|May 5, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 9 • Oakland, CA|
Rev. Gary Klauer, OFM Conv.
Deacon James Barnes
Just a little over 36 years ago The Catholic Voice asked 27 men why they wished to become permanent deacons. One of them, James Barnes, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Oakland, said: "I always wanted to take an active part in religion and the life of the church. Through the diaconate I hope to bring the wisdom of God's word to others."
That life of service to God and God's people was recalled and celebrated at the March 21 funeral Mass for Deacon Barnes. Jesuit Father George Quicley, St. Patrick pastor, presided at the Mass which was attended by family and friends and members of the deacon community.
James Chambers Barnes was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother died when he was one month old. The infant was taken in and raised by the Franciscan Sisters at St. Elizabeth's Home in Baltimore. He moved to a foster home at age 14. Two years later Catholic Charities located his father and stepmother.
At age 19 Barnes entered the Bay St. Louis Seminary of the Divine Word Missionaries. After three years at the seminary he left and later was drafted into the Army. He served in the Korean War where he was assigned to the medical corps. While en route to Korea, Barnes met his future wife Mary. The two engaged in a long-distance relationship. After his discharge Barnes worked at a Pennsylvania Veterans Administration hospital to earn enough money to make a down payment on a house and sent for Mary and they married.
In the late 1950s, Barnes moved his family to California. Eventually they settled in Oakland, where Barnes was hired by Kaiser Hospital. All five of Barnes' sons attended St. Patrick School where their dad volunteered as a playground monitor and helper. In the late 1960s, Barnes also became involved in prison ministry at San Quentin Prison.
When the diocese announced the start of its first diaconate program, Father Clarence Howard, SVD, encouraged Barnes to apply. During the deacon formation program Barnes continued his prison ministry and after his ordination in 1978, he served at the prison for 16 more years. When the deacon's eyesight began to fail, his sons supported his ministry and drove their dad to and from San Quentin every week for six years, according to an article published in the diocesan deacon newsletter in January 1998. After 25 years as a prison minister, Deacon Barnes retired.
After years of failing health, Deacon Barnes, 87, died on March 8. His wife, Mary, predeceased him. He is survived by his five sons, James Jr., Steven Sr., David Sr., Bradford Sr., Nathaniel, and their families, his only brother, Edward D. Barnes, and 10 grandchildren.
The family wishes to thank Deacon Barnes' grandson, James C. Barnes III, who took care of his grandfather in his final years; his friends Bishop Emeritus Carlos A. Sevilla, SJ, and Bishop Emeritus John S. Cummins; and Revs. John Direen and Raphael Okitafumba at St. Joseph the Worker in Berkeley for offering a Mass in honor.
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