Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, left, apostolic administrator for the Oakland diocese from October to May, processes into the Cathedral of Christ the Light with Bishop Emeritus John S. Cummins, Oakland's second bishop, and Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, Oakland's third bishop, on May 25.
All: JOSÉ LUIS AGUIRRE/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
'A ministry of service, of availability and of vulnerability'
Bishop-elect Michael C. Barber, SJ, left, prays with Archbishop Alex J. Brunett and Deacon Ronald Tutson during the vespers service on May 24.
Bishop-elect Michael C. Barber, SJ, visits with Archbishop Alex J. Brunett at a vespers service on May 24.
Peace be with you! I extend a warm welcome to all who are here tonight, my brother bishops and fellow priests, religious deacons and members of the ecumenical community, leaders of federal, state and local government and the precious people of this Diocese of Oakland.
We are here to welcome our new Bishop-elect, Michael Barber and prepare our minds and hearts for his ordination and installation as the fifth bishop of Oakland. Our hearts are filled with gratitude to Pope Francis for this appointment of a leader who will guide and serve this local Church and keep it united with the universal Church under the leadership of Pope Francis. Bishop-elect Barber brings here his special gifts and talents to respond to the words of Christ "As the Father sent me, so I send you." We say to him what Christ promised to us: "Peace be with you."
Tomorrow, we will return to this Cathedral of Light for his ordination. Before that event I want to share a few words with him personally. The ordination ceremony offers many dynamic images of the bishop, drawn from the Scripture and from the tradition of the Church, such as the image of the shepherd, the fisherman, the father, the brother, the friend, the comforter, the servant, the teacher, the leader, all of which point to Jesus. They characterize the bishop as a man of faith and discernment, a man of hope and serious commitment, a man of gentleness and compassion, a man of communion and unity.
Among these different images, that of the shepherd illustrates with particular eloquence the breadth of your Episcopal ministry, its meaning, purpose, style and evangelical missionary dynamism.
The model of Christ the Good Shepherd suggests to you daily fidelity to his mission, total and serene dedication to the Church, joy in leading the People of God to the Lord, and gladness in gathering into the unity of ecclesial communion the scattered children of God.
In contemplating the Gospel icon of the Good Shepherd, you must discover the meaning of constant self-giving, remembering that the Good Shepherd offered his life for his flock and came not to be served but to serve.
The role of teaching and proclaiming the word of God is bound up with the authority given to the Apostles to preach in the name of Christ. But this mandate by Christ to teach with authority in his name has to be lived out in a life that is humble and compassionate. You must avoid arrogance!
Listen to this good advice given by Pope Gregory the Great in the Sixth Century. "The teaching of the arrogant has this characteristic: they do not know how to introduce their teaching humbly and they cannot convey correctly to others the things they understand themselves. With their words they betray what they teach; they give the impression that they live on lofty heights from which they look down disdainfully on those they are teaching; they regard the latter as inferiors, to whom they do not deign to listen as they talk; indeed they scarcely talk to them at all. They simply lay down the law. ... There is no doubt that such are prone not to correct their subject with quiet reasoning, but to compel them to change by rough and domineering methods. They rule with severity and power."
Bishop Barber, together with the priests, deacons, religious and laity of the diocese, you will be working to create a pastoral plan for ministry, ensuring that the needs of all God's faithful are adequately met and that all people can celebrate their faith in harmony and in justice. You will empower the Church of Oakland to become a vibrant source and fulcrum of unity for not only those of our faith, but also for believers of all kinds who struggle to come to faith.
Together with your priests, you will break daily Eucharistic bread, remembering that the presence of the Lord must be brought to every corner of this local Church. In this humble and simple gesture of service at the altar, may you and all the Church of Oakland experience the energy and strength you need, so that together you will be more and more a sign of faith.
Bishop Barber, you have been chosen by our Holy Father to serve this local Church, which is ultimately not so much a title of honor or respect but a ministry of service, of availability, and of vulnerability. In you, you must find a father who is compassionate yet strong, a brother who is patient and accessible, a co-worker who encourages and listens, a humble minister of God who teaches others how to pray and live in awe before the mystery of God. As a good shepherd, may you come to know personally the sheep of this flock, and may you gladly give your whole life for them. Do not see your ministry here as passing through Oakland to a more important diocese but rather a commitment to live and die with the priests and people you serve. May you take to heart the words of St. Augustine at the time he himself was made a bishop: "For you I am a bishop. With you I am a Christian."
Dear Bishop Barber, we welcome you here as our bishop. We will love you for your dedicated service in the name of the Lord. We will work with you to create unity. We will pray for you each day and each time we celebrate the Eucharist.
May God's Holy Spirit come upon you and this whole Church of Oakland so that together you may proclaim this day and all days that the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because the Lord has anointed us.
He has sent us to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the least of the prisoners; to announce a year of favor from the Lord, to comfort all who mourn. May the promises given to us in these words truly become a reality in this Church of Oakland under your guidance.
(Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, the archbishop emeritus of Seattle, served as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Oakland from Oct. 4, 2012 until Bishop Barber was seated May 25. Archbishop Brunett presided at vespers the evening before the ordination and installation; this is his homily.)
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