By Malie Hudson
CHINO HILLS—Bishop Gerald Barnes celebrated his 25th Episcopal Anniversary with a Diocesan Mass on March 18 at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Chino Hills.
The Mass opened with an entrance procession that was almost 15 minutes long. It included members from the Knights of Columbus, Equestrian Order of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of St. Peter Claver.
Permanent deacons from throughout the Diocese, as well as their wives, were also in the procession; followed by priests from nearly every parish in the Diocese, and seminarians.
Bishop Barnes was also joined by a dozen brother bishops including Bishop Emeritus Phillip Straling, the first Bishop of San Bernardino, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Rutilio del Riego. The other bishops who concelebrated were Bishop Richard Garcia of Monterey, Bishop Emeritus Robert Brom of San Diego, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry of Los Angeles, Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar of Los Angeles, Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark of Los Angeles, Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell of Los Angeles, Auxiliary Bishop Myron Cotta of Sacramento, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Gerald Wilkerson of Los Angeles and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Dominic Luong of Orange.
When Bishop Barnes, himself, finally entered the church, the congregation broke out in spontaneous applause.
“He wanted the Mass to be about the people and not necessarily about himself,” explained Sister Jeremy Gallet, SP, Director of the Diocesan Office of Worship. “He really wanted it to be a visible celebration of the Diocese and the people and that was why we had so many involved and so many ethnic groups here.”
Representatives from many ethnic groups in the Diocese were dressed in bright, colorful costumes from their culture and together performed a liturgical dance to the accompaniment of drums and piano while the choir sang “Akwaaba! Welcome!”
Highlighting the four core values of the Diocese, local Catholics who embodied the virtues of Reconciliation, Faith Sharing, Collaboration and Hospitality were chosen to carry the banners to the altar during the procession. Sr. Gallet said that it was another special request from Bishop Barnes.
During the liturgy, the Tongan community brought the Gospel to the altar. A child seated in a chair covered in ceremonial Tongan tapa held the gospel as members of the Tongan community solemnly carried him to the altar while the choir sang a Tongan hymn acapella. The Mass readings were proclaimed in Vietnamese, Indonesian, Spanish and English.
Bishop del Riego gave tribute to Bishop Barnes during a bilingual homily.
“Today is a day to remember. To bring to mind and to heart those experiences that the Lord has given you in the exercise of your ministry as a bishop,” said Bishop del Riego. “Today is a day of thanksgiving to God for the enumerable graces and blessings you and the Diocese have received through you and you have received, yourself.”
Prayers spoken in Spanish, Igbo, Samoan and Vietnamese were offered during the Prayers of the Faithful.
Representatives of the African community brought a purple cloth to the altar, hand woven specifically for the occasion.
“The cloth was made in a local village in Ghana for this celebration. It was hand weaved. No machine was used, so it took months to make it,” explained David Okonkwo, Director of the Diocesan Ministry to Catholics of African Descent. “We wanted to show our Bishop how much we love him and how much we appreciate the gift of his spirituality.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, Bishop Barnes thanked everyone for celebrating his Jubilee Anniversary.
“Twenty-five years ago I came not knowing anyone here,” he said. “Twenty-five years ago I came and you did not know me, but I think it has been a good match.”
After Mass, Bishop Barnes spent his time greeting a long line of guests from around the Diocese who wanted to congratulate him on his Silver Jubilee.
“He’s actually known me since I was a baby,” said Junior Pome’e, a member of the Tongan Community. “It meant a lot to me and my family to be here. I was lucky to be here today.”
Viviane Nguyen, who helped represent the Vietnamese community during the liturgical dance, acknowledges Bishop Barnes’ work in her own community.
“He has come to us and we talked with him and it was very meaningful,” said Nguyen. “It was the way he talked to us about how the youth should be a part of this new era. It was very impactful.”
Sister Marilu Covani, SP, who served as the Director of the Office of Worship for 18 years before retiring in 2015, also came to celebrate.
“I’ve had the grace of working with him for all this time so it’s a joy to be here,” she said. “I think he has done such wonderful work for the Diocese, so to see how we are celebrating him today and how we have welcomed each other is overwhelming.”
A lively reception followed in the courtyard with a mariachi band, food and fellowship with Bishop Barnes’ extended family and friends.
Malie Hudson is a freelance writer based in Riverside.