By Peter Bradley
Last month, on Nov. 3, the Diocese of San Bernardino celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a beautiful Mass at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Yucaipa. During the reception afterwards, I was asked about previous anniversaries celebrated by the Diocese. In this article I will take us back briefly to some of those events:
10th Anniversary (1988):
Over 700 people joined Bishop Phillip Straling at the Anniversary Mass held at the University of Redlands on November 6, 1988. Bishop Straling called the Diocese to renew its commitment to personal holiness and the spreading of the Gospel. He stated: “All of us by our baptism, and the common priesthood gained by our baptism, are called to reach out to our brothers and sisters. One of the best means of evangelization is that we ourselves live the Gospel.”
The 1988 Legacy of Love Award was given to Tony Melendez, the armless guitarist who was embraced by Saint Pope John Paul II at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheatre during the Pope’s visit to California in September 1987.
20th Anniversary (1998):
A special Mass was celebrated by Bishop Gerald Barnes for the 20th Anniversary of the Diocese on December 11, 1998 at Holy Rosary Cathedral in San Bernardino. At the end of Mass, Bishop Barnes planted California wildflower seeds in a container filled with soil from all the parishes in the Diocese. This action was meant to signify the unity within the Diocese and the life which can spring from that unity.
In his homily, Bishop Barnes reminded the attendees: “In this Anniversary, we celebrate ordinary people, people who have worked very hard to help us reach this day; people who have built this Church, people full of grace.” For the Mass, the altar was decorated with colorful cloths from the various ethnic communities in the Diocese.
25th Anniversary (2003):
The Diocese of San Bernardino made plans to celebrate its 25th Anniversary in November 2003. However, fire season in southern California had other plans. A major wildfire in the San Bernardino mountains forced the Anniversary celebration to be changed to January 18, 2004. Ten bishops, including Cardinal Roger Mahony from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, joined Bishop Gerald Barnes to celebrate a special Mass in Coussoulis Arena at California State University, San Bernardino.
The Mass was preceded by a Festival of Faith where the CSUSB campus was transformed into a landscape of music, exhibits and activities. Over 60 exhibits demonstrated the wide diversity of ministry and services available in the Diocese. Another special Anniversary feature was the “In Memoriam Altar,” where parishes and schools identified people who had made a significant contribution during the past 25 years. Over 400 names were listed in the Memorial Book.
30th Anniversary (2008):
After a large 25th celebration during 2003 and 2004, the remembrance at the 30th Anniversary in 2008 was smaller in comparison. The diocesan newspaper interviewed Bishop Phillip Straling the founding Bishop of the Diocese. The newspaper also interviewed Msgr. Robert Miller and Sr. Maura Feeley, RSM for their memories of the beginning days of the new Diocese. Over 800 Catholic school students came together at Sacred Heart Church in Rancho Cucamonga to celebrate a special Anniversary Mass.
As we look to the 50th Anniversary of the Diocese of San Bernardino in 2028, this review of the history of past anniversary celebrations reminds us of the importance to take time to give thanks for the many blessings we have received, remember in prayer the dedicated people who helped to build this local church, and ask for God’s inspiration as we continue to bring the good news of the Gospel to all the people of the two counties.
Peter Bradley is Archivist in the Diocese of San Bernardino.