1. When will the churches of the Diocese reopen for Mass?
The Diocese includes San Bernardino and Riverside counties, which, at press time, remained in the most restrictive state tier (purple) for COVID-19 regulating public gatherings. Hope remains that with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the early months of the year, infection, hospitalization and death rates will fall in the counties of the Diocese so that it may move to a tier that allows indoor services.
2. Will enrollment in the Catholic schools rebound?
By comparison to most Dioceses nationwide, enrollment in the Catholic schools of the Diocese has remained stable. Even as instruction has been provided through Catholic Online Synchronous Learning (COSL) instead of in-person instruction, no schools have been forced to close. In surveys administered during the Fall, a majority of Catholic school families indicated that they would be comfortable with a return to in-person instruction as soon as possible. At year’s end, the Catholic elementary schools had filed paperwork with both San Bernardino and Riverside counties for a waiver to provide in-person instruction in grades K-5 in the second half of 2021.
3. How will the Church address the issue of racism?
Bishops Gerald Barnes and Coadjutor Bishop Alberto Rojas have been part of an effort of the Catholic Bishops of California to address the issue of racism. This has already included conducting public prayer services at racially significant sites throughout California and participating in listening sessions with African-American laypersons and clergy on their experience of racism in the Church. Bishop Barnes has created a Diocesan Task Force to carry out the awareness campaign locally, headed by Sister Chilee Okoko, D.M.M.M., Director of the Diocesan Department of Life, Dignity and Justice. The Diocese also continues to address the issue of racism in the fourth module of its Building Intercultural Competencies for Ministers (BICM) program.
4. What kind of relationship will the Church foster with the new presidential administration?
President-elect Joseph R. Biden is a lifelong Catholic, the second president in U.S. History to profess the Catholic faith. His public policy positions are consistent with Church moral teaching on some issues – capital punishment, immigration, the environment – but opposed to them on others, most notably abortion. Church leadership will continue to advocate for the full spectrum of life issues, which will mean publicly opposing any actions of the Biden Administration that promote abortion or limit religious liberty, among other issues, but also praising any efforts of the Biden Administration in comprehensive immigration reform, addressing climate change and restorative justice, among other issues.
5. When will the Episcopal Transition from Bishop Barnes to Bishop Rojas take place?
Per Church law, Bishop Barnes submitted his letter of resignation to Pope Francis on his 75th birthday, June 22 of last year. But the Bishop’s retirement is not official until the letter is formally accepted by Pope Francis. At press time, that had not yet occurred.