PALM DESERT—After a one-year hiatus the Bishop’s Dinner returned to the Diocese on April 7 at the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert.
The black tie gala drew more than 960 guests with all proceeds to benefit the Diocesan Seminarian Program. Held for the 18th time, the dinner combines fundraising with fun and fellowship while also serving as the occasion for Bishop Gerald Barnes’ to bestow his Episcopal honor, the Amar Es Entregarse Award.
This year the Bishop honored longtime Diocesan minister Peter Bradley, retiring Catholic Schools Superintendent Patricia Vesely, Diocesan Vice Chancellor Deacon Michael Jelley, longtime Catholic Charities outreach director Belinda Marquez, Sisters of Providence Carol Nolan and Loretta Picucci and the Diocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection.
“These six individuals, together with one ministry, will certainly be part of history of the Diocese when our story is told,” Bishop Barnes said before introducing the 2018 honorees.
Each honoree offered acceptance remarks in a pre-recorded video message.
“It is our responsibility to help our neighbors and I have been so fortunate to do this on your behalf for so many years,” Marquez said.
Of his award, Deacon Jelley said, “it represents the efforts of all those with whom I have worked and served.”
Vesely reflected, “working here with people of faith has allowed me to examine my own faith life through the lens of children, of youth, of parents and of colleagues.”
Bradley described his longtime service to the Church in ministry leadership as a product of the Second Vatican Council. He said lay people will likely play an even bigger role in the Church moving forward. “I would encourage the young people of the Diocese to reflect on their opportunities. The spectrum is wide.”
Sr. Loretta quoted St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians in her acceptance remarks, while Sr. Carol tied in the history of their religious community to their ministry in the lower Coachella Valley. “We are inspired everyday by the wonderful people we have served and loved every day for 15 years.”
The staff of the Office of Child and Youth Protection offered a collective message in accepting their award. “Our children are our greatest asset,” said Associate Elder Sameniego.
Earlier in his remarks, Bishop Barnes invited the audience to reflect with him on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the Diocese being celebrated this year. He asked all those at the dinner who were involved in the Church in San Bernardino and Riverside counties when the Diocese was founded in 1978 to stand and be recognized.
“As a young diocese basically starting from scratch, we’ve found new ways to carry out our ministries when the traditional ways weren’t available to us,” he said. “Whether it is our lay formation programs or different parish governance models we use or the manner in which we have celebrated and incorporated our many cultures in the life of our local Church, we have not been afraid to take the new paths that God has laid out for us.”
A video message from Bishop Phillip Straling, founding bishop of the Diocese, was played at the beginning of the night, setting the tone of the 40th Anniversary remembrance.