ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (CNS) — Bishop John O. Barres told the congregation that packed St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre Jan. 31 that he and they are called to be “men and women of communion and mission.”
“We are called to be saints,” he said in the homily during the Mass for his installation as the fifth bishop to head the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Bishop Barres, 56, said he looked forward “to experiencing the vibrant, welcoming, new evangelizing parishes of the diocese” and getting to know as many people as possible.
He succeeds Bishop William F. Murphy, 76, who had headed the diocese since 2001 until his retirement was accepted by the pope in December. When he was named to Rockville Centre Dec. 9, Bishop Barres had headed the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, since 2009.
Catholics of the Rockville Centre Diocese were joined in the packed cathedral by many people who arrived by bus from Bishop Barres’ former diocese. Others in attendance included local government leaders and several ecumenical and interfaith leaders of Long Island.
Before the Mass began, as the diocesan choir sang, a procession of hundreds of clergy, including more than 60 bishops and three cardinals. The prelates included Bishop Murphy, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, who was the main presider, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Cardinal Dolan introduced Archbishop Pierre, who read the apostolic letter from Pope Francis naming Bishop Barres as the leader of the Catholic Church in Rockville Centre. Bishop Barres then carried the letter around the cathedral so the document could be “inspected.”
Then, Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Pierre escorted Bishop Barres to the cathedra, the bishop’s chair. He was presented with his crosier, or bishop’s staff, and then was greeted by representatives of the diocese, as well as civic, ecumenical and interfaith leaders.
In addition to greeting the active Catholics in his new diocese, Bishop Barres reached out to those who have been away from the Catholic Church.
“I appeal … to every inactive Catholic in the diocese to gently come back … to the power of the word of God, the power of the sacrament of penance, the power of the Catholic Mass,” he said. “I am so very sorry if you have been hurt or disappointed by the church in any way, and we stand here today to support you, to listen to you and to love you.”
During his tenure in Allentown, Bishop Barres initiated a pastoral planning process for parishes across the diocese. He called on every parish to establish a parish council and made support for Catholic schools a priority; enhanced evangelization and pastoral ministries; and encouraged use of social media to spread the Gospel and evangelize.
On the national level, he is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis and is the USCCB’s episcopal liaison to the Pontifical Mission Societies.
On Dec. 9 when Bishop Barres was named to head the Rockville Centre Diocese, Bishop Murphy said of his successor: “It is my deep conviction that he will be a bishop for all of us without exception. He has shared with me his love of youth and his care for the elderly. He has a keen sense of parish life and has a special expertise in education. He has a deep love for the poor.”
Bishop Murphy also said Rockville Centre’s new bishop “will be a good neighbor to our brothers and sisters” in other Christian denominations as well as members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths, and the many civic and political leaders with whom the church works “in building up Long Island for future generations.”
He described Bishop Barres as “a man of prayer” above all.
The Long Island Catholic, magazine of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, contributed to this story.