Bishop John O. Barres laughs as he displays photo of himself playing college basketball. The bishop said the Holy Spirit was preparing him to be a point guard in the Catholic Church. Gregory A. Shemitz photo.  See related story here.

By Mary Iapalucci

ROCKVILLE CENTRE—On the night before he was set to be installed as the spiritual leader of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Bishop John O. Barres called all Catholics, especially young people, to be missionary disciples who carry God’s love and mercy into the future.

“I look forward to sharing that missionary joy with each and every one of you,” he told the hundreds gathered at St. Agnes Cathedral here for Solemn Evening Prayer on January 30. Bishop Barres, 56, will be installed the fifth bishop of Rockville Centre today, January 31, at 2 p.m.

Story continues below slideshow. Gregory A. Shemitz photos.


The evening before the installation of a bishop is traditionally a time for prayer. The service at St. Agnes included psalms, songs and scripture readings. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, was the main presider. Many of the diocese’s priests, deacons and seminarians, as well as the diocesan auxiliary and retired bishops and bishops from surrounding dioceses, were part of the long entrance procession.

Among the guests were people from parishes across the diocese, students from diocesan schools and family and friends of Bishop Barres, many who had travelled from Allentown, where he has served as bishop since 2009.

During his homily, Bishop Barres called attention to a card that was distributed after the prayer service.  One side shows him in his bishop’s vestments and the other is a picture from his days playing college basketball at Princeton University.

He asked the young people present to speculate what pictures would be on their own cards. “For me, it was basketball. The Holy Spirit was preparing me to be a point guard in the Catholic Church,” he said, noting that, for them, the current picture could be from a lacrosse game, the school musical or violin lessons. Whatever it is, “know that it’s the Holy Spirit preparing you for the … future.”

Bishop Barres called on the faithful to be connected to the Bible and the sacraments, saying “young people and all Catholics are called to a radical fidelity to the Eucharist and the Sunday Mass.”

“As your shepherd, I will be asking you over and over and over again, like a good coach, to make frequent use of the sacrament of confession,” he added. “We open ourselves through the sacrament of penance to be more effective good Samaritans to our own families, our global family and especially the poor and suffering of the world. Confession helps us break through the superficiality of consumerism and global indifference and makes us sensitive and compassionate to the needs of the poor, the hungry, the stranger and the persecuted refugee family.”

Bishop Barres called mercy “the beating heart of the Gospel.”

When he and Bishop Murphy went to the airport earlier in the day to pick up Archbishop Pierre, they encountered Catholic Charities’ immigration lawyers there assisting people who had been detained following President Donald Trump’s recent orders restricting immigration and travel. Bishop Barres thanked Archbishop Pierre speaking with people there, “modeling that beautiful compassion spoken of by Pope Francis.”

At the end of the service, Bishop William Murphy, 76, who has led the Diocese of Rockville Centre since 2001, enthusiastically welcomed Bishop Barres as his successor for this “new and exciting chapter in the Diocese of Rockville Centre.”

“I am so grateful to God for him (Bishop Barres) and I’m so grateful to the Holy Father for the gift of him,” Bishop Murphy said.

“My dear brothers and sisters who I love so much, you have inspired me in Christian love,” Bishop Murphy told the congregation. “All these years I have talked with you about God’s love. Now, as I retire, I will spend my time talking to God about you. You are always in my heart. You will always be in my prayers.”