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Three laywomen and two priests comprise this year’s Amar Es Entregarse recipients. As is the case every year, the winners each serve the Diocese in their own unique way, but the common thread is that they have all exemplified Bishop Emeritus Gerald Barnes’ Episcopal Motto Amar Es Entregarse (Love is the total giving of oneself).

Bishop Alberto Rojas is continuing the Bishop’s Dinner and the bestowing of the Amar Es Entregarse Award, which were begun under Bishop Emeritus Barnes’ Episcopacy. The recipients will be receiving their awards at the 21st Annual Bishop’s Dinner on May 14.

Below is a short background about each recipient and their response to being awarded.

Maria Echeverria

Maria Echeverria has had a long history of parish and diocesan ministry. At the parish level, she did a little bit of everything: lectoring; founding the Hispanic Ministry at her parish; directing the Passion Play; working in Marriage Enrichment; the Walk for Hunger and the Parish Festival; serving on the Parish Finance Council and the Pastoral Council and more.

Echeverria’s first diocesan role was as a translator for Bishop Phillip Straling. Her subsequent roles have included the secretary and then Senior Office Administrator for Bishop Gerald Barnes. She has served as Vice Chancellor of the Diocese and Director of the Department of Apostolic and Ethnic Affairs for the last 17 years.

Echeverria has represented the diocese in many civic, regional and national forums and served on many diocesan committees or commissions as well, including the Commission on the Status of Women in Church and Society, the Behavioral Health Committee, the Latino Education and Advocacy Days, the San Bernardino Catholic Schools Board, the Anti-Racism Commission, the Commission for Families of Gay and Lesbian Catholics and Operation Bienvenida.

Echeverria said it was “overwhelming” to receive the news of the award. “Working for the Catholic Church, either as a volunteer or as staff, is part of who I am, so getting an award for it seems a bit surreal,” she said.

“What I’ve tried to instill in working with all the very diverse groups, ministries and individuals throughout my ministry life, is that even if we all have different functions and methodologies, our purpose is the same: to help bring people to God and God to people. Some do it by preaching or catechizing, others by feeding the hungry, others by working for justice, others by running retreats, others by extending kindness to the marginalized, etc. etc., but it is all about God’s love,” said Echeverria.

“To me, ministry is a calling, not a chore, and should therefore be done with love and bring hope to others. Kindness is at the heart of any ministry. A very simple thought that I learned from a loved one: It is pleasant to be important, but it is more important to be pleasant,” said Echeverria.

Ann Marie Gallant

Ann Marie Gallant has worked as the Director of the Diocese’s Emergency Operations Collaborative (EOC) since its founding in 2012, but the importance of her ministry has never been more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gallant has worked tirelessly these past two years to address the many challenges that the pandemic has posed to the Diocese, from working with Riverside and San Bernardino counties to set up testing and vaccination sites to helping to draft COVID guidelines for the Diocese’s parishes and schools.

Gallant said that she was surprised to hear the news that she would be receiving an Amar Es Entregarse Award. “My ministry is focused on safety, security and emergency response preparedness. So often, those types of programs are considered a ‘necessary annoyance,’ particularly when ministry leaders have so many other competing priorities. So to have the program acknowledged at this time – given what we have endured these past two years with the pandemic – is very rewarding,” said Gallant.

“Because of its secular nature in so many ways, I constantly remind myself that the EOC plays a major role in the mission of the Diocese itself – ‘to fill people’s lives with hope.’ And, certainly, there is no more important time to do this when members of the Diocesan community are faced with some of the most devastating tragedies in their personal lives,” said Gallant.

“During these terrible times, the Diocese, through its EOC ministry and the cooperation of our parishes and schools, has provided the necessary support to those in need, reassuring them that our emergency response team is there to assist them during these challenging times, whether with public information, directives and training, emergency supplies or simply reassuring advice,” said Gallant.

Very Rev. Rafael Partida

Father Rafael Partida has had a variety of roles in his nearly 40 years of priestly ministry, including parish ministry, ministry with young Catholics and ethnic groups and spiritual direction and retreat ministry.

His parish assignments, as either parochial vicar or pastor, have included Our Lady of Guadalupe, Ontario; St. Edward, Corona; St. Christopher, Moreno Valley; Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, Riverside; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Indio; St. Ann, Needles; St. John XXIII, Rialto; and, currently, St. Patrick, Moreno Valley.

Fr. Partida has also served as Vicar for Native American Affairs for a number of years and was the Spiritual Director of the American College Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Leuven, Belgium (2006-2010). Fr. Partida has been the Episcopal Vicar of the Riverside Pastoral Region since 2013.

Fr. Partida said he was “surprised and humbled” to hear the news of his award. When asked what he always tries to keep in mind as he serves the people of God, Fr. Partida said, “What echoes in my heart always and my goals are, from God: Tell the people I love them; I have always loved them. And [my goal] to myself: Always speak with love and truth.”

“And what resonates in my heart: God is my delight,” added Fr. Partida.

Very Rev. Romeo Selección, M.S.

Father Romeo “Romy” Selección, M.S., has served in many ways, including parish and ethnic ministry.

His parish assignments, as either parochial vicar or pastor, have included Our Lady of the Desert, Apple Valley; St. Peter and St. Paul, Alta Loma, St. Paul the Apostle, Chino Hills; and, currently, St. Christopher, Moreno Valley.

Fr. Selección has also served in Filipino Ministry, in Asian Pacific Ministry and on the Diocesan Planning Committee.

Fr. Selección became the Vicar Forane for the High Desert Vicariate in 2001 and then the Episcopal Vicar of the San Bernardino Pastoral Region in 2008.

“As a representative of the Bishop, I always carry in my ministry that ‘I am the heart of the Bishop’ to the people of God,” said Fr. Selección, adding that he always tries to keep in mind that he is here to serve, not to be served.

On receiving the award, Fr. Selección said, “It means a lot to me to receive an award that perhaps recognizes my contributions in achieving the vision of the Diocese: ‘To fill people’s lives with hope.’”

Virginia Turner

Virginia Turner, Senior Director of the Office of Human Resources, has worked in the Office of Human Resources for over 17 years. She said that receiving the award means a lot, “to know that the work I do does not go unnoticed.”

“I am here to provide service to all employees of the Diocese in the best way possible, yet while supporting and promoting the Mission and Vision of the Church in my work and in my dealing with our employees,” said Turner.

When asked about her goals as she carries out her ministry, Turner said they are the following: “To serve in partnership with diocesan leaders; to ensure that employees receive fair treatment, a safe work environment and proper administration of diocesan policies in a non-discriminatory manner; and to continue providing training workshops in various employment related areas for those in supervisory positions.”

“My 17 and a half years of working in the Office of Human Resources have definitely not been without challenges, but the joy that comes from the work in my ministry outweighs those challenges,” added Turner.