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PALM DESERT—The Bishop’s Dinner returned for the 20th time after a year off and served as an occasion for the faithful of the Diocese to honor Bishop Emeritus Gerald Barnes, who retired December 28.

The fundraising event, which benefits the education of Diocesan Seminarians, was back at the J.W. Marriot Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert on May 29. Because of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions attendance was limited to 491. To make up for this and to widen participation, the event was livestreamed for the first time. Preliminary estimates are that the Dinner raised more than $150,000 for Seminarian education.

Bishop Alberto Rojas has decided to continue with the Bishop’s Dinner event, which began under Bishop Barnes in 2000. He used the first one under his leadership to celebrate Bishop Barnes’ 25 years of Episcopal Leadership. The Dinner had always provided an occasion for Bishop Barnes to bestow his Amar Es Entregarse Award. This time, Bishop Rojas gave the award to Bishop Barnes, himself.

“Tonight the [Amar Es Entregarse] comes back to you,” Bishop Rojas said as he presented Bishop Barnes with the award. “A wonderful tradition that you started many years ago; that allowed so many faithful Catholics in this Diocese to be honored for living out your motto of self-giving, totally rooted in Christ’s love for God and one another.”

Representatives of The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (EOHSJ) also lauded Bishop Barnes with a presentation on a new reception area at Bethlehem University that will be named in his honor. Also mentioned was Bishop Barnes’ recent receiving of the Gold Palm Award from the EOHSJ, given to “persons of flawless moral conduct, especially meritorious on behalf of the Order.”

“When I reflect on my nearly 30 years in this Diocese, my heart is filled with gratitude. So much has been accomplished, challenges and blessings have been lived,” Bishop Barnes said in his acceptance remarks. “Amar es Entregarse is about giving, not receiving. For me to be honored with this award is not something I ever expected or hoped for.”

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio del Riego sent a congratulatory video message from Spain that was played during the Dinner. “You are given this award because of the many accomplishments during your long and fruitful episcopal ministry,” he said. “These accomplishments were acts and processes of loving, often sacrificial service.

Former Episcopal Master of Ceremonies Rich Herbst served as the evening’s Emcee. After a video played on life at St. Junipero Serra House of Formation, Father Charles “Gino” Galley, Parochial Vicar at The Holy Name of Jesus Parish, gave keynote remarks on its importance in the formation of diocesan seminarians. Fr. Galley then served as a lively host of the Fund-a-Need portion of the Dinner.