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​Following the Word of the Lord in faith and service

September 23, 2019 | posted by Catholic News Agency

Topics: Vocations

Following the Word of the Lord in faith and service

Bishop Gerald Barnes, a priest of the Archdiocese of San Antonio and longtime bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino, Calif., was honored for his lifetime of priestly ministry at the Assumption Seminary Leadership in Faith and Service Celebration Aug. 29.

About 350 benefactors, formators, teachers, administrators, volunteers and seminarians attended the evening event at the Holy Trinity Banquet Hall, which featured an invocation from the “Singing Seminarians,” and remarks from Father Father Hy Nguyen, rector. J. Michael Belz, president/CEO of Catholic Life Insurance, served as emcee for the gathering.

It was especially fitting that Bishop Barnes, a former seminary rector who is nearing retirement in his episcopal role in California, was celebrated that evening, being recognized for his decades of diligent work to ensure that every seminarian is given the opportunity to pursue his vocation.

The bishop was praised in remarks prior to the award presentation by Father David Garcia, a 45-year friend of the honoree from their days on the seminary faculty. “Bishop Gerry has been both a dear and close friend to me but also what I truly celebrate is that he has also been an example, a model, and a challenge to my ministry and as I reflect back on my years of priesthood I am so much more blessed because of this man. He has been an example in priesthood as in his episcopal ministry that we hope those who follow him and especially our seminarians will take note of as they grow in their formation as future ministers.”

Pope Francis has often spoke about priests and bishops: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service.” “Amar es entregarse” ... to love is to give of oneself; that is Bishop Barnes’ episcopal motto.

“Pope Francis himself leads and gives of himself with humility. Humility is knowing who you are and what you have and who you are not and what you do not have. No one has all the gifts or qualities for serving the church, not the pope, not any bishop, not any clergy, not anyone,” said Father Garcia. “That is why one of the chief ministries of a bishop is to call forth the many gifts he does not have from others so that the church is well served. Bishop Gerry has always done that throughout his life of service.”

Father Garcia recalled that one of the very first discussions with Bishop Barnes 45 years ago was why he chose to come to the Archdiocese of San Antonio. He said at that time he had recently left a religious order but was looking to become a priest to serve the Mexican American people since there was a lack of native born Hispanic clergy. San Antonio was a natural fit for him. He was sent to spend time before ordination at St Timothy Parish, one of the poorest parishes deep in the Westside. He said he felt a welcome there and in San Antonio immediately: “Mi casa es su casa.” That same welcome Bishop Gerry has lived as a motto of his ministry. He has modeled a ministry of welcome to all groups, female and male, young and old, every race, every ethnic group, those who have felt left out, excluded, most vulnerable, those who are on the edges of society, on the periferias as Pope Francis says.

One person from his diocese told Father Garcia recently: Bishop is always sensitive to “who is missing at the table.”

When people feel welcome, they are allowed to be themselves, to share who they are without fear, to give of their gifts, to own what they do in a deeper way, and to invest themselves, their gifts and resources, Father Garcia explained, so that what God has given them is shared with the community as God intended. “Welcome, ‘La Bienvenida’ is the first and most important ministry we can offer people. It begins the journey of encounter with the community of faithful and the invitation to fulfill our call. Bienvenida is an attitude you decide to have as a person,” he emphasized. “It means I will suspend judgement about others, I will not use words that demean anyone, I will always look for a way to make each feel they are special and have dignity. If you develop an attitude and style of life that is La Bienvenida your service will be so much more rich. Bishop Gerry is the example for us in that respect.”

Father Garcia continued that one aspect that follows La Bienvenida is understanding and extending what it means to be Catholic. “To be Catholic is to always have the widest vision, yes to include all, but also to encourage others to dream the big dreams, to take the risks that help accomplish the dreams even when that means much work and even opposition and criticism,” he stressed. “Bishop Gerry is Catholic. He has the vision. He has always seen the big picture, what can be, what we are called to be together. A good leader knows that it is not about him or her. The servant leader calls all to capture that vision and help generate the enthusiasm to march toward it.”

The former director of the Old Spanish Missions praised Bishop Barnes for transforming his diocese and making it a model diocese in the country. “He transformed each place he served as a priest,” he concluded. “This diocese and this seminary are better because he was with us. It has all been for the good.”

In his comments after receiving a stand ovation, Bishop Barnes fondly recalled the diversity he found in the Archdiocese of San Antonio during his time here, comparing it to the neighborhood in which he grew up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.

Prior to the Benediction, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, asked attendees to remember why they were supporting Assumption Seminary. “For more than 100 years the seminary has been tasked with forming men with the heart of Christ the High Priest for faithful service to the Gospel in today’s Church,” he said.

Speaking to the seminarians, he thanked them for answering the call of Jesus. “Always let the Gospel challenge you,” he encouraged. “Keep your mind and heart open to the conversion and course-correction that will always come with listening to the voice of the Lord, and saying with confidence, ‘Here I am, send me… and send me where You, O Lord, want me to go.’”

He told then young men to look around at the people of God gathered in the room. “They are here because they care about you, but also because they care about the Church,” he exclaimed. “They want you to be men of integrity and passion, men of fidelity and vigor, men who cannot wait to take another step in the Gospel you have been sent to serve and to share.”

Archbishop Gustavo then challenged the faithful present to renew their convictions in their support of the men. “Those challenges are still present as they have always been, but the Church remains alive and bold, facing the challenges with the faith that is built on solid rock,” he stated emphatically. “May we stand united in faith and love, and may we continue to share together in the mission Christ has entrusted to us, and to the seminarians formed at our seminary.”