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New Oakland bishop inspired by pope’s vision of church
May 29th, 2013
By Michele Jurich

In a joyful celebration that incorporated the many gifts of the diverse communities that make up the Diocese of Oakland, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, was ordained and installed as the fifth bishop of Oakland on May 25 at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone was the ordaining bishop of Bishop Barber, who succeeds him in Oakland. Other ordaining bishops were Bishop Carlos Sevilla, SJ, bishop emeritus of Yakima, Wash., and San Jose Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Daly.

With his brother, Jesuit Father Stephen Barber, at his side, and his brother, Kevin Barber, serving as reader, Bishop Barber, 58, became the first Jesuit to be seated as bishop of Oakland. He is also the first priest to be named bishop of Oakland. All previous bishops had previously been ordained bishops.

During his remarks, Archbishop Cordileone told the new bishop that he could count on the support of his brother bishops.

During the rite, in which chrism was poured on his head and hands to anoint him, Bishop Barber received the ring, miter and crozier before being invited to occupy the cathedra, the bishop’s seat in the cathedral.

At the end of the Mass, the new bishop moved through the cathedral, blessing the people and receiving applause.

“People have asked me, ‘what is your vision as bishop?’” he said as he made remarks from the ambo. “I would like to do for Oakland what Pope Francis is doing for the whole church.”

He was interrupted by applause.

“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, and the sick and the suffering.”

The new bishop thanked three people “here today who have played an important role in my life.” He thanked retired San Francisco Archbishop John R. Quinn, who ordained him to the priesthood in 1985.

“The priest who baptized me as a baby at Mission Dolores Church back in 19-hundred-and,” he said, running his hand across his mouth to playfully obscure the date, “He’s here today. Father John Cummins, the second bishop of Oakland.”

“Thirdly, the Dominican sister who taught me in the eighth grade,” Bishop Barber said. “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.”

He offered greetings to Gov. Jerry Brown, who had trained three and a half years as a Jesuit, before becoming governor of California, twice, and mayor of Oakland.

“Governor, I’m honored that you are here today, because on this day, only here in Oakland, in the state of California, in the United States of America, do you have a Jesuit bishop, to go with a Jesuit pope and a Jesuit governor.”

Bishop Barber’s career as a priest focused on education, with assignments including assistant professor of theology at Gregorian University in Rome; researcher and tutor at Oxford University in England; director of the School of Pastoral Leadership in the Archdiocese of San Francisco; assistant professor of systematic and moral theology and spiritual director at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University in Menlo Park; and director of spiritual formation at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass.

Bishop Barber said that until three weeks ago it never entered his mind that he would be bishop of Oakland.

In his initial nervousness, he said he recalled that Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the previous apostolic nuncio had told a priest who was nervous about being made a bishop: The Lord himself is going to be bishop of your diocese. You’re only going to help him.

“That’s what I’d like to do,” he said. “I’m helping our Lord here be the bishop of this diocese. I know I’m unworthy, but I do know one other thing: That for all eternity, in the mind of God, to be bishop of Oakland has been my vocation. With God’s help, and your prayers, and the love of Mother Mary, I intend to fulfill it.”

The bishop left the cathedral to the “Navy Hymn,” in tribute to his service as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy.

Jurich is associate editor/staff writer for The Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Oakland diocese.


From May 31, 2013 issue of Catholic San Francisco.



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