Bishop Barnes Retirement
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

By Anneliese Esparza
Managing Editor

When Bishop Barnes began leading the Diocese of San Bernardino in 1996, there were just over 600,000 Catholics in the region. Throughout his episcopacy, the number of Catholics continued to steadily climb to where it is today, at nearly 1.8 million. At the same time, the region’s population has become increasingly diverse, and is now one of the most ethnically diverse regions in the nation.

“Everybody decided to come to the Diocese at the same time, and they came from all over the world, which is a great blessing and a great challenge. It’s like if you’re married and you don’t have a child, and then about five years later you have a child, and then now you have seven. And all came relatively at the same time and you still have only a two or three bedroom house. That’s what happened here,” said Bishop Barnes of the Diocese’s immense growth.

“We didn’t have enough personnel. We didn’t have enough finances, and we didn’t have the structures. And so, we did what we could. There was a lot more that was needed,” said Bishop Barnes.

One major challenge was finding a way to construct churches and other buildings for the growing Diocese despite having limited funds. It was often a long journey for parishioners to raise enough money to fund their new church. “In some places it took years: 20 years for them to build their church, 25 years to build a bigger church. They’re having Masses with half the people outside, half the people inside, even in all kinds of inclement weather,” said Bishop Barnes.

On the diocesan end, the goal was to build churches as economically and efficiently as possible. To this end, the Diocesan Office of Construction and Real Estate created a standardized plan for building new churches.

“To address the demand for larger worship spaces due to the substantial population growth and high cost of construction, the Diocese developed, with the support and inspiration of Bishop Barnes, a prototype structure that has greatly reduced construction cost while maintaining an architecturally pleasing building with an emphasis on ‘simple nobility,’” said David Meier, Director of the Office of Construction and Real Estate.

“Also guided by Bishop Barnes, the Diocese constructs new churches as owner-builder, which enables the Diocese to realize about a 20 percent reduction in overall cost of a project,” added Meier.

Using this strategy, the Diocese was able to complete 54 major construction projects under Bishop Barnes’ episcopacy (1996-2020). Of these, 33 were completely new structures (such as a church, multipurpose building or school building), 19 were renovations/expansions and 2 were other (a temporary church structure and an entrance/courtyard). The building boom reached its apex in 2016 when Bishop Barnes dedicated three new worship space - Queen of Angels, Riverside; Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Winchester, and St. Adelaide, Highland - during one weekend in April.

Bishop Barnes said that despite not being able to build everything he had wanted to, such as a youth center in every vicariate and a Catholic hospital in the Coachella Valley, he feels that the Diocese did the best it could given its resources. “I had a lot more plans and ideas for the Diocese, but time catches up with you, and it’s somebody else’s turn ... We tried our best. We made some mistakes, but we had a lot of success,” he said.

Bishop Barnes said that the current Synod on Synodality will be an excellent time for the Diocese to take stock of its past and present while planning for the future. “[During the Synod] we can ask ourselves, how do we build on this and go forward? Always forward. I think the Synod will help give some direction to that,” he said.