collected through an online survey and then separated into groups depending on whether the respondent was a priest, deacon, religious or layperson.
Bishop Barnes reported on the topics addressed in the survey, including pastoral care in certain difficult marital situations, the union of persons of the same sex, the education of children in irregular marriages, the openness of the married couple to life, and the relationship between the family and the person.
Some responses quoted by Bishop Barnes echoed frustration that Catholic teachings on family life issues are either not known well enough or simply aren’t being followed. The Bishop said that it is important to acknowledge these challenges so that the local Church can move toward more effectively teaching and communicating them.
“You start by naming the reality,” he said.
A common theme throughout the responses was the need for more formation and outreach. Responses highlighted areas that the local Church is making progress in and areas that need further attention. The Diocesan Marriage Initiative, for example, has been effective in the areas of marriage preparation and enrichment.
“As a diocese, we need to be looking at this,” Bishop Barnes said. “How are we teaching vocations, in terms of marriage and the living out of marriage?”
In terms of the education of children in irregular marriages and the pastoral care of families in evangelization and in difficult situations, some responses quoted by Bishop Barnes stated that the church should explore the causes of separation and divorce and improve in ministering to families living in difficult situations.
The report also recommended other areas for the Church to study, including domestic violence, attention to family life issues in formation, families that are separated, attention to family programs and issues, and greater effort for family reconciliation.
“I think the people that were able to address these issues took them very seriously,” Bishop Barnes said. “I wanted you to know what was being said.”
After recapping the report sent to the Holy See, Bishop Barnes discussed the diocesan participation in the worldwide New Evangelization, asking parishes to reflect and to improve on one aspect of the Mass and one aspect of parish life. He offered several areas, drawn from interacting with parishes during his episcopal visitations, parishes could use in their evaluation.
“Perhaps the values that we have identified as the values of the diocese – hospitality, faith sharing, reconciliation and collaboration – could be tools to help you evaluate where you are with some of these issues,” Bishop Barnes said. “Let us just focus on one area so that we know that we are putting our time, our talent and our resources into helping our people be able to understand and celebrate Eucharist and also to strengthen our parish life.”