Chicago Auxilary Bishop Rojas Named Next SB Diocese Bishop

Pope Francis has named Bishop Alberto Rojas, who currently serves as an auxiliary bishop and Episcopal vicar for the Archdiocese of Chicago, to succeed San Bernardino Diocese Bishop Gerald Barnes. Rojas, who was born in El Zapote de la Labor, Mexico on January 5, 1965, will serve as coadjutor bishop with Barnes until Barnes’ 75th birthday next year, at which point Rojas will succeed him as bishop.
The Diocese of San Bernardino was created in 1978 as an offshoot of the Diocese of San Diego. Geographically, it covers about 28,000 square miles and is the fifth largest diocese population-wise in the nation and the second largest in California after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which is the largest in the country with roughly 5 million parishioners. The San Bernardino Diocese boasts one of the highest concentrations of Latinos in the United States.
San Bernardino County at the time of the 2010 Census was 39.2 percent Hispanic. Latino numbers have grown since then, such that virtually half of the county’s residents are Hispanic.
Catholicism is significant element of the culture in the footprint of the San Bernardino Diocese. Within it, which includes much of San Bernardino County and extends into Riverside County, roughly 38 percent of the population  – 1.7 million – is Catholic. The diocese employs 151 priests to minister to the faithful.
Rojas was named an auxiliary bishop of Chicago by Benedict XVI and ordained bishop there in August 2011. In Chicago he served under Cardinals Francis George and Blase Cupich.
Rojas studied for the priesthood at Santa Maria de Guadalupe seminary in Aguascalientes, Mexico and at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. He was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1997, at the age of 32.
As the Chicago Diocese’s auxiliary bishop, Rojas was Cardinal Francis George’s delegate for the archdiocesan Hispanic-American council and for both bishops George and Cupich he was the Hispanic-American council delegate, the liaison to Hispanic Catholics, a member of the U.S. bishops’ conference’s Hispanic Affairs Committee, and a regional liaison for the National V Encuentro of Hispanic and Latino Ministry.
Rojas was also a member of the seminary formation faculty at Mundelein Seminary from 2002-2010.
Barnes has headed the Diocese of San Bernardino for 23 years, and is now the longest serving bishop in the United States. Diocesan bishops are required by canonical law to submit upon achieving the age of 75 a resignation to the pope, who then has the discretion to accept or reject the resignation. Barnes turns 75 in June 2020.
At a press conference to introduce Rojas to the community on Monday, Bishop Barnes said, “In church language we call this an episcopal transition. In layman’s terms, you might call it a changing of the guard.” Barnes said Rojas would become “the leader and shepherd of the diocese. It is with a great deal of gratitude to our Lord that I present to you our coadjutor bishop, Bishop Alberto Rojas.
“My wish and hope is that we begin this journey united in the name of Jesus Christ, trusting in the spirit of the Holy Spirit to lead us in doing the will of God in our ministries,” Rojas said. “I thank God for the opportunity to serve him in this capacity and am also very grateful to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for trusting in me for this service. With an open heart and mind, I’m looking forward to working with all of you, my brother priests especially, deacons religious men and women, the youth, young adults, the parish leaders, the ecclesial movements, and all the people of good will in the diocese.”

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