SAN BERNARDINO—After months of anticipation, the Diocese met its new Coadjutor Bishop, Alberto Rojas, at a Dec. 2 press conference at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.
The long-awaited identity of the Coadjutor was revealed hours earlier in a statement from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, that was quickly fashioned into news releases from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and several Catholic media outlets.
Members of the Diocesan Curia, Presbyteral Council and College of Consultors, along with local and regional media, gathered in the Kateri Room of the Pastoral Center to welcome the new Coadjutor Bishop. When he, Bishop Gerald Barnes and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio del Riego strode into the room just before 10 a.m. they received a standing ovation.
“Welcome to this historic day,” Bishop Barnes said before introducing Bishop Rojas. “In Church language we call this Episcopal Transition. In layman’s terms you might call it the changing of the guard.”
Bishop Rojas, 54, will work alongside Bishop Barnes until his retirement and then become the third Ordinary Bishop in the 41-year history of the Diocese of San Bernardino. Per Church law, Bishop Barnes will submit his letter of resignation to Pope Francis on his 75th birthday – June 22, 2020.
As he took to the podium for his first public remarks as Coadjutor, Bishop Rojas confessed some nervousness but showed himself to be both personable and humble in introducing himself.
“I have so much to learn!” he said. “But with an open heart and mind I am looking forward to working with all of you, my brother priests, deacons, religious men and women, the youth, parish leaders, ecclesial movements, and all people of good will in this Diocese.”
A native of Aguascaliente, Mexico, Bishop Rojas has spent his entirely ministry as a priest and bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago, where he has served as an auxiliary bishop since 2011. Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago offered words congratulations to the Diocese and praised Bishop Rojas’ pastoral gifts.
“Soon the faithful, religious and clergy of San Bernardino will come to love and respect this holy and intelligent man, as we do here in Chicago,” Cardinal Cupich said in a statement issued the day of the announcement. “I am confident he will build on the good work of Bishop Barnes, a dedicated pastor who is one of the most respected bishops in our country.”
Following his remarks at the press conference, Bishop Rojas and Bishop Barnes fielded questions from the media before departing to celebrate Mass the Pastoral Center staff. Bishop Rojas spent the remainder of the day at the Pastoral Center. The following morning, he celebrated Mass with the Diocesan Seminarians and staff at Saint Junipero House of Formation in Grand Terrace before boarding a plane back to Chicago.
Bishop Rojas is expected to return to the Diocese to begin his ministry here in February. A Welcome Mass for his arrival will take place on Monday, February 25 at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Chino Hills.