Nigerian bishop sending missionary priests to run large parish in Rancho Cucamonga

San Bernardino Bishop Gerald Barnes has turned over a Rancho Cucamonga parish to a diocese in Nigeria whose bishop has agreed to send priests to staff it.

In a March 12 statement, Bishop Barnes announced he had “entrusted the pastoral care of Sacred Heart Parish, Rancho Cucamonga to the Diocese of Ahiara in Nigeria effective July 1,” according to an announcement posted on the diocesan website. “The Diocese of Ahiara has agreed to assign their priests to assist the Diocese of San Bernardino by staffing Sacred Heart Parish.”

Sacred Heart, which opened a new 1400-seat sanctuary in 2007, has 2800 families and seven Masses each Sunday, according to the parish website.

The Diocese of Ahiara, according to its website, serves more than 380,000 Catholics at 70 parishes in southern Nigeria. It has 216 incardinated priests, 115 “senior seminarians,” and 656 “minor seminarians.”

By contrast, the Diocese of San Bernardino serves about 1.2 million Catholics at 93 parishes in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, with 119 diocesan priests and 125 priests from religious orders. There are approximately 50 seminarians preparing for the priesthood in the diocesan seminary.

The Nigerian diocese has already sent 41 missionaries to serve the Church in the United States, with five of them currently working in the San Bernardino diocese.

“Father Benedict Nwachukwu, currently administrator at San Salvador and Immaculate Conception Parishes in Colton will serve as pastor of Sacred Heart,” said the San Bernardino diocesan announcement. “A new administrator/pastor will be named for the two parishes. Father Cletus Imo, currently administrator at Sacred Heart, will receive a new assignment in July.”