By Jim Fair

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Gerald R. Barnes, 75, from the Office of Bishop of San Bernardino, California. Bishop Alberto Rojas, up until now coadjutor bishop of the same diocese, will succeed him as bishop of San Bernardino.

Bishop Rojas was born January 5, 1965, in Aguascalientes, Mexico, a small state in the central part of the country. His parents are Fidel Rojas (deceased) and Maria De la Cruz Garcia. He has three sisters and four brothers.

Bishop Rojas was raised in a devoutly Catholic household and attended Catholic elementary school and high school in his community. He heard the call to the priesthood in his early teens and entered the Diocesan Seminary of Santa Maria de Guadalupe in Aquascalientes at the age of 15. During his seminary formation in Aguascalientes, he also attended Colegio de Ciencias y Humanidades.

Following a visit with family members in California, Bishop Rojas made the decision to complete his seminary formation in the United States. He entered the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois where he would complete his theological studies and earn a master’s degree in Divinity. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago by Francis Cardinal George on May 24, 1997, at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

In the first years of his priestly ministry, Bishop Rojas served as Associate Pastor of St. Gregory the Great parish and then St. Ita parish in Chicago. “I was involved in many pastoral programs and doing ministry with people of all ages from many cultures was a great learning and joyful experience,” he recalls of his years as a parish priest. In 2002, Cardinal George asked him to join the faculty of the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary where he taught for the next eight years.

He was ordained a bishop on August 10, 2011, at Holy Name Cathedral and is the only man that Cardinal George ordained both a priest and a bishop. He chose as his Episcopal Motto, Nos basta el amor de Dios (God’s love is all we need).

In his service to the Archdiocese of Chicago as Auxiliary Bishop, Bishop Rojas served as the Episcopal Vicar of Vicariate III and later Vicariate I. He worked extensively in Hispanic ministry, serving as Cardinal George’s Liaison to Hispanic Catholics and the Archbishop’s Delegate to Consejo Pastoral Arquidiocesano Hispano-Americano. At the national level, he has served as a Spiritual Assessor for the National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors for Hispanic Ministry (NACDDHM).

Bishop Rojas has served on five committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – Catholic Home Missions, Hispanic Affairs, Liturgy, the Church in Latin America, and, most recently, V Encuentro as the Lead Bishop for Region VII.

On December 2, 2019, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States announced that Pope Francis had appointed Bishop Rojas as the Coadjutor Bishop of San Bernardino.

Reflecting on his journey as a bishop at the time of his appointment as Coadjutor, Bishop Rojas stated, “Becoming a bishop has been a powerful, humbling, and learning experience because I never thought I would be one. However, in serving the people of God along with my brother priests, religious sisters, parish leaders, other auxiliary bishops, Cardinals, lay ecclesial movements, and lay people in general, I have become more aware of who we are as Catholic Church. There is a beauty and a challenge in becoming part of the Church Jesus Christ founded once we understand the purpose of His mission which is the salvation of souls. But we also know Jesus is in charge, He is with us, and has given us the Holy Spirit to lead our steps along the way.”

The Diocese of San Bernardino comprises 27,293 square miles in the state of California. It has a population of 4,622,361 people of whom, 1,797,173 are Catholic.

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