By Bishop Gerald Barnes
What does love for the Church look like?
It has many faces; participating in the everyday life of the Church, attending Mass and keeping up with our Sacraments, living out the teachings of the Church, contributing our resources of time, talent and treasure, teaching and passing along the faith to our children and others. This is a familiar checklist.
But in a larger sense, loving the Church is like navigating a road, a way. Sometimes the way is clear and our footsteps are sure. Sometimes the road is uncertain and the ground seems to move underneath our feet.
As we celebrate our 40th Anniversary as a Diocese in November, we find our road made difficult by the re-emergence of the clergy sexual abuse crisis. It is part of our history as a diocese and we continue to reckon with it, to reach out to victims of abuse, to acknowledge our past failings, repent and commit ourselves to the change that is needed to prevent the abuse of children, and adults.
What should give us cause for hope is that our Diocese has navigated the difficulties of our road many times throughout our history. Right from the start we faced big challenges; cultural divisions, how to start ministries from the ground up, with few resources and already a shortage of priests. The answer came quickly and blessedly in the form of you – the Catholic faithful of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. You recognized what needed to be done, how the Kingdom would be built here and you committed yourselves to it. That has been the blueprint for pursuing every dream and weathering every storm along the way. That is what loving the Church looks like.
Some have asked, will the Church survive this crisis? In the strength of our people, informed by the Holy Spirit, I believe it will. God has been with us as we grew from a brand new Diocese in 1978 to the nation’s sixth largest today. We are a sprawling, thriving community of faith, rooted in the values of hospitality, collaboration, faith sharing and reconciliation. We are young, old, black, white, brown, yellow, disabled, sick, healthy, heterosexual, homosexual, Cradle Catholics, converts and so on. As the famous author James Joyce once wrote about our Church, “here comes everybody.”
So let us look now to the road ahead, the next 40 years and beyond, with gratitude to God for His blessings and His accompaniment of us. We can have hope that we will make it through this present crisis, with all the corrections and changes that need to take place, and those to come because we know He is always with us and He will give us all that we need to keep going.
May God bless you and your families and loved ones.