By Bishop Alberto Rojas
Dear friends, peace and wellbeing to you and to your families. As we close another tumultuous year, I hope the Christmas celebrations have been a joyful blessing to you. Most people are grateful for what they have received. I am especially grateful for the gift of Bishop Barnes in our Diocese for many years. We will continue to keep him in our prayers and wish him the best in his retirement life.
When I received that phone call from the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, telling me that Pope Francis had sent me to the Diocese of San Bernardino, I was terrified! I never thought I would have to leave Chicago.
A few minutes later, the next phone call I got was from Bishop Barnes, who asked me, “How are you doing?” I said, “I am terrified.” And he told me, “Don’t be afraid, you will be fine.” Then he asked me to get in touch with John Andrews, our Vice Chancellor and Director of Communications.
My fears of facing the unknown started to fade away when I arrived in San Bernardino in the middle of February 2019. I was surprised by joy and gratitude as I found a solid foundation in place thanks to the leadership and pastoral care provided by Bishop Barnes for many years.
There is always room to grow, but the sense I get of the Diocese in my personal experience so far is that of a house built on solid rock, as we can read in the Gospel of Matthew 7:24. Yet we can say that the harvest is abundant, and the laborers are few. However, these few laborers work hard and are committed and dedicated to serving their flocks with compassion and love.
The priests, the religious sisters, the deacons and their wives, and many more men and women of goodwill work hard to serve God in the people of our Diocese in different capacities. Bishop Barnes gave them a good example because he trusted and believed in Jesus Christ’s message and mission that “Amar es entregarse” (Love is the total giving of oneself).
I have found that the Catholic people in our Diocese are faithful and committed to their faith communities; they are self-giving, hospitable, welcoming and willing to collaborate in helping each other. There is no doubt those are qualities that were nurtured by Bishop Barnes in his 25 years as Ordinary Bishop.
When I first met Bishop Barnes, we were in Baltimore attending the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting in 2012. He was the chair of the Hispanic Affairs Subcommittee, and I had just become a member of the subcommittee. There he invited me to be part of a group that was coordinating the youth and young adults in preparation for the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic Ministry. At that time none of us knew I would be succeeding him here in San Bernardino, but his confidence in me, his love for the poor and marginalized, his concern for the immigrants and his pastoral leadership were evident qualities of a good shepherd.
Many thanks to you, Bishop Barnes, and may God give you all the blessings, and many years of a peaceful and joyful retired life with us. You are always in my prayers. Sisters and brothers, I invite you to please join me in keeping Bishop Barnes in our prayers, that the Lord in his love and mercy grant him a healthy and joyful retired life. Peace and blessings to you all.
Bishop Alberto Rojas is the Ordinary Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino.