Fourth-graders at St. Agnes School in Concord pose with their visitor, the Most Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ, on May 16, nine days before he was ordained and installed as the bishop of Oakland. He discussed the upcoming event with the students of Jane McFerrin, and explained the history and meaning of the symbols of the bishop's office. He also tried the hat, the zucchetto, on several students, who were delighted to wear it.
All: Albert C. Pacciorini/The Catholic Voice
First classroom visit: St. Agnes School, fourth grade
Before he was ordained and installed, then-Bishop-elect Barber visited St. Agnes School in Concord.
The fourth grade is taught by Jane McFerrin, whose parents served as missionaries in Samoa at the same time as the bishop-elect. The bishop-elect showed the class the symbols of the office to which he was to be ordained — including the crosier that belonged to the first bishop of Oakland, the Most Rev. Floyd L. Begin, a pectoral cross and a zucchetto, which the students likened to a beanie.
They posed for photos with the Rev. Vince Cotter, pastor of St. Agnes, and the vicar general, Very Rev. George Mockel, who as a previous pastor of St. Agnes, might have baptized some of the young scholars.
Afterward, the students wrote reflections on their visit. Here are some of them:
"When Father Barber came to visit the fourth grade classroom I felt as if the Holy Spirit was with us. He taught us that being a bishop is like being a shepherd because if one person strays off, he helps them back to the right hand of the Father."
"When the new bishop, Father Barber, walked in I felt like God was in our presence and the Holy Spirit was surrounding us. His words were like he was speaking the Gospel. I knew that I was one of the luckiest kids in the world."
"When Father Barber came in the room he was grinning from ear to ear. He looked happy to be able to teach us."
"As Father Barber walked with confidence, it was as though he was filled with the Holy Spirit. A smile brightened Father Barber's face, and he spoke and reflected the words of God."
"It was amazing that out of all the classes in St. Agnes School he wanted to see fourth grade first. He even let us wear his bishop hat. He also put his crosier together and let us hold it. I will never forget this moment."
"Father Barber was a very generous man. I hope he has a great time at the cathedral. Father Barber actually called me a junior priest. He is so nice, I am praying for him at 11:11 a.m. each day."
"I felt Bishop Barber was very knowledgeable and well mannered. He was restful and he had a good sense of humor."
"He was so humble and kind, even though he was going to be known throughout the Diocese of Oakland."
"I was amazed at how trusting he was of us to let us hold the holy antiques."
"When he spoke I could understand every word he said. He was very kind. He taught us things we didn't know yet."
"A joyful wise man picked by our church leader the pope and a humble man that acts justly and loves tenderly. I think that he will lead our church in the right direction."
"It was amazing having Father Barber here. It felt like the pope was here, but he wasn't the pope."
"The bishop gave us faith and hope."
"It was very interesting how he told us about how he was called to be the bishop."
"When the bishop-elect Barber entered the classroom I was shocked. I had never seen a person so big in the Catholic religion before."
"It felt special to be the first class of the first school he had met."
"God bless Father Michael Barber. He will always be in all 37 of our hearts and forever in God's presence."
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