A pair of longtime diocesan ministry leaders retire this December: Maria Covarrubias, Director of the Ministry of Educational Services (MES), and Dr. Jose Antonio Medina, Director of Continuing Formation for Priests. Covarrubias retired on Dec. 22, while Medina will retire Dec. 31.
Covarrubias’s ministry in the Diocese has spanned 31 years.
“The vitality of the Church in the Diocese of San Bernardino is what has kept me in ministry. Knowing that I was able to contribute to the faith journey of others and to witness their growth gave me strength and courage to continue my own journey of faith,” she said.
She began her ministry here in September 1991 as the first Catechetical Coordinator for Spanish speaking families at Holy Family Church, Hesperia. Six years later, in January 1998, she moved to a new ministry as the High Desert Vicariate Consultant for the diocesan Office of Religious Education and Formation (OREF), a brand-new office at the time. There, Covarrubias collaborated in developing the catechetical specializations we currently offer and helped establish the Catechist and Master Catechist Certification processes in our Diocese. She also helped implement Catechists Days events, held successfully each year until the pandemic.
In 2004, Covarrubias was promoted to Associate Director of OREF, and in 2008 was named the Director of the Office of Catechetical Ministry. In this new role, she continued to develop formation opportunities like the Catechist Summer Institute, the MES collaborative Catechetical Conference, the Catechist Scholarship Fund and the Marriage Initiative that began its implementation in February 2010, giving birth to the Office of Marriage and Family Life in July 2019.
In February 2019, Covarrubias accepted the Interim Director position for the Ministry of Educational Service (MES) Department, and on July 1, 2019, she became the MES Director. During the pandemic, she led her department offices in offering information, services and formation needed by the parishes and ministry leaders through virtual ministry and digital platforms.
More recently, Covarrubias and her department have worked on evangelization initiatives, whole community and lifelong faith formation and the implementation of the Synod on Synodality among the MES department ministries and constituencies.
Covarrubias was the first lay woman invited by Bishop Gerald Barnes to be a member of the diocesan Ministerial Personnel and Placement Board in 2005, and holds a master’s degree from Mount Saint Mary’s University in Religious Studies. She also co-founded the National Federation for Catechesis with Hispanics, and had the honor of receiving the diocesan Guadalupe and San Bernardine Awards and the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award from Pope Francis.
“The ministry of catechesis became foundational to each of my ministerial roles ... catechesis taught me the beauty of the Catholic faith and the urgency to form disciples who could by their witness bring people to an encounter and communion with Jesus Christ,” said Covarrubias.
After her retirement, Covarrubias is looking forward to having more time with her family, traveling and engaging in a new part time consulting ministry with Vibrant Faith Ministries.
“My greatest joy and accomplishment have been the opportunity to accompany and mentor others in ministry just like I was mentored by others throughout these years. In addition, I treasure all the friendships that were created and those that remained over the years,” she said.
For the past ten years Dr. Medina has served in the ministry of Continuing Formation of Priests of the Diocese. The role entailed reorganizing the office as well as coordinating the annual Priests’ Convocation, study days, days of prayer, language programs, retreats and programs to inform priests on the issues related to ecclesial and social events that affect their ministry.
In collaboration with the Archdiocese/Dioceses of California, Nevada and Hawaii, Medina has worked on programs to better equip priests to serve their communities, including the Weekly Webinar to Prepare the Sunday Homily and the Program for Recently Arrived International Clergy.
In the Diocese of San Bernardino, in addition to coordinating programs for the Ongoing Formation for Priests, he has been an instructor for the Diaconate Formation Program, the Ministry Formation Institute (MFI), the Liturgy Formation Programs and Catechetical Programs, as well as serving as a consultant for theological issues for the Bishop’s office. He also has been a speaker for formation days, retreats and missions in many parishes of the Diocese.
After his retirement, Medina looks forward to having more time with his family and to pursue other interests in teaching and formation.
“I want to thank both Mrs. Covarrubias and Dr. Medina for their dedicated service and ask for your prayers as we discern the continuation of their important ministries here at our Pastoral Center in the New Year 2023,” Bishop Rojas said in a letter announcing Covarrubias and Medina’s retirements. “May Our Lord bless both of them on their new journey of renewal and rest.”
The Diocesan Pastoral Center gathered on Dec. 15 for a Mass and reception in honor of Covarrubias and Medina’s retirements.