IBy Nicholas Plante ’18
In the introductory remarks he made shortly after being designated to our diocese, Bishop Barres said, “While growing up… I had a clear vision across the Sound of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, never knowing that God’s vision and providence would one day bring us together.”
Although the new bishop has spent a considerable portion of his life outside of New York, God eventually called him back to lead a body of well over one million believers here. Bishop Barres had no inkling that he would end up overseeing the spiritual growth of a community so close to where his own faith first blossomed. Yet, it was through that same faith that he was able to accept the Lord’s plan for him and humbly dedicate himself to serving the Church.
The bishop served for over seven years in Pennsylvania, but he never assumed the role of an ecclesiastical elite. Instead, he remained humble and carried out the work of a local pastor. In fact, Bishop Barres himself often says that he has the “heart of a parish priest.” While working his way up the Church hierarchy, he has remained deeply connected to his people. Bishop Barres looks forward to working closely with the multitude of parishes and communities throughout his episcopate.
As he stated at his installation Mass, “I am looking forward to experiencing the vibrant, welcoming, new evangelization parishes of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.”
Fr. Garrett Long, S.M. ’62, the chaplain of Chaminade High School, was one of the many concelebrants of Bishop Barres’s Mass of Installation. He described the bishop as “very enthusiastic, down-to-earth, and a real people person,” adding, “He will surely bring a new vitality to our diocese and boost the morale of the clergy.”
Driven by an unwavering vitality and constant willingness to serve, Bishop Barres has gone to work here without hesitation. Although he is now presiding over six times as many people and well over a hundred parishes, the head of the diocese will continue to give all of himself for God’s people.
A couple of Chaminade students in attendance were also blessed to have the chance to speak with their new bishop. “As soon as I shook his hand, I recognized his genuine nature and could feel kindness radiating from him,” recalled Aidan Cappellino ’20.
The freshman spoke with Bishop Barres about his participation on the football and wrestling teams at Chaminade, and the two even shared a few laughs. Before leaving, the bishop reminded Aidan to sustain a strong spiritual life along with his athletics.
“We only talked for a few minutes, but what he said made me want to be a better man on and off the field or mat,” said Aidan.
Since his days in Allentown, the bishop has prioritized the evangelization of young people, always trying to relate to them personally by mention of sports or personal anecdotes. Following in the footsteps of the pioneer Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Bishop Barres uses social media, especially his Twitter account (@BishopBarres), to supplement his preaching. In an increasingly digital society, this can help him better reach out to the youth.
Driven by an unwavering vitality and constant willingness to serve, Bishop Barres has gone to work here without hesitation. Although he is now presiding over six times as many people and well over a hundred parishes, the head of the diocese will continue to give all of himself for God’s people. Our new bishop looks to focus on many of the same areas he worked on in Allentown, but he will also make adjustments to meet the needs of his new community.
The Holy Spirit speaks to people at various stages of their lives and in many different ways. It is important that the leaders of the Church make an effort to cultivate vocation by opening young people up to the possibility of the Holy Spirit inspiring them at some point in their lives.
– Bro. Stephen Balletta, S.M. ’74
While the Catholic faith has always had a strong presence in his life, His Excellency took a while to discern his religious vocation. He first considered being a priest during his junior year at Phillips, but was not yet ready to make a decision. Bishop Barres maintained a long-term relationship with his girlfriend in college and even thought about starting a family. But, as time went on, he began to see that the Holy Spirit was indeed directing him towards a priestly life.
Bro. Stephen Balletta, S.M. ’74, the vocation director for the Province of Meribah, noted that the route Bishop Barres took in recognizing his calling is by no means uncommon, despite the amount of time it took.
“The Holy Spirit speaks to people at various stages of their lives and in many different ways,” Bro. Stephen explained. “It is important that the leaders of the Church make an effort to cultivate vocation by opening young people up to the possibility of the Holy Spirit inspiring them at some point in their lives.”
The bishop himself believes that the Holy Spirit led him through his years as a student, player and accountant with the intention of preparing him for the next stage of his life. In all his different experiences before turning to the priesthood, Bishop Barres learned lessons and gained skills that he can make use of to this day in his instruction of the faith. For instance, his involvement in accounting provides him with a strong foundation to be a chief administrator of a diocese.
As the head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Bishop Barres has already spoken extensively on the role of the youth in the future of the Church during his homilies and addresses to the media. He has also been working alongside Rev. Joseph Fitzgerald, the diocesan vocation director. In fact, His Excellency is scheduled to speak during a holy hour for discerning young men of the diocese at Chaminade on Friday, April 7.
People’s path to belief in God doesn’t always follow a straight line. It has its ups and downs—its human setbacks and human accelerators. But, given his parents’ background as converts from Protestantism, the bishop certainly understands the importance of personal support in bringing people into the Church, whether it be for the first time or after a period of absence.
– Bro. Stephen
From the onset of his episcopate, Bishop Barres has endeavored to extend a warm welcome to Catholics from all walks of life. At his Mass of Installation, he specifically urged all practicing members of the diocese to invite at least one inactive friend or family member to Mass between that day and March 1.
“People’s path to belief in God doesn’t always follow a straight line. It has its ups and downs—its human setbacks and human accelerators. But, given his parents’ background as converts from Protestantism, the bishop certainly understands the importance of personal support in bringing people into the Church, whether it be for the first time or after a period of absence,” said Bro. Stephen, who met Bishop Barres alongside a group of his fellow Marianists as they celebrated the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Religious on February 5. In his homily for that day’s Mass, Bishop Barres once again made a specific appeal for those in the pews to reach out to those who have been alienated from the Church in some way. In doing so, he was effectively living out his calling as a shepherd to the people.
Bishop Barres’s story serves as a reminder that we cannot always tell what the Lord has planned for us. Only after considering marriage and a secular career did he arrive at his true destiny. Even when we anticipate our situations in life to be a certain way, God ultimately knows what is best for us – He never fails to provide us with what we need. We must expect to find ourselves in the most unexpected positions, for fulfillment results from responding to life’s twists and turns with the same faith and acceptance of God’s will that our new bishop has always exhibited.