Combined Vicariate meetings focus on the future

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combined_vicariateSAN BERNARDINO—The Diocese of San Bernardino has always charted its course in faith with a spirit of innovation and a ‘can do’ attitude.

 The latest examples of this were on display at the Combined Vicariate Meetings held at the Diocesan Pastoral Center on February 13 (San Bernardino Pastoral Region) and February 21 (Riverside Pastoral Region). After two years of focusing on important anniversaries (Bishop Gerald Barnes’ 25th and the Diocese’s 40th), the annual meetings of parish leaders and staff had a decidedly forward spin, themed Siempre Adelante (“always forward”)

 “Our story has always been about moving ahead,” Bishop Barnes said during his morning address. “It’s not about being stagnant or complacent…it’s about going where God calls us to be as individuals, as parishes and as a diocese.”

 In looking to the immediate future of Diocesan leadership Bishop Barnes revealed in his remarks that he has petitioned the Vatican for a Coadjutor Bishop, one who would assist him in governance of the Diocese until his retirement and then become the Ordinary of the Diocese. Coadjutor Bishops are typically named when there is a crisis of leadership in a Diocese or when the Ordinary Bishop’s ability to carry out his ministry is limited because of his health. Bishop Barnes said neither of those causes are present here.

 “We are asking that because of the complexities of our Diocese that they send someone that would use at least nine months to a year to learn what this Diocese is before taking over and not delay in the leadership,” he said. “To try to get to  know us—that’s my reason.”

 Following the Bishop’s talk, attendees were invited to attend one of four morning breakout sessions. One session was offered by the Office of Young Catholics, detailing an exciting new proposal to offer young women of the Diocese the opportunity to have a Mission experience within the Diocese. It would be a six-month ministry based at what is called a Diocesan Mission House. Another breakout session called “A Journey Toward a New Awakening” was offered by the Office of Catechetical Ministry. It detailed some significant proposed changes to how religious education might be delivered to children and youth in the Diocese. Some elements now offered in a parish setting would be provided by the child’s parents.

 The third breakout session, “The Path to Lay Ecclesial Ministry” detailed some of the initiatives and changes in the Ministry Formation Institute since 2017, especially those related to the Continuing Ministry Formation Program (CMFP). It explored the ongoing process to institutionalize in the diocese the role of “Lay Ecclesial Minister” under two general categories: 1) Ministry Leaders and 2) Pastoral Associates. The fourth breakout session, “How to Build a Joyful and Thriving Pastoral Team,” was presented by the Diocesan Department of Planning and Transitions. It detailed a new process focused on building a cohesive team of lay ministers around the pastor/pastoral coordinator to work together in the mission of the Church.

 Participants were invited to attend a second breakout session in the afternoon and the day concluded with table and large group sharing about the learnings of the day.

 Laura Figueroa, a receptionist and youth coordinator at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Yucaipa, said she was excited to learn about the Mission proposal for youth and  young adults.

 “They’re going to be able to have the experience to explore their calling,” she said. “Not a lot of parishioners know about Mission. This would be an opportunity not to just talk about it but to show them.”