Vatican announced that Pope Francis has appointed Father Michael Barber, SJ
the new bishop of Oakland, California. He succeeds Archbishop Salvatore
Cordileone, who took over as head of the Archdiocese of San Francisco last
Barber currently serves as director of spiritual formation at St. John’s
Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. From
Catholic News Agency:
entered the Jesuits in 1973 and was ordained a priest in 1985.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and
history at Gonzaga University in 1978, completed his theological studies at
Regis College at the University of Toronto in 1985, and obtained an
ecclesiastical license in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian
University in 1989.
At 59 years-old, Bishop-designate Barber has
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.
During his time at the Gregorian, he taught
dogmatic theology and conducted research on unpublished manuscripts of sermons
by Blessed John Henry Newman.
His time as a military chaplain included being
called to active duty in 2003 to serve the 6,000 troops in the 4th Marine Air
Wing who participated in the invasion of Iraq.
He speaks English, Italian, Spanish and Latin.
Palmo reported yesterday that Seattle’s retired Archbishop Alexander Brunettwho
has been serving as the administrator for the Diocese of Oakland since
Archbishop Cordileone’s move across the Bayinformed the priests of Oakland
that their new bishop will take office on May 25.
above, Bishop-designate Barber has served as a Navy chaplain. He discussed
his work in the military in a
brief 2009 interview in Legatus
magazinea publication of the Catholic business-leaders organization
Legatus, for which Barber served as a chaplain for several years while in
You are also a Navy chaplain.
Yes. I was attracted to the Naval Reserves when I was stationed in Rome.
They invited me to celebrate Mass in 1991 on an American warship coming into
Naples during the first Gulf War. I spent the weekend visiting with the
sailors. As I was leaving the ship, the captain said to me, “We’ve got to get
you some gold stripes to put around your sleeves.” So I asked permission to
join the Navy reserves. I heard that sailors were attending Protestant services
because there were no Catholic priests available. More than anything that
inspired me to volunteer.
How has your Navy service affected your priesthood?
With the military you get a direct cross-section of America a lot of
the young people who wouldn’t have the tuition money to go to a Jesuit school.
I like that. It’s a little more rough-and-tumble than you would encounter in a
refined schoolroom atmosphere. You also meet many unchurched kids. I am their
chaplain whether they like it or not. I go around the whole ship to all the
Marines in the whole unit. I speak to them about moral issues or give them
briefs about religious culture.
I’ve also made friends with chaplains from other faiths. I’ve known one
for 18 years, and I’m like an uncle to his kids. I would never be that close to
a Southern Baptist in normal life.
UPDATE: This bio is a little dated now, but it does include a few more biographical details about the new bishop of Oakland.