IBy Nicholas Plante ’18
In the first three months of his episcopate, Bishop John Barres has been tirelessly reaching out to the young people of our diocese. Recognizing the youth as a cornerstone to the present and future evangelization of the Church, he has visited schools, attended sporting events, and addressed students all across Long Island. This past Friday the bishop made his first appearance in front of our student body, celebrating Mass alongside Marianist priests and then meeting with Flyers all over Chaminade.
In his opening prayer, Bishop Barres reflected on the feast day of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. Saint Louis, who wrote a book entitled True Devotion to Mary, lived the same total consecration to Jesus through the Blessed Virgin that our Marianist community has established here. The bishop asked God for His guidance as we seek to glorify Christ through His Mother, just as St. Louis did.
Bishop Barres talked to the assembly about how he began caddying at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck during the summer of his sixth grade. The U.S. Open had been held there a number of times, and Bishop Barres recalled when Bobby Jones defeated Al Espinosa in a playoff to win the 1929 title. He described the way in which Jones, a Protestant from the South and a “true gentleman,” went to Espinosa’s Catholic church to support him following their match. Three days before his death, Jones actually converted to Catholicism, highlighting the deep impact the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass had on him.
With that as a central idea, the bishop compared the smooth motion of swinging a golf club to the “rhythm of the Eucharist” streaming through our lives. He called the congregation of Chaminade men to let the “cosmic power” of the Mass guide us in all of our decisions, regardless of the positions in which we find ourselves. While we may sometimes feel helpless like the boy from the day’s Gospel reading, who had just five loaves of barley and two fish to feed 5,000 people, there is truly an abundance in God’s love that drives us through all.
As Bishop Barres said, “God will use you in miraculous ways that you can’t even begin to fathom.”
When concluding his homily, the bishop addressed the members of the senior class, as they will soon be moving on to college. He told them that they will be facing an “existential decision” in August: “Will you be radically faithful to the Catholic Mass, putting the Body and Blood of Christ in the center of your life?” Bishop Barres challenged the seniors to say yes to that call to faith not just that first Sunday, but for the rest of their lives.
Before Communion, those juniors who had been preparing to become Eucharistic Ministers were commissioned by Bishop Barres. For the first time, they were able to share the Body and Blood of Christ with their fellow members of the Chaminade family.
“In the moment when I went up to receive my pin and necklace from the bishop, I truly felt the significance of the mission I had been called to undertake,” shared Vincent Povinelli ’18. “My heart has been opened to God’s real presence in the Eucharist, and I am humbled to share Him with others.”
At the end of the celebration, president Bro. Thomas Cleary, S.M. ’81 thanked Bishop Barres on behalf of the Chaminade community for taking the time to visit the school. Bro. Tom presented the Bishop with a Chaminade sweatshirt, reminding him that we will be here for any assistance he might need.
After Mass Bishop Barres described his experience, saying, “I could just feel the vibrant spirit of reverence and the strong friendships among the men. As I looked out from the altar, I was very moved by how deeply engaged everyone was, and I began to think about and pray for the beautiful plans God has for each one of you.”
The bishop was then given a tour of Chaminade’s facilities by principal Bro. Joseph Bellizzi, S.M. ’78 and Bro. Tom. Accompanied also by a group of students, the bishop was introduced to the Saragossa Retreat Center, the Physical Fitness Center (PFC), Gold Star Stadium, and the main school building. Throughout the experience, he demonstrated a sincere interest in the history and mission of Chaminade, wanting to know more about the individuals and events who have contributed to the institution’s present status. He stopped to talk with many students and faculty members along the way, and even led some in prayer before class began. Bishop Barres also blessed the 9/11 memorial outside of the PFC. The memorial, which includes a sapling from Ground Zero, commemorates those alumni who lost their lives in the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
Bishop Barres left Chaminade touched by the active expression of the Church cultivated by the many faithful here.
“There’s a sense of seriousness and of rigor in the atmosphere, but there’s also a beautiful sense of lively and radiant Catholic identity,” he commented at the end of his visit. “You can’t fake the sense of joy and happiness in the hallways, radiating what Pope Francis calls ‘the joy of the Gospel.’”