No current Roman Catholic Bishop in the United States has led his diocese longer than Bishop Gerald Barnes of the Diocese of San Bernardino.
His longevity and legacy will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday at a Diocesan Mass to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop. The mass will be held at St. Paul the Apostle Church, 14085 Peyton Drive, Chino Hills.
The 25th anniversary mass will reflect the multicultural profile of the Catholic Church in Inland Southern California with liturgical dancing, different cultural attire and scriptural readings proclaimed in multiple languages. A total of 19 Catholic bishops are expected to attend, including Bishop Emeritus Phillip Straling, the first Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.
“What strikes me is that this is an opportunity for everybody to come together not only to give thanks for Bishop Barnes and his leadership but also an appreciation for how we’ve grown during his tenure,” says Sue Long, principal of Our Lady of the Assumption School in San Bernardino. “It’s vision in action and he has given it legs.”
After serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of San Antonio for 17 years, Bishop Barnes was ordained a bishop on March 18, 1992 and served as the first Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino, assisting Bishop Straling in his pastoral leadership. On Dec. 28, 1995, Saint John Paul II appointed him to succeed Bishop Straling as Ordinary Bishop. On March 12, 1996, he was installed as the second bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino.
Bishop Barnes’ 21-year Episcopacy has been marked by explosive population growth, as the number of Catholics in San Bernardino and Riverside counties has ballooned to 1.6 million, making it the sixth largest diocese in the United States. Bishop Barnes has addressed this in part by establishing extensive educational programs to prepare lay Catholics to assume leadership roles in ministry that had been historically occupied by priests and nuns. The Diocese of San Bernardino’s Ministry Formation Institute, established in 1998, has become a national model for forming lay Catholic ministers.
Bishop Barnes has also been a leader in the U.S. Bishops’ advocacy for comprehensive reform of the nation’s immigration laws, having served as the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services Committee from 2003-2007. In July 2014, the Diocese gained national attention when it worked with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to give temporary shelter to a small group of Central American refugees at a Fontana parish.
Other events and promotions will be offered throughout the year to help the faithful of the Diocese focus on the pastoral vision of Bishop Barnes. Anniversary events focusing on youth and young adults, ethnic communities and adult faith formation are planned. Bishop Barnes' Episcopal Motto, Amar Es Entregarse (“Love is the total giving of oneself”) is the theme of events surrounding his 25th anniversary. A special rosary has been designed in honor of Bishop Barnes’ anniversary.