By Bishop Gerald R. Barnes
It has now been a year since I entered the retirement phase of my life. It began on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and in a sense, I was innocent as to what retirement would mean for me. I had some ideas of what I wanted to do, visiting friends and family around the country, seeing some sights I had always wanted to visit.
But like with everyone else, those plans were hijacked by the pandemic. Like everyone else I had to adjust to the new reality. Yes, I had ideas of what I wanted to do, but the question of what retirement would mean for me was still not in the picture.
I also ran into mobility problems that took four months out of the year. I am fine now but those four months just added to the cross of the pandemic. You can see that the first year of retirement has kept me pretty much homebound.
I have remained active on committee work with the California Catholic Conference on the Laudato Si Standing Committee and on the Anti Racism Task Force. Both groups are so necessary in the times we live. I am grateful that I can participate in the discussions and proposals they present.
In all I do not know that I was ready to retire. My life as priest and bishop had been so active, even to the final days before the Holy Father accepted my letter of resignation as Diocesan Bishop because of age. I had questions: how would I continue to live a life of ministry? What kind of ministry is the Lord calling me to in the evening of my journey? But with the restrictions of the pandemic and my mobility issues, I had to learn to let go and just ‘be.’
Entering retirement was not as easy as some had told me. It was, or should I say, is, difficult to adjust. Some relatives and friends have shared with me that it took them about a year to accept a new lifestyle, to find a purpose in their retirement years.
What has happened to me is that I discovered time to reflect: time to pray and listen to the Lord without having to squeeze time for reflection between preparing for meetings, attending meetings, reading reports, preparing talks, covering social and liturgical functions and all that engulfs the life of a bishop.
The discovery of time to reflect, pray and listen is the part of retirement that has been a true blessing and I believe, will take me to understand what retirement means for me. It has not been easy; there have been challenges, but in the end the Lord continues to free me to be the person He loves just being me. I have reviewed my life throughout this year with the help of looking through pictures, rereading letters, and reminiscing of the years gone by. I must say I am grateful for the vocation God has called me to with its blessings and challenges.
As I look to the Diocese, I am very hopeful. I hear all that is going on in the Diocese and I see how Bishop Rojas has taken the helm and we are here to listen to him and have him listen to us. He, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will lead us in these next decades as a local church. I am delighted that the Synod is happening at this time under his leadership. It will help him set a direction for our entire diocese especially reaching out to those on the peripheries and those who have left the Church as well as those who have not felt welcomed. The Synod is a great process for us all and I encourage everyone to do their part to help us receive the grace that comes from this process. We are ready for it. The people of the Diocese, priests, religious, deacons and laity are ready to go forward to where God is calling us: Siempre Adelante.
I am so grateful to the people of the Diocese for their kindness to me throughout my years as their bishop. You are the wealth of this local church. Your commitment, your desire to learn and be formed in the faith; your openness to be part of the diversity that God has blessed us with, your willingness to address the challenges that present themselves to us; your embracing of the core values of hospitality, reconciliation, faith sharing and collaboration are all signs of a vibrant church filled with the spirit of missionary disciples. You are the community of believers in Jesus the Christ, called to impact, family, neighborhood and society with the Gospel, so that people’s lives are filled with hope.
What more could we desire? God is with us. Believe in Him and believe in yourself, for you are His beloved. Amar es entregarse.
Blessings and affection to you all.
Bishop Emeritus Gerald R. Barnes served as the Bishop of San Bernardino from 1996-2020.