As the Church of San Bernardino continues its journey of faith over the next 40 years and beyond we look at five pressing issues in our immediate future.
Who will be the next Bishop of San Bernardino?
The Diocese has had only two Ordinaries in its 40-year history and Bishop Gerald Barnes is 19 months away from submitting his mandatory letter of resignation to Pope Francis as he reaches the retirement age of 75. Bishop Barnes has asked parishes, schools and diocesan ministries to offer input on the qualities that will be needed in the next Bishop, and that information, along with the Bishop’s own thoughts on his successor, will be submitted to Rome. But the ultimate decision rests with the Holy Father.
How will the Sacramental needs of the faithful be met?
The Diocese of San Bernardino is one of the largest and fastest growing in the nation. While this demonstrates life and vitality in the local Church it presents a great challenge in the area of vocations to the priesthood. We currently have one priest for every 6,072 Catholic laypersons, among the highest ratios in the United States. There are currently 34 Diocesan seminarians in formation. The local Church continues to call on the entire faith community to be more intentional in promoting vocations to the priesthood. The Diocese is also promoting the construction of larger new churches, which allow for fewer (and larger) weekend Masses. Parish governance has, in some places, been given to deacons, religious sisters and laypersons, in the form of the Pastoral Coordinator designation. While these measures all help in alleviating the ministerial burdens on priests in parish ministry in the Diocese, this remains a most difficult challenge.
Can the Catholic school system in the Diocese be sustained?
The Catholic schools of the Diocese must maintain enrollment at a level that allows for financial health and keeping up with changes in education. With mostly lay faculty and staff this has become more difficult. Overall enrollment in the Catholic schools has been flat during the last ten years, but the Diocese was forced to close three schools in that time period. Local Catholic schools in higher socioeconomic areas are faring well but many neighborhood parochial schools in the working class communities of the Diocese are struggling with enrollment. New Catholic Schools Superintendent Sam Torres has said that making Catholic education a viable option for Hispanic families, who are fueling current and future population growth, is a key to boosting enrollment in our schools.
How will the Hispanic Catholics of the Diocese respond to the call of the V Encuentro?
The Catholic population of the Diocese is more than 70 percent Hispanic. As such, the chief call of the V Encuentro process that began in 2017 and concludes next year, is for Hispanics to assume greater leadership in the Church and its future growth. V Encuentro invited all Catholics to reflect on this new reality. Discussions and plans of action that have emerged from the process show many different points of view within the Hispanic population of the Diocese, often based on generation and specific culture and country of origin.
What will be done to keep youth and young adults of the Diocese engaged in their faith?
Bishop Barnes has long identified the critical period after Confirmation and into young adulthood as a place where Catholic ministry must be strengthened. After three years of formalized catechetical programming, these new, fully initiated Catholics are expected to enter into and navigate the period of “Mystagogia” on their own. Many do not. It is estimated that about 10 percent of the total U.S. population is made up of former Catholics. Those who minister to youth are also challenged by the increasing influence of secular culture, which tends to emphasize individual importance over the common good. Many parishes in the Diocese have thriving youth ministries but a greater focus at the Diocesan level will be creating formation programs for the family level, so that parents can play a greater role in the teaching and sustaining of their children’s faith.