Since Pope Benedict XI appointed Richard Garcia as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Monterey in 2006, he has been the spiritual leader of tens of thousands of parishioners at dozens of churches in a region that spans from Santa Cruz to Hollister to San Luis Obispo.
On April 27, the diocese announced Garcia, 71, has been diagnosed with an early stage of Alzheimer's disease, following several weeks of not feeling well.
“This news is difficult to learn, but Bishop Garcia has great faith and a deep spiritual life to assist him in facing this diagnosis,” a diocese statement says.
"This news has taken some time for bishop to adjust to as it has only been in the last few weeks that signs of this disease have become more pronounced and evident to him."
According to the statement, no decisions about future leadership have yet been made.
Father Peter Crivello who is been second in command and assumes responsibility when Garcia is traveling, is currently filling in, but there has been no formal transfer of responsibility or titles.
In his time at the Diocese of Monterey, Garcia has been active on several policy and social justice issues. He has spoken about being welcoming to immigrants, and Catholic Charities has become a go-to contractor to provide outreach services to immigrants with questions and concerns about their status.
Garcia also supported the creation of Monterey Bay Community Power, a regional joint-powers authority that is competing with PG&E to sell power with a focus on a renewable portfolio, and made the fight against climate change a clear priority.
Garcia also made news when came under scrutiny for failure to take action against a priest accused of sexually abusing boys despite receiving letters from parents alerting him to the abuse. Instead, Fr. Edward Fitz-Henry was moved from parish to parish, and continued to contact with youth, until he was eventually removed from the priesthood.
Before serving in Monterey, Garcia was a priest in San Jose for 24 years then a bishop in Sacramento for nine years. His successor in Sacramento, Bishop Jaime Soto, issued this statement:
“Bishop Garcia possesses a resilient hope and a resolute love for the Lord Jesus. I am certain that these personal graces will sustain him for the journey ahead, along with the companionship of our abiding prayers and affection.”