By Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes
Our faith promises great reward in heaven. But who could argue that it’s nice to receive commendation once in a while for our earthly achievements at work, in sports, academics, the arts or in ministry. I can also tell you that, from my perspective, it’s just as gratifying to give someone an award as to receive one.
In this Easter Season I have cherished the opportunity to honor 85 faithful servants of our local Church with various awards that are given by the diocese. I bestowed my Episcopal “Amar Es Entregarse” Award upon seven very deserving individuals at the Annual Bishop’s Dinner on Apr. 28. In May, we honored 78 people at our annual Diocesan Awards Ceremony which, for the first time, included an award category for youth. Some were honored for their many years of excellent service to the Church as diocesan or parish employees or clergy. Others received their award for their service to the Church and community-at-large in a specific area, such as education, detention ministry, counseling, health care or immigration services.
Most of these awardees are laypersons and it is during these ceremonies that I am able to reflect on the tremendous contributions of the laity to the faith life of the Diocese of San Bernardino. We are often reminded of the large number of people who have stopped practicing our faith and indeed this warrants our attention. But there are so many in our diocese who are passionately committed to the Roman Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit is truly at work here and I am thankful to God and to all of you for what you do.
An element of the award ceremonies that I especially enjoy is the opportunity to hear the recipient’s story, the unique way in which they have been called to serve God and our Church. This is where we see powerful moments of conversion. We see people whose lives flow from an ongoing encounter with the Lord Jesus. In that way these awards and the gatherings where they are given are important for all of us. They are an opportunity to see the Spirit at work and hopefully for us to think about how God is calling us in our own lives to help build His kingdom.
When I met with Pope Benedict XVI in April during the Ad Limina visit to Rome I had the great privilege of addressing the Holy Father on the topic of the laity. Indeed, I addressed the need that we have to help more of our Catholic faithful enrich their faith life and seek a more deeply experienced relationship with our Lord. But I also reported on the many good works performed by the lay faithful of the western states (California, Nevada and Hawaii) that I was representing. I am happy to report that the Pope and many of his delegates with whom we met during the Ad Limina were aware of and very affirming of the inspiring work of the laity in our diocese and others that I represented.
God has blessed us with so many true disciples in our diocese. They don’t do their ministry for shiny statues or medals and there are so many more out there that I am certain are deserving of recognition. So I again extend my gratitude to all who are glorifying God in the example of their lives.
May He continue to bless you and keep you.