Oakland bishop outlines goals for diocese

Bishop Michael Barber: "Some of our parishes do a good job of 'building community' — but so does a Raiders game"

Bishop Barber of Oakland

Based on a total reliance on Christ, and listening to parishioners, priests and the larger Oakland/Alameda/Contra Costa community for the past three years, I would like to offer my vision and goals for our Diocese of Oakland.

1. We need to pay way more attention to “The Sunday Experience.” Sunday Mass, and everything associated with it: an intelligent and inspirational homily, sacred music that communicates the presence of God, friendly and warm hospitality. Some of our parishes do a good job of “building community” — but so does a Raiders game.

We do the “horizontal church” well, and that is important — but what about the “vertical” dimension of worship? Celebration of the Sunday liturgy should be a personal and communal encounter with Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis said that every Mass should be like the experience Peter, James and John had at the Transfiguration. They were so overwhelmed at the beauty, mystery and transcendence of Jesus, they exclaimed, “It is good for us to be here!”

How many of our parishioners can say that on Sunday? Many young people say “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” Is their spiritual thirst being satiated through our Sunday worship experience?

2. We need to continue to emphasize the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The “Year of Mercy” has been a big success in our diocese, from people coming back to Confession to be reconciled with God after many years, to students and young people who have discovered the joy of helping the poor and destitute.

The Catholic Church is always having a “Year of Mercy.” It is what we are and what we do. If you feel dry in your faith, or feel God is hiding Himself from you, go down to Catholic Charities or St. Vincent de Paul and help at the soup kitchen. Or come on Sunday mornings to People’s Park in Berkeley and help serve breakfast to the homeless with the Catholic Worker volunteers.

3. We need to form our people as Missionary Disciples. It is not enough just to practice our faith on our own. The Catholic parish is not just the place where we receive our own spiritual nourishment.

If we only attend for our own benefit, then after a few years, we may be the only one left in the pews. Look at the number of parishes that have closed across the United States in the past 20 years!

We need to spread our faith. We do that by sharing it — by communicating the joy and consolation we have received from Jesus with others. Our parishes have to move “from maintenance to mission.”



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  1. Thank you, Most Reverend Michael Barber, for actually being a bishop in knowing that the Christian life starts with worship of the Trinity at Holy Mass, and that the graces received there are then diffused through the Christian in his own life and to the rest of the world, so that all believe in Jesus Christ and be saved.

  2. Steve Seitz says:

    These are real solid goals. This bishop knows what he’s doing.

  3. Idaho Pete says:

    This bishop talks the talk but he doesn’t do the walk. This is the same bishop who some months ago had a planned announcement for a new Catholic high school and with many choices who does he invite? None other than mass baby killing butcher and pro-homosexual Governor Jerry Brown. This disgraceful invite said much about this bishop and I have absolutely no respect for him. What kind of message did this send to his diocese for both the young and old? He gave a speaking plank to one who promotes dark evil.

  4. Asbury Fox says:

    Bishop Barber should take the lead in advancing the vertical dimension of worship by offering the Mass Ad Orientem. After his personal example, he should encourage the priests in his diocese to celebrate Mass Ad Orientem.

    • AFox, perhaps you should read CalCath more regularly for it featured an article on two parishes in this same bishop’s diocese that has gone “ad orientem.”

      • Asbury Fox says:

        Two parishes are not enough. Something like 1/3 of all parishes would be more like it. When 30%-50% of all the parishes in the diocese celebrate Ad Orientem Masses, that would be progress.

        There is no word however, on whether Bishop Barber himself celebrates Ad Orientem.

        • “Two parishes are not enough.” Be realistic please. Two is good to start with. What is it about negativity and disquietude among the commentariat here? Folks, please do be more positive in the new year. For the good of your souls.

          • Asbury Fox says:

            It all starts with Bishop Barber. He has to take the lead in vertical worship. That means him publicly celebrating Mass Ad Orientem. The laity and priests of his diocese need to see him celebrating Mass this way.

            Two parishes are a good start, but it is of course not enough. 84 parishes in the diocese. 2 out of 84 is 2%. No one should be satisfied with those numbers. If Bishop Barber regularly celebrated Ad Orientem, those numbers would go a lot higher. It is not unrealistic to expect to see 10 or 15 parishes have Ad Orientem Masses in a matter of a few months. If Bishop Barber personally encouraged his priests, it could be done. If only 2 parishes are still celebrating Ad Orientem by the end of the year, that is utter failure.

  5. True, his words are good, but your point is well made and well taken. Some clerics appear to be afraid of the Catholic politicians who reject church teaching, and others appear to be dominated and led by them. In hearing some clerics, it sounds as if it is a political party who writes their words or perhaps a UN committee rather than Jesus Christ in the Scripture, and the Holy Tradition of the Church from the last 2000 years, and not just present day comments by cardinals and the Holy Father.

    • Ann Malley says:

      …it is a point that can be applied to many, Father Perozich. That is why it is critical to pay heed to details as the devil often resides there. Too often we rush to condemn and silence or praise and be appeased by externals.

      God bless

  6. Having resided in the Oakland Diocese most of my life, I had to chuckle at Bishop Barber’s statement that “We do the ‘horizontal church’ well.”

  7. Ad orientem? What about Sydney, Austrailia.

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