New Oakland bishop looks to Pope Francis’ example

Oakland, Calif., May 31, 2013 / 03:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J., was ordained and installed as Bishop of Oakland on May 25, promising to follow Pope Francis' emphasis on caring the poor and the suffering.

“I would like to do for Oakland what Pope Francis is doing for the whole Church,” Bishop Barber said in his remarks at the end of Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

“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,” he said to a filled cathedral.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, the previous Bishop of Oakland, served as the new bishop’s principal consecrator.

The archbishop delivered the homily, saying that Pope Francis “certainly has given us much to think about, and not just think but do, to respond in kind to his example.”

“He is calling us to reexamine our lives, calling us back to basics, to reflect more deeply,” Archbishop Cordileone continued.

“Perhaps, for those in ordained ministry, the most striking of all is his style of preaching. He is so direct and so down-to-earth, getting down to the heart of the matter in a pastoral, personal way.”

Bishop Barber emphasized the importance of collaboration, saying that as a priest he was always grateful “when my superiors allowed – or better yet, made it easier – for me to do my job.”

He said he did not know what he would do about the diocese’s debt.

“But what I do know is this,” he said. “If we are generous with God and generous in taking care of his people, God will take care of us.”

Bishop Barber has roots in Oakland, where his father was born. His mother was born across the bay in San Francisco.

The new bishop thanked former San Francisco Archbishop John Rafael Quinn, who ordained him to the priesthood. He thanked the priest who baptized him, Father John Cummins, who later served as second Bishop of Oakland.

He also had special words for Sister Mary Jude, O.P., who taught him religion in eighth grade.

“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,” Bishop Barber said. “In honoring her, I honor all consecrated religious women, all teachers, and all catechists in our diocese.

Until Pope Francis named him as bishop, Bishop Barber had served as Director of Spiritual Formation at Saint John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1973. He served in numerous capacities, including as a missionary in Western Samoa, an assistant professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, a tutor and chaplain at the University of Oxford, and as chaplain for the U.S. Navy Reserve.

The bishop took a moment to joke about his Jesuit past.

“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!’” Bishop Barber said.
 
“Good people of Oakland, thank you for taking me!” he added.

“In my 58 years of life, it never entered my mind that I would be bishop of Oakland,” he concluded. “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,” he said. “With your prayers, and the grace of God, and Mother Mary’s love, I intend to fulfill it.”

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