Bishop reports: Parish visits, semi-annual bishops' meeting
Michael C. Barber, SJ
As I write this, it's been only three weeks since I was ordained and installed as bishop of Oakland. I've already confirmed 350 young people.
I was a little shaky at my first ceremony (as I had not attended a confirmation in more than 20 years), but after the first 100 kids I got the hang of it. My first confirmation was in Oakley at St. Anthony's. One of the young women in the parish is an artist and presented me with a surprise gift: an oil portrait she painted of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests. It now hangs in our cathedral rectory. Beautiful.
Last week I went to San Diego for my first meeting of the whole U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. There were about 200 of us, including the U.S. cardinals and the papal nuncio. Being the new boy on the block I was very warmly welcomed, and for the first time experienced the collegiality for which the U.S. episcopate is noted.
Being new, I was appointed to preside at Solemn Vespers one evening. With 200 bishops watching, it was a little intimidating, and I think some of them took bets to see if a Jesuit knew how to do it. (It went OK).
Almost every bishop I met had watched some or all of my episcopal ordination Mass on YouTube — and commented on how well done the liturgy was. (Thank you, cathedral staff!)
This meeting of the bishops was a spiritual retreat consisting of conferences, Holy Hours, Masses, confessions and discussions.
We had two main speakers: Father Robert Barron — who wrote the famous "Catholicism" DVD series and who is one of the best homilists and teachers of the Faith I have encountered. The other presenter was Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto.
Both men spoke to us on the "New Evangelization" with emphasis on clear preaching, celebration of the Eucharist, reaching out to young people and using social media.
Two things stood out symbolically for me:
One was the Mass all 200 of us concelebrated in the old Mission San Diego de Alcalá, founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1769, and the first of the 21 missions in California.
The other was watching all 200 bishops, some quite elderly, sink to their knees for adoration and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the hotel ballroom-turned-chapel. I prayed for you and all your intentions, and the needs of our diocese — especially our priests who are ill or recovering from surgery.
Even in a short time I've been to the compass points of our diocese: Oakley, Fremont, San Ramon, Danville and central Oakland. What has impressed me most is the very warm welcome I have received from all of you. I thank you, and I thank God for the vibrant common faith that unites us in the heart of Jesus Christ.
back to top