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Catholic Voice
May 20, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Michael C. Barber, SJ,
becomes fifth bishop of Oakland

Schedule for the ordination,

Voice marks 50 years
of spreading the Good News

Archbishop Brunett reflects
on his time in Oakland
New Oakland bishop to be ordained May 25

Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ

The Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ, who will become Oakland's fifth bishop on May 25, has served as far away as Micronesia, Toronto and England, and as close to home as Menlo Park, where he helped train men who are serving as priests in the diocese.

He will be the first bishop of Oakland to have been baptized by a former bishop of Oakland. As an infant, Michael Charles Barber was baptized at Mission Dolores by then-Rev. John S. Cummins.

Bishop-elect Barber, a 58-year old Jesuit, will be the first of his order to serve as bishop of Oakland. Drawn to the Jesuits in part because it was a teaching order, he has spent much of the last decade as a spiritual director and instructor in seminaries, including St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, and St. John's Seminary in Boston.

Described as humble by his fellow priests, he went so far as to ask the apostolic nuncio, who told him of his appointment, if the nuncio had the right Rev. Michael Barber, SJ. There are three of them.

He was assured that he was the Rev. Michael Barber, SJ, Pope Francis had in mind.

The bishop-elect met the media and chancery staff on May 3 in Oakland. He was introduced by the Most Rev. Alex J. Brunett, the retired archbishop of Seattle who has served as apostolic administrator since Oct. 4, when the previous bishop, the Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, was seated as archbishop of San Francisco.

More about
Bishop-elect Barber:

Bishop-elect Barber
from those who know him

New bishop reflects
on his journey to Oakland
"I'd like to express my gratitude to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for his trust and confidence in appointing me bishop of Oakland," Bishop-elect Barber said. "I am humbled that I am the first Jesuit priest to be appointed a bishop by our new Jesuit pope."

He said he had accepted the mission in accordance with the fourth vow of obedience to the pope he had taken.

"That being said, I am absolutely delighted to come to Oakland as your new bishop," he said.

He thanked Archbishop Brunett for "coming out of retirement to serve us in this time of transition," and Archbishop Cordileone for agreeing to ordain him on May 25.

"I ask for your prayers — I really need your prayers — that I may be a shepherd in accordance with Christ's heart," he said. "In return, I promise you my total commitment, my total dedication and my affection as your servant and bishop."

The bishop-elect has served as director of spiritual formation at St. John Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston since 2010.

Bishop-elect Barber said, "I have a lot to learn about the church in Oakland. I'll look forward to meeting with the priests and parish communities, seeing what the priorities are." He did say he had a good example to follow.

"I'm keeping my eye on Pope Francis and watching what he did in his first days as pope, reaching out to the poor and marginalized," he said.

When his brother, who is also a Jesuit priest, served as a prison chaplain at San Quentin State Prison, the bishop-elect was often invited to celebrate Mass and visit with prisoners.

"I'd like to go to our county jails, our city jails," he said. "I'd like to participate in our soup kitchens and in Catholic Charities, getting my hands dirty, handing out food, washing dishes, pots and pans, wherever I can symbolically show the church is there to serve the poor and marginalized."

He also said he'd like to get in the schools. "I joined the Jesuit Fathers to be a teaching priest," he said, describing a school day of teaching five sections of sophomore history, followed by coaching water polo and swimming.

"I believe in our Catholic schools," he said, noting that they provide an opportunity to "bring the light of Christ to people in the community."

After the media conference, he met with the chancery staff and made his first public appearance since the announcement at the 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral. About three dozen priests joined in the unusually long weekday procession.

He gave a brief homily, in which he noted that the feast day they were celebrating was that of St. Philip and St. James. He told the gathering that he had taken the name of St. James the Less as his Confirmation saint, because he was the shortest boy in his class.

The man who will be the fifth bishop of Oakland is the first priest to be appointed. His predecessors — Bishops Floyd L. Begin, John S. Cummins, Allen H. Vigneron and Cordileone — had served as bishops elsewhere.

"I offer my congratulations and prayers to Bishop-elect Barber. As fellow Sacramentans, we have known one another for many years," the Rev. Thomas H. Smolich, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States said in a statement. "I know him to be a man of prayer and discernment who will be a fine pastor for the people of Oakland."

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