Sunday, March 4, 2007

"This is where the people are"

Trade Show Evangelization with San Bernardino's Bishop Gerald Barnes, DD
By Paul Dion, STL

Here's a bishop who gets it. The Bishop, His Excellency Gerald Barnes, his auxiliary bishop, His Excellency Rutilio del Riego, and much of his staff rented space at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress held March 1-4, 2007 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

This congress has been an annual event for many years. This year, it is reported that the attendance at the congress surpassed all previous years by attracting more than 40,000 participants.

Bishop Barnes is the Ordinary of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California. He has 2,000,000 Catholics in his territory. I don't dare guess how many square miles of Southwestern desert it covers. But one thing is sure, Bishop Barnes knows that during the "Anaheim Convention," the key people to whom he delegates his teaching authority will be there.

He knows that if he is going to meet his key people, he has to make himself available. So he did. He was so available that he even consented to have his likeness appear on the Internet in the pages of

Bishop Barnes was present in his booth for the entire three days of the convention. He was there among the vendors, the hawkers and the gawkers. He was there talking to everyone.

We at wonder how many people from across North America asked themselves "why is that bishop here in the middle of this mayhem?"

Many people in fact made the point, "Bishop, it is so nice to see you here."

His response was ever simple and direct, every time, "This is where the people are."

I encountered his auxiliary (Bishop Del Riego) blocking an aisle in the middle of the exhibit hall. I gently took his arm and guided him to a corner of the intersection and gently and humorously chided him, "Bishop, why are you standing in the middle of traffic?"

He looked at me, smiled and said, "This is where the people are."

When I asked Bishop Barnes' permission to take his photo, he graciously acquiesced and asked if I wanted him to stand by my side. I said, "no, just continue working, it will impress the readers." So he smiled and continued working. The result is at the top of the page.

Bishop Barnes is an advocate of daring forms of evangelization., "America's Catholic Life Style Magazine" operates from within the boundaries of his diocese. Bishop Barnes has parishes in his diocese that have revolutionized the presentation of the doctrinal truths to the people in the spirit of the United States Bishops' Pastoral letter, "Our Hearts were Burning Within us."

He has parishes that strive to encourage "home faith formation schooling" in order to embrace the growth of the Domestic Church (the family at home) so that the parents and the children grow in the faith together. He has parishes that organize mini-conventions of doctrinal presentations for adults in an effort to make these same people realize what it means to be disciples of Christ.

Bishop Barnes inserts himself into the locations where "the people are."

Bishop Barnes had his own booth at a "trade show." He was there among them. He had nothing to sell. All he had were his ears.

No one knows all that he heard. We assume that he heard plenty. We know that he heard it in English and in Spanish. We know that some of it was about immigration and maybe some of it was about the bankruptcy of theSan Diego Diocese, just a few miles down the road. Some of it was good. commends Bishop Barnes for spending three days in the floor in the arena where the people were.

Bishop, I'm not planning to be in your diocese when God comes to take me by the hand. Of course, God has His own designs for me. Be that as it may, please remember that I don't want any crying at my funeral.

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