Bishop Alberto Rojas says goodbye to archdiocese

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Bishop Alberto Rojas says goodbye to archdiocese

Bishop Alberto Rojas will serve as coadjutor of the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, beginning Feb. 22. The archdiocese said farewell to him during a vesper service at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines on Jan. 19, 2020. Included here are photos from his ministry as a bishop in the archdiocese.
Cardinal Cupich joined other Chicago auxiliary bishops and clergy from the San Bernardino Diocese at an evening vespers service for Bishop Alberto Rojas at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines on Jan. 19, 2020. Pope Francis recently named him coadjutor bishop of San Bernardino (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A member of the congregation records the opening procession. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Gloria Alcalá, secretary to Bishop Rojas when he served in Vicariate III, proclaims a reading during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Karen Gorajski, administrative assistant for Vicariate I, delivers the intercessions. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People hold hands in prayer during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Rojas addresses the congregation. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Rojas was the main celebrant during a Mass where 18 people were instituted rites of Lectorate and Acolyte as part of the Instituto de Liderazgo Pastoral at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish, 3721 W. 62nd St., on Aug. 23, 2019. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Rojas smiles as he accepts the gifts during a Mass celebrating the 100th anniversary of Immaculate Conception Parish, 2745 W. 44th St., on Sept. 21, 2014. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Rojas plays a guitar and serenades Mary during a Mass to celebrate a new image of Our Lady of Guadalupe at Centro Espiritual Caminoy y Esperanza in St. Anne, Ill., on Dec. 10, 2011. Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
Bishop Rojas washes the feet of teens during St. Agnes of Bohemia's “Pascua Juvenil” on Holy Thursday April 5, 2012. The three-day event was held at the Blessed Sacrament Youth Center, 3600 W. Cermak Road, in Little Village. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Rojas joins participants in song during an immigration posada outside St. Peter’s Church in the Loop on Dec. 19, 2014. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Rojas hands out white carnations at the end of a Mother’s Day Mass at St. Joseph Church, 4821 S. Hermitage Ave., on May 11, 2014. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Rojas blesses a boy during Communion at a Mass at Holy Family Church on Jan. 15, 2017. The Mass was held before the March for Life Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Rojas carries the Eucharist through the crowd during adoration at a concert for Cielo Abierto on June16, 2018. Cielo Abierto (Open Sky) is a Latin-American based initiative that uses sacred music and powerful preaching to evangelize. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Rojas calls worshipers to prayer during the beginning of Mass for Guadalupe Societies from parishes in the archdiocese at the shrine in Des Plaines on July 21, 2012. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishop Alberto Rojas blesses the congregation at the conclusion his ordination as an archdiocesan auxiliary bishop at Holy Name Cathedral on Aug. 10, 2011. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Francis George anoints the head of Bishop Rojas during his ordination as a bishop at Holy Name Cathedral on Aug. 10, 2011. (Jon Hendricks/Chicago Catholic)

If Bishop Alberto Rojas has learned one thing in his eight years as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago, it’s to trust in the Holy Spirit.

It’s that trust he will call upon when he moves to San Bernardino, California, at the beginning of February to assume the role of coadjutor bishop.

“It’s the Holy Spirit that leads us,” said Bishop Rojas, 55, who moved to Chicago from Aguascalientes, Mexico, as a seminarian in 1994. “It’s not based on our own capabilities. It’s God working through us.”

That’s what Cardinal Francis George told him in 2011, when then-Father Rojas was reluctant to accept his appointment as auxiliary bishop of Chicago.

“He told me that at the beginning, we are all nervous,” Bishop Rojas said, recalling an early morning meeting at the cardinal’s residence. “No bishop knows everything. We all learn as we go. And everything he said was true. God works with us through our weaknesses. You just have to say yes. You see it throughout the Bible, from prophets in the Old Testament to Mary herself.”

Bishop Rojas‘ appointment to San Bernardino was announced Dec. 2, 2019. As coadjutor, he will serve with Bishop Gerald Barnes, 74. Bishop Barnes will turn 75, the age at which bishops are required to submit their resignations to the pope, in June; as coadjutor, Bishop Rojas will automatically become the ordinary of the diocese upon Bishop Barnes’ resignation or death.

A Mass of welcome for Bishop Rojas is planned for Feb. 24.

Bishop Rojas said the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, first called him about 10 days before the announcement was made, and his life has been a bit of a whirlwind since then.

“I feel like I’m a bit up in the air,” he said in a Jan. 10 phone interview. “I’m still working for the archdiocese until the end of the month, but people in California also want my attention.”

Bishop Rojas has served as episcopal vicar of Vicariate I, which includes Lake County and northwest suburban Cook County, since 2018. Before that, he served as episcopal vicar for Vicariate III, which includes the West Side of Chicago as well as the near Northwest and near Southwest sides.

He said he’s learned about being a priest and bishop from both Cardinal Francis George and Cardinal Cupich.

“I’m very grateful to both of them,” said Bishop Rojas, who was a member of the first class of priests ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago by Cardinal George in 1997. “Cardinal George was part of my very beginning as a priest, and he was such an intelligent and holy man. And Cardinal Cupich is an amazing person. He’s so organized and such a good administrator. If I could take the lessons I’ve learned from both of them, I would be a very good bishop.”

Bishop Rojas said he doesn’t want to try to compare the Diocese of San Bernardino to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“The two dioceses are so different,” he said.

San Bernadino was founded in 1978 and is in southern California. It stretches from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on the north to the Diocese of San Diego on the south and from the California border with Arizona and Nevada on the east to the Diocese of Orange on the west.

Bishop Rojas said he was surprised to learn how big his new diocese is. It claims 1.7 million Catholics in a total population of 4.5 million people, and is administered by an ordinary with no active auxiliary bishops. The Archdiocese of Chicago has 2.2 million Catholics in a total population of nearly 6 million and has six auxiliary bishops in addition to Bishop Rojas

It is the nation’s sixth largest diocese, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I didn’t know how big it was until after I said yes,” Bishop Rojas said.

He’s looking forward to having time to work with Bishop Barnes to learn more about the diocese, he said.

“He’s a wonderful man as well,” Bishop Rojas said. “I plan to ask him to give me a good number of confirmations to help me get to know the parishes.”


  • bishops

Related Articles