By Khaeryst Estrella
Knowing that this Diocese is the sixth largest in the nation with more than 1.6 million Catholics, the fact that I have shared a personal friendship as a 17-year-old student with the shepherd of this local Church demonstrates the genuine care and concern that he has for every one of his sheep.
Bishop Barnes teaches with compassion, governs with wisdom, sanctifies with hope, and leads all with love. From guiding the nation as a chairman of different committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to sponsoring full scholarships for lower income high school students in his Diocese, it is apparent that Bishop Barnes’ flock is not limited to the boundaries of the Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
Personally, Bishop Barnes has become one of the most important figures in my life. My family has been blessed to be involved in providing music for Diocesan liturgies, which gave leeway to my own involvement and gave me a chance to get to know Bishop Barnes. However, I feel that relationship with Bishop Barnes flourished greatly after I graduated from Our Lady of the Assumption School. As a wide-eyed 13-year-old freshman, I was named the inaugural recipient of the Bishop’s Scholarship for Aquinas High School, which means I was generously granted a four-year, full, merit-based scholarship to attend the local Catholic high school. This alone has been my main source of motivation throughout my high school journey.
Through my strengthened connection with him, I grew habits of writing him letters about my experiences and talking with him about my hopes and dreams for the future. Through his responses, I was given valuable insight that I will cherish forever. Hence, Bishop Barnes has not only been a spiritual guide, but he became somewhat of a grandfather figure.
This is only one example of the many relationships that Bishop Barnes has formed over the years he has served as Bishop; therefore, I can attest that one of the greatest tools that he utilizes to share the Good News is his relationship with the people. I know that my life has been drastically impacted by Bishop Barnes, and I pray that he will be blessed abundantly in his continued ministry.
Khaeryst Estrella is a senior at Aquinas High School and a parishioner at Our Lady of the Assumption in San Bernardino.