25 May 2013

Michael C Barber Ordained and Installed as New Bishop of Oakland

 I have never been to the ordination of a Bishop before. Of course in the Diocese of Oakland we have never celebrated the ordination and installation of a Bishop in one fell swoop before so this was new for everyone. Despite the amazingly short time frame involved (three weeks from announcement of the appointment to ordination), the Diocese of Oakland's liturgy for the ordination and installation of Michael Barber, SJ, was well done and though the doors of the cathedral opened at 10:00am for seating, there was a substantial line of ticket holders by 9:15 am.

The readings were more than appropriate. The first lection was Jeremiah 1:4-9 where, despite claims of youth and lack of wisdom ("I do not know how to speak for I am but a youth") God affirms that he has known Jeremiah since the womb and chosen him to be consecrated since his birth. The Lord puts forth his hand, touches Jeremiah on the mouth and sends him forth, commissioned to speak the words the Lord himself has empowered. At the end of the liturgy, Bp Barber reminded the assembly that until three weeks ago he had never in his life dreamt of being Bishop of Oakland, but that he knew in his heart that God had called him to this vocation and that with the help of the Lord, Mother Mary, and the whole Church he would fulfill this call. He spoke with faith and with real passion; the assembly stood and applauded --- both a  sign that they heard the sincerity of his commitment and of their own commitment to assist this new Bishop in serving the Church of Oakland and the Universal Church.

The Gospel was the account of Jesus' rehabilitation of Peter (John 21:15-17). Peter asks Jesus three times if he loves him and after each response by Peter, Jesus answers by commissioning Peter to feed and tend God's sheep. It concludes with the saying that when one was young one could go where one wanted but that now someone would gird him and lead him where he would not want to go.

The homily was given by Abp Cordileone who began his reflections with recent comments by Francis, interspersed a comment that he suspected Jeremiah might have wanted to ask God if he was sure he had gotten the right Jeremiah; (Michael Barber is one of three Jesuits by that name so when word of the appointment came his response was, "Are you sure you have the right Michael Barber?"). But, humor aside, the seriousness of the occasion was well reflected with the readings. Cordileone reminded us in a paraphrase of a well-known quote that none are qualified to be called, but that God qualifies those God calls. Significantly, he reminded Bishop Barber that he stands under the Gospel --- something symbolized by the fact that during his ordination the book of Gospels is opened and literally laid over the kneeling newly ordained Bishop's head. Finally he asked Bishop Barber to be prepared to truly lay down his life for his community/diocese. (I am sorry not to be able to justice to this homily; parts of it were difficult for me to hear and others were very clear.)

During his remarks at the end of the liturgy Bp Barber spoke of the style of colla-boration he favored. Many in attendance would have noted the significance of the word "collaboration." Further, Bp Barber's references to Pope Francis and his own desire to be a true servant leader with a focus on the poor and marginalized both today and at other events are hopeful signs for the diocese. Also during his remarks thanks were offered for Abp Alexander Brunett who served the diocese as Apostolic Adminstrator and quickly won the hearts of the diocese's priests and people because he was perceived as a true shepherd and pastor. Bp Barber noted that when the history of the Bishops of the diocese is told  Abp Alexander will be known not merely as the Apostolic Administor but the Beloved Apostolic Administrator. Brunett received a standing ovation in thanks for his service to the diocese as did Bp Emeritus John Cummins who yet serves and remains beloved by the entire diocese. Both men serve as good models of episcopal leadership and Cummins will continue to live here in Oakland. It is hoped that some of the directions taken by Abp Alexander Brunett will be adopted by Bp Barber so that the impetus which Abp Brunett began in dealing with such matters as diocesan finances and clergy morale can continue.

The ordination of course was rich in symbolism: the laying on of hands (all Bishops present participated in this), anointing with oil, giving of the ring --- a symbol of fidelity to the Church as Bride of Christ (Bp Michael choose to use one of his late Father's rings for this), giving of the mitre and crozier, and then, the accompanying of Bp Michael to the cathedra or chair.  At this point there was a fraternal kiss offered by all the Bishops present. Once the altar was readied for the Eucharist Bp Michael Barber assumed his place as principal celebrant. (I should note that he speaks well, and he can really sing --- always a considerable plus!!) During the Eucharistic prayer Bp Michael prayed that the gifts given to him in his commission/consecration might be well-used by God through the power of the Spirit. (Forgive the  inadequate paraphrase.) He seemed visibly moved at this point as the  words of the prayer triggered a fresh awareness and reaffirmation of how God was both gifting and challenging him. Communion was followed by the Te Deum as Bishop Barber moved throughout the cathedral exuberantly offering God's blessing to all in attendance. (I thought of his gestures as a wonderfully joyful reverence that fairly shouted resurrection and Pentecost! He looked ecstatic as he moved throughout the cathedral (and outside it to the overflow crowds) and related well to the assembly, making eye contact as much as possible and shaking hands with those he knew. Clearly the assembly was as enthusiastic for both Bp Barber and for the diocese of Oakland; their welcome was a prayer for both.)

Abp Allen Vigneron
Abp John Quinn at Stanford Symposium
Also in atten-dance and parti-cipa-ting as concelebrants were Archbishop Allen Vigneron and Archbishop Emeritus John Quinn.  Abp Vigneron succeeded Bishop John Cummins upon his retirement and was himself succeeded by Abp Salvatore Cordileone when he was made Archbishop of Detroit. Personally I was glad to see him back in Oakland and very glad to be able to greet him briefly after the Mass since, as the one who perpetually professed me under canon 603, and someone I have had the pleasure of meeting with one on one, he holds a special place in my own heart. As a bit of a tangent let me just note that Archbishop Quinn has just published Ever Ancient, Ever New, a wonderfully readable reflection on the structures of the Church which can truly foster communion and which honor both the unity and diversity of the Church. He points to the use of synods, including deliberative synods (allowed for by Vatican II but never implemented), a wider use of patriarchates, and a functional distinguishing of the Pope's patriarchal and administrative powers. It was also good to be able to greet him briefly since I had spoken to him last a couple of months ago at a Symposium on Vatican II at Stanford University where he discussed the content of this new book in conjunction with his older work, The Reform of the Papacy --- a reflection on  John Paul II's Ut Unum Sint and response to the Pope's specific request for input on how to reform the papacy/curia. I recommend both books, especially given some of Francis' first steps as Bishop of Rome.

Meanwhile, back at the ordination, in Bp Barber's concluding remarks he of course thanked those participating in the day --- particularly the Papal nuncio, Bp Carlo Vigano, and through him, Pope Francis for his own warm and inspiring letter on the occasion of his ordination. Besides those already mentioned he specifically, and with profound emotion, thanked Archbishop Quinn who ordained him priest in 1985, Bp Cummins who baptized him (also with real enthusiasm and a bit of humor), and Sister Mary Jude, OP who was his 8th grade teacher. In trying to summarize what kind of Bishop he desired to be, Bp Michael noted that he wanted to do for the Diocese of Oakland what Francis was doing for the Universal Church. THAT comment was very well received. He honestly noted he did not know what he would do about the diocesan debt *** but he was very clear that if we are faithful to Christ and love one another, we can be very sure Christ will take care of us. That statement is not one of naive optimism I don't think. It commits us to use all the gifts and expertise at the diocese's disposal and to do so in collaboration with one another. Especially though, Bp Barber noted our call to take care of the poor, the sick, the suffering and marginalized; further he declared with real emotion that it was his intention that Christ would truly be the Bishop of Oakland. Again, it is Bp Michael's vocation and "with the help of God, the prayers of the people of Oakland, and the love of Mother Mary, (he) WILL fulfill it." The Diocese of Oakland certainly joins him in this prayer and hope!

*** At this point Bp Michael joked about taxing Amazon, but noted the Governor (who was actually seated in the front pew) had already done that; he followed this with a quip that this was probably the one diocese in the state and indeed, the country with a Jesuit Pope, a Jesuit Bishop, and a Jesuit governor. (See the video below for all of Bp Barber's remarks.)