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placeholder May 9, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA

After Mass on April 17, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, sat down to dinner with about 100 students.

Bishop thanks students for 'practicing your faith'

"Bishop and tacos" read the headline in the bulletin at Holy Spirit Parish/Newman Hall, which serves students at the University of California, Berkeley.

It did not disappoint.

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, celebrated 5 p.m. Mass April 17, and afterward sat down to dinner with about 100 students — almost twice the number who usually attend the Sunday evening dinners at the parish.

Credit Cristina Alvarado, whose cooking crew declared her "queen of tacos," with feeding the masses. The fourth-year student has been the mastermind behind the successful Day of the Dead/All Souls Day student dinner put on in November by the Student Ministry Team. She said she paired a "popular dinner with a popular person" in designing the menu for the dinner after the bishop's Mass.

Tacos al pastor, carne asada and chicken were on the menu, as were rice and beans. And dishes of salsa, citrus slices and onions were options.

The unflappable kitchen crew — Rose Paneno, Viridiana Murillo, Lissette Macias, Lupita Gutierrez and Maite Garcia — kept on cooking as hungry students made their way through the line.

For the bishop, the dinner offered an informal opportunity — on Good Shepherd Sunday — to get to know his young flock. He thanked repeatedly students for "practicing your faith."

Among those at the Mass and dinner were first-year students Sandra Walle and Jessica Sewtiawan, regulars at the 10 a.m. Mass who decided to give the 5 p.m. a try.

Sewtiawan said she found the bishop's homily story of the four nuns martyred in Yemen just before Easter to be "heartfelt," highlighting the "dedication it takes to follow Jesus."

Vincent Politzer, a fourth-year student and a member of the student ministry team, carried with him a crucifix, which he was hoping to ask the bishop to bless.

Mariachi Luz de Oro, with their distinctive Cal blue and gold ties, provided live and lively music for the diners.

For the 5 p.m. Mass, the bishop was joined on the altar by the three Paulist priests who serve at Newman Hall: Rev. Ian Tou, pastor; Rev. Dat Tran, parochial vicar; and Rev. Bob O'Donnell. Father Tran, a UC graduate, is leaving Newman Hall this summer to serve in the vocations for the order.

In his homily, the bishop shared with the congregation the story of the four Missionaries of Charity who, along with their 12 helpers, were murdered at the rest home for the elderly they served in Yemen.

The Sisters, he pointed out, could have been reassigned when tensions in that country increased a year ago. "They wouldn't leave the elderly," he said. "They were faithful to mercy."

He also shared his experience as a chaplain at Oxford, recalling that, by all outward appearances, successful alumni would return to campus. Although they were employed in their fields, they would tell him, "There's still something missing."

"Unless you are serving a work of mercy, connected to Christ, I don't think you'll feel happy and fulfilled," he told the students.

That work, he said, could include being a parent, or in a prayer community such as Sant'Egidio.

"Unless you plug in somehow to God's mercy, you'll miss something," he said.

That could also include the religious life.

"Find your own way with the gifts and talents you've been given," he said. "Maybe you'd like to give your whole life to mercy."

He gave them an example of what that might look like, recalling his time as a deacon in Toronto. Ushers at the rear of the church called his attention to a disheveled young man at the back of the church. The young man told the young deacon that he had just taken the contents of the two pill bottles he held before him, and "I came to say goodbye to God."

A call for an ambulance for immediate medical care was followed by a call to the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, who provided a home for the young man.

What makes a man want to become a priest?

"We want to be here when people come looking for the Good Shepherd," Bishop Barber said.

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