MONTEREY, California — Since Pope Francis appointed Bishop Daniel E. Garcia as the fifth bishop of Monterey, countless people have asked him, “How did you land that job?”
The small diocese sits on the Pacific Coast just north of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It includes the well-known areas of Pebble Beach and Carmel as well as the rural areas of the San Benito Valley.
“Upon hearing about my appointment to the Diocese of Monterey, many people immediately commented about the beautiful terrain,” Garcia said in the homily at his installation Mass Jan. 29 at Madonna del Sasso Parish in Salinas. More beautiful than the scenery are the people, he said.
“Let us not forget what is most important and most beautiful — the people living here, those who work here and those who serve here. They are who enable our diocese to be a beautiful reflection of God’s beauty and goodness,” the bishop said.
The Monterey Diocese has 46 parishes and 18 Catholic schools and a population of about 200,000 Catholics. Bishop Garcia thanked those who welcomed him so graciously and said he looks forward to walking with them and serving them.
“My brothers and sisters in Christ … I come to you first and foremost as a pastor for that is what I do best and that is what I am trained for,” he said. “It is my desire to get to know you and for you to get to know me. I come to share with you my gifts … with joy and hope we will learn from each other as we continue to build upon what has already been established and given to us in this local church,” the bishop continued.
“I want you to help me to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters around us especially those who are most vulnerable and often get lost in the midst of our policies, our politics and structures in the church and outside of the church,” Garcia said.
Garcia, 58, was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Austin, Texas, by Bishop John E. McCarthy May 28, 1988. He was raised in Cameron, Texas, a small town east of Temple. In 2014, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez appointed then-Father Garcia as vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Austin.
Pope Francis appointed him as the first auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Austin in 2015, and last November named him to head the California diocese.
Garcia thanked his family, friends, brother priests and fellow co-workers from central Texas for their love and support.
“I am especially thankful to Bishop Joe Vasquez for being here and for whom I was blessed to walk with these last five years,” he said.
Garcia also acknowledged and praised the work of his predecessor, Bishop Richard Garcia, who died last July from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
“I realize that I follow the legacy of a good man … who served you well. My friends, his presence will continue to be with us. The impact he made upon so many of you will be everlasting,” the new bishop said.
Garcia briefly reflected on the readings of the Mass saying that Jesus calls each of us to love one another as he loves us. The Eucharist is where we as Catholics are strengthened, he continued.
“Sunday after Sunday, and day after day, we gather around an altar such as this one not because we are perfect but because we are not. We gather to seek the Lord’s guidance and wisdom to become more like him. It is from this table of the Eucharist and this table where the word of God is proclaimed that we are strengthened by Christ for one another,” he said.
“God weeps each and every time that one of our brothers and sisters is hurt by our actions, or by our words, or by our gestures or by our thoughts, but also by our indifference to their struggles,” Garcia said.
“It is time for you and me to change the way we treat one another, especially the least among us and those who are different from us,” he said. “If our church is to be one that is to grow, we must first and foremost make people feel welcome and help people to see that they do belong and that they do have gifts that are honored and are treasured.”
Garcia also gave thanks for the great work of the Franciscans, including St. Junipero Serra, who is buried at the Carmel Mission very near the city of Monterey. Garcia’s home also is located at the Carmel Mission.
St. Junipero was a Franciscan missionary from Spain; he and his fellow Franciscans founded many Catholic missions in California.
“May St. Junipero Serra intercede for us today as we continue the mission of spreading the good news to all that we encounter,” Garcia said.
During vespers on the night before Garcia’s installation, retired Auxiliary Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson of Los Angeles, who served as administrator of the Diocese of Monterey after Bishop Richard Garcia’s death, welcomed Monterey’s new bishop to the diocese.
“The people of Monterey come from all over the world, and each has brought the beauty of their culture and their language to share with this diocese. We are one body in Christ,” Wilkerson said.
Through Garcia’s leadership and “the hard work of clergy, religious and faithful of this diocese of Monterey, the seeds of faith planted by the missionaries who came before us will rise up and will nourish a new generation,” he said.
Metcalf is editor of the Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Austin.