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Catholic Voice
  June 10, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA

Bishop Barber's message to the people of the diocese


Most Rev.
Michael C. Barber, SJ

Note: These were Bishop Barber's first remarks to the diocese after his consecration as Bishop of Oakland May 25.

I overheard a woman say to a Jesuit before Mass this morning: "Thanks for giving us Father as our bishop." The Jesuit replied: "Thank you for taking him!"

Good people of Oakland . . . thank you for taking me!

First a word of thanks: to Your Excellency Archbishop Viganò, Apostolic Nuncio. Please convey to the Holy Father my sincere thanks for the tender and affectionate words he wrote in that mandate. Archbishop Cordileone, Bishops Sevilla and Daly, thank you for being my consecrators.

Archbishop Brunett: Everyone I have spoken with hates to see you go. You will go down in the history of Oakland not as the apostolic administrator, but as the BELOVED apostolic administrator of our diocese. On behalf of the priests and people of Oakland, thank you!

There are three people who have played a very important role in my life who are here today that I would like to thank:

Archbishop John Raphael Quinn, who ordained me to the priesthood in 1985. All I ever wanted to be in life was a priest. Thank you for that gift, and for your friendship.

The priest who baptized me as a baby at Mission Dolores back in nineteen hundred and … is here today: Father John Cummins, second bishop of Oakland. (There are no coincidences.)

And thirdly, the Dominican Sister who taught me in the eighth grade is here. You may not realize it, but this sister has taught every person in the diocese of Oakland — because she taught me the faith, and I will hand it on to you.

In honoring her, I honor all consecrated religious women, all teachers and all catechists in our diocese. Thank you Sister Mary Jude.

Vision

People have asked me "What is your vision as Bishop?"

I would like to do for Oakland what Pope Francis is doing for the whole Church.

My vision is this: The priests take care of the people. The bishop takes care of the priests. And we all take care of the poor, the sick and the suffering — those suffering physically and spiritually.

What's my style of collaboration? When Archbishop Levada first came to San Francisco, his secretary, Father Thomas Merson, was driving the archbishop to confirmation at a distant parish. All along the way the archbishop was telling Father Merson first to take this short-cut, and then that detour, and did he know this other way was faster . . . Father Merson pulled over and stopped the car on the side of the road. He looked at the archbishop and with the greatest respect said: "Your excellency, would you prefer to drive the car?" (priests love that story) Cardinal Levada told that story about himself at Father Merson's funeral.

As a priest I was always grateful when my superiors allowed — or better yet — made it easier for me to do my job.

Diocesan debt

People have asked me: "What are you going to do about the diocese's debt?"

Short answer, I don't know yet.

But what I do know is this: If we are generous with God and generous in taking care of His people, God will take care of us.

In London there was a man in the hospital who wanted desperately to speak with a priest. The nurse called the chaplain. He was not available. The nurse started phoning parish after parish and could not find any priest to come.

Finally she called a parish way on the other side of the city: St. James' (Spanish Place). The pastor answered. Even though the hospital was not in his parish boundary, he said "I'll come." He took the holy oil and the Blessed Sacrament and got on the subway and went to the hospital. He treated the patient with great kindness, encouraged him, comforted him and gave him the sacrament of the sick. As the priest was about to leave, the patient asked if he could give the priest something for his trouble. The priest said, no, no. The sacraments are free. It's been a pleasure.

The sick man insisted and said he wanted to do something for the priest. Finally the priest said, "Well, I've been trying to raise money for a new furnace for the church. If you want, you can make a donation to our furnace fund." The man not only paid for the whole furnace, but paid for the remodeling of the sanctuary, repairing the stonework, and put a new roof on the church.

Turns out he was one of the richest men in the world: J. Paul Getty Jr.

If we have generous hearts and take care of God's people, God will take care of us.

In my 58 years of life, it never entered my mind that I would be Bishop of Oakland. It probably never entered your minds either. I know I am unworthy. But I also know that from all eternity it has been in the mind of God that this is my vocation. With your prayers, and the grace of God, and Mother Mary's love, I intend to fulfill it.

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