Alberto Rojas, the former auxiliary bishop of the Chicago Archdiocese and native of Aguascalientes, Mexico, became the third bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino Dec. 28.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Gerald Barnes that day, a move that triggered the installation of Bishop Rojas, according to a Diocesan press release.
Bishop Rojas had been serving in the capacity of “coadjutor” (assistant and successor) to Bishop Barnes since February.
The transfer of leadership occurred exactly 25 years to the day that Bishop Barnes was appointed as the second bishop of the diocese, according to the statement.
“In God’s name and forever grateful, I begin my ministry in the diocese as Ordinary Bishop,” the new bishop said. “While continuing to listen and learn more about our large and diverse Diocese, I would like to build on the momentum that is clearly present here.”
An Ordinary Bishop has full responsibility for the governing of a diocese and reports only to the Pope.
Bishop Barnes, who now holds the title Bishop Emeritus of San Bernardino, was the longest serving bishop in a single diocese in the United States, according to the statement.
He succeeded Bishop Phillip Straling on Dec. 28, 1995 to become the second bishop in the history of the Diocese.
Bishop Barnes was known for playing a prominent role in the U.S. Catholic Church’s advocacy for comprehensive reform of federal immigration law and was chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee of Migration and Refugee Service for four years.
Bishop Rojas helped to manage the Diocese just as the pandemic was making its mark by establishing a strong digital presence offering livestreamed Masses, the re-consecration of the Diocese to the Virgin Mary, messages of encouragement, praying the rosary, and weekly Advent reflections.
Since the pandemic, the 93 parishes of the Diocese have not held Mass to their full capacity, which has interrupted the traditional flow of income (the weekly collection taken at Mass) to the parishes and the Diocese.
As a result, some parishes and Catholic schools have had to lay off employees and the Diocese has instituted a weekly furlough program to cut costs.