By Sr. Sue Reif, OSF
Over 30 years ago, during a Hispanic Vocation Conference, I visited with a priest whom I will never forget. His vision of Church and of women in the Church lifted my spirits and gave me hope. He told me his name was “Gerry Barnes” and that he worked in San Antonio.
Our paths did not cross again until 2008. That fall, I accepted a job for the Diocese of San Bernardino as the first Director of the Office of Restorative Justice. I soon realized that Bishop Gerald Barnes was the priest that I had met years ago. How wonderful it was to now witness the ways he was living out the vision that I heard him talk about in the 1980’s.
I spent the first few months learning about what was happening in Restorative Justice, accessing needs, setting goals and priorities. There was so much to be done, not only in jails, juvenile halls and prisons BUT also with families of murder victims, families of the incarcerated, re-entry, and advocacy! I knew that I could “not” sit in an office if I was going to help the Diocese move forward with this important ministry! Thank God for Bishop Barnes! He was totally committed to Restorative Justice in all of its aspects, and offered support and encouragement in all that I was doing. He directly involved himself in many ways, including regular visits to detention facilities, meeting with prison chaplains, and presiding at Victim Memorial Masses. It was a real blessing for me to work with Bishop Barnes in building a ministry that is of the upmost importance in the Church today!
Thank YOU, Bishop Barnes, for your great vision of Church, the ways that you value and utilize the gifts of women, and for your deep commitment to Restorative Justice!
Sister Sue Reif is the former Director of Restorative Justice for the Diocese of San Bernardino and now serves as Executive Director of Healing Hearts Restoring Hope, which ministers to those impacted by homicide.