Bishop Alberto Rojas succeeded Bishop Gerald R. Barnes Monday as the bishop of San Bernardino, California.
The Holy See press office announced Dec. 28 that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Barnes, who turned 75 on June 22.
The move paved the way for the succession of Rojas, who was appointed coadjutor bishop of the diocese on Dec 2, 2019. The 55-year-old Mexican-born bishop will now take charge of the fast-growing diocese, which was established in 1978 and serves more than 1.7 million Catholics.
Barnes, who has led the diocese for 25 years, announced in August 2019 his intention to retire at the age of 75, when diocesan bishops are required by canon law to submit their resignations to the pope.
Following the appointment of a coadjutor bishop, Barnes said that “the next 12 months will be a year unlike any other in recent memory in our diocese. It will be a time of ending, of new beginnings and, for me, a time of transition.”
Barnes was appointed as an auxiliary bishop of San Bernardino in 1992. In 1995, he was made ordinary bishop. The San Bernardino Sun described him in December 2019 as the longest-serving bishop at a U.S. diocese.
Rojas was born on Jan. 5, 1965, in El Zapote de la Labor in the state of Aguascalientes in central Mexico. At the age of 15, he began his training for the priesthood at Santa Maria de Guadalupe seminary in Aguascalientes.
He completed his seminary formation at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago by Cardinal Francis George on May 24, 1997.
Rojas was ordained as auxiliary bishop of Chicago on Aug. 10, 2011, becoming the only man to be ordained both a priest and bishop by the cardinal, according to his biography on San Bernardino diocese’s website. His episcopal motto is “Nos basta el amor de Dios” (God’s love is all we need).
Rojas served as George’s Liaison to Hispanic Catholics and the Archbishop’s Delegate to the Consejo Pastoral Arquidiocesano Hispano-Americano. He also worked as a spiritual assessor for the National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors for Hispanic Ministry.
San Bernardino has one of the highest concentrations of Hispanics in California. According to the United States Census Bureau, 54.4% of the county’s 2.2 million population is of Hispanic or Latino origin.
Upon his appointment as coadjutor in San Bernardino, Rojas said: “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.”