By Bishop Gerald Barnes
The following is an excerpt from Bishop Gerald Barnes’ address at the Combined Vicariate Meeting of the San Bernardino Pastoral Region on February 13.
We had a great opportunity during our 40th to look at our history. We are grateful for the past and we learn from the past; we live in the present with all the blessings and challenges that face us; and we walk to the future where our God already awaits us. He has already pitched his tent. That’s why we always say Siempre Adelante - always forward.
Our story is about people of God of the Diocese of San Bernardino on the journey, moving ahead. It is not about being stagnant or complacent or just sitting there and waiting. It is about going where God is calling us to be, individually, as parishes and as a Diocese.
It means change. Change is life, you can’t live without changing. Some people have told me, ‘Bishop, I don’t want to change anymore, it’s too much, and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll pray for your happy death’ (laughs). Because it is how we go through the transitions of the changes that ultimately determines that transition into the next life.
But we have to keep moving, we can’t sit and wait…that’s what we’ve being trying to do through all our existence, trying to move forward as we develop parish pastoral plans, master plans as we build and expand churches and schools and parish facilities. It is our efforts to meet the challenges of our diversity, of the needs of our senior parishioners—that particular part of our population that continues to grow; of the situation of our schools; of the growing social problems that carry the face of the homeless and the addict, those that are contemplating suicide and abortion, and immigration and those living in violence.
So our moving forward is part of our concern as we address our ministry programs, our parish programs and our financial needs. We are also affected by the Universal Church and the challenges that present themselves to us through the synods that we had on family, on children and on vocations. And very blessed by the good fortune, we have experienced some gatherings like the V Encuentro and World Youth Day. We acknowledge the pain and the suffering and the anger that we carry with the continuous scandal of sex abuse in our Church and the failure of being a transparent and accountable Church. These challenges remain and we will not lose our commitment and the attention that they require.
As a diocese we need to continue to listen to the signs of the times like this and to discern what is needed, to study and to clarify the issues and to determine how best we can address the pastoral and spiritual needs of community. In the last couple of years as I visited our parishes and schools and listened to people, there are many good things happening in our parishes and we need to affirm those things and those people that are involved and support them in every way. And I thank you as parish staffs and schools for meeting the needs of your parishioners.
There are challenges, too. And in my discernment, I have chosen four areas that I think at this time in our history beckon us to evaluate and to address. They are: Young Catholics, Planning, the Passing on of our Faith, and the Preparation for Ministry, especially in assisting the administration and governance of our parish. As the Bishop of the Diocese I think that these four areas demand our united attention at this time to move forward, to go forward, Siempre Adelante. Now, how did I choose these areas? In the listening at parish visitations, at Presbyteral Council meetings, Curia meetings, Personnel Board meetings, meetings with other groups that I attend throughout the Inland Empire. These are recurring concerns. We study them, we look for assistance to understand them a little bit better. We presented them before some diocesan bodies for consultation and some of these are well ready to launch. Others will take a bit more time, but we want to present them to you today for your awareness, also for your feedback, for your attention or your wisdom.
O mighty God we have come together this day to be fed, to be nourished by your word and by the mission that your Son has entrusted to us. May we be humble enough to accept that charge, that mission. May we be your true children, creative and excited and anxious to move on. May we be true servants to the people you have brought to us and in their challenges and in their desires and dreams. May we be transformed into true missionary disciples for the sake of the kingdom that we are called to help build. Pray for one another and we pray for those who struggle even among us to allow you to be our Shepherd and to lead us to where You are. We ask at Our Lady to be at our side because we know that she never fails in animating us, being there to affirm us as her children as we close this session we say, Hail Mary, full of grace…