Bishop John Barres addresses the media at a press conference December 9 after it was announced he will succeed Bishop William Murphy as Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Gregory A. Shemitz photo.

For more photos from December 9, click here.


By Mary Iapalucci

Rockville Centre — Pope Francis accepted the retirement of Bishop William Murphy December 9 and named Allentown Bishop John O. Barres the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

The day was a whirlwind of introductions and interviews for Bishop Barres, who told reporters one of his first priorities would be to spend time in prayerful listening to the people here. He will be installed as the spiritual leader of Long Island’s Catholics on January 31, 2017 at St. Agnes Cathedral.

Bishop Barres was first introduced to the diocese when he concelebrated the 7:30 a.m. Mass with Bishop Murphy at St. Agnes Cathedral on Friday. Following Mass, both bishops appeared on Telecare’s Everyday Faith Live program. Then it was back to St. Agnes for a media conference.

Bishop Murphy called it a “great, great day for the diocese,” adding he was happy that the diocese would be “placed in the most wonderful hands of Bishop Barres.”

“It is my deep conviction that he will be a bishop for all of us without exception. He has shared with me his love for young people and his care for the elderly. He has a keen sense of parish life and has a special expertise in education,” Bishop Murphy said.

Before the media conference began, Bishop Barres spent some time talking to the sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from St. Agnes Cathedral School who were in the audience. He also addressed them directly several times during his remarks and in the question-and-answer period following the prepared statements.

 I cannot wait to serve you and to lay down my life for you.

Bishop Barres had a message for “the children, youth and young adults of the diocese — I am ecstatic about your futures in Jesus Christ and the way you, in the words of Pope Francis, ‘shake up the Church and the world’ with your enthusiasm and desire to dedicate your lives to Jesus and the mission of the Catholic Church … I cannot wait to serve you and to lay down my life for you.”

Basketball has played an important role in Bishop Barres’ life since he was four or five years old, he said. He was active in CYO in his childhood and played on the junior varsity team for three years at Princeton University under Hall-of-Fame coach Pete Carril, where he learned “radical unselfishness and radical death to ego.”

“All those hours I spent doing ball-handling drills the Holy Spirit was preparing me to be a point guard for the Catholic Church here in diocese of Rockville Centre,” he said. “Just as a point guard sees the whole floor and works with every player as an extension of the coach, I am looking forward to that beautiful role here.”

A native of Larchmont, NY, Bishop Barres is no stranger to Long Island. “While growing up in Larchmont on the other side of the Long Island Sound, I had a clear vision across the Sound of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, never knowing that God’s vision and providence would one day bring us together.”

“One of my greatest family memories is of my parents packing their six children, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and celery sticks into an overcrowded blue Ford Galaxie car to head to Jones Beach (with a preference for either Field 6 or Field 9),” he said.

Bishop Barres expressed gratitude to his family, especially his late parents, Oliver and Marjorie, who met at Yale Divinity School and were Congregational ministers with a small parish in East Windsor, Conn. “But, like Blessed John Cardinal Newman, they discovered that ultimately to be deep into history is to be Roman Catholic,” and converted to Catholicism in 1955. “I am so grateful too today for the love and support of my four sisters, my brother and my many nieces and nephews.”

He remarked that “holiness is a family affair” and “our families need their parish family. The parish family needs each and every family.”

“I have a passion for parish life and will always have the heart of a parish priest,” he said. “I am looking forward to experiencing the vibrant, welcoming New Evangelization parishes of the (Rockville Centre) Diocese and reaching out together as Eucharistic Bridges of the Diving Mercy to the beautiful and wonderful inactive Catholics in our midst.”

Fluent in Spanish, Bishop Barres said he looks forward also to working with the many Hispanic Catholics on Long Island, making some remarks in Spanish during the conference, ending with “Adelante” which means “moving forward.”

Bishop Barres thanked the people of Diocese of Allentown where he has served as bishop since 2009. He became emotional and had to pause to compose himself as he said, “You will all always be in my heart, my memories, my prayers and my Masses as I remember out days of ‘holiness and mission’ together.”

“I have spent 15 of my happiest years here surrounded by men and women of great faith.  I hope I’ve given an example of a bishop who really loved his people and wanted to serve and love you.”

Canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope when they turn 75. Bishop Murphy, who has been Rockville Centre’s bishop since 2001, is 76.  When asked by a reporter what he saw as his legacy in Rockville Centre, Bishop Murphy said he didn’t like the term “legacy” but he would say “I have spent 15 of my happiest years here surrounded by men and women of great faith.  I hope I’ve given an example of a bishop who really loved his people and wanted to serve and love you.”

He called Bishop Barres a dear friend who “has a deep love for the poor and will support Catholic Charities, parish outreach as well as our extraordinary Catholic hospitals on Long Island. He will be a good neighbor to our brothers and sisters of all the Christian churches, our Jewish and Muslim friends and the many civic and political leaders with whom he will work in building up Long Island for future generations.”


Quick facts about Bishop John Barres

  • Bishop Barres was born September 20, 1960 in Larchmont, NY.
  • He was baptized by Bishop Fulton Sheen.
  • He is a graduate of Princeton University (BA in English Literature) and the New York University Graduate School of Business Administration (MBA in Management).  His theological education includes an STB (Bachelor of Sacred Theology) and an STL (Licentiate) in Systematic Theology from the Catholic University of America and a JCL (Licentiate of Canon Law) and STD  (Doctor of Sacred Theology) in Spiritual Theology from the Pontifical Univesity of the Holy Cross in Rome.
  • He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wilmington in Delaware in October 1989.
  • He served as Vice-Chancellor and then Chancellor of the Wilmington Diocese
  • He was ordained a bishop and installed as the fourth bishop of Allentown, Penn., by Cardinal Justin Rigali on July 30, 2009
  • Nationally, Bishop Barres serves on the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. Since 2013, he has been Episcopal Liaison to the Pontifical Mission Societies.
  • You can follow Bishop Barres on Twitter @BishopBarres