On Saturday, March 25, at Christ the Light Cathedral, Father Michael Barber was ordained and installed as the fifth bishop of the diocese of Oakland. Eighteen bishops attended the event, including the second, third and fourth bishops of Oakland: Bishop Emeritus John Cummins, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States was in attendance. The cathedral was filled to overflowing—at least 300 ticketed guests watched the ordination outside of the cathedral on a big screen video.
Prior to the Mass, music was provided by the Voices of St. Benedict, a local youth choir. This was followed by a processional Call to Worship in the tradition of the Eritrean Catholics of the Ge’ez rite. The Ge’ez rite traces its roots in Ethiopia/Eritrea back to at least the 4th Century. Members of the procession chanted in the Ge’ez language and carried the ancient tau cross-staffs. Then the Diocesan Festival Choir, 42 strong, entered. They were followed by the diocesan Knights of Peter Claver and Ladies Auxiliary, and the Knights of Columbus. Next came the papal orders of chivalry: the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Rhodes and Malta and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
Then the bishops and priests entered to the hymn “Church of God, Elect and Glorious.” The principal consecrater was Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. He was joined by co-consecrators Carlos Sevilla, S.J., bishop emeritus of Yakima and Thomas Daly, auxiliary bishop of San Jose. The Mass was dignified — all sung and chanted. During the incensation of the Altar and Cross the choir chanted the “Sacerdotes Dei.”
The first reading, Jeremiah 1:4:9 was read by Bishop-elect Barber’s brother, Kevin Barber. (Another brother, the Rev. Stephen Barber, S.J., assisted Bishop Barber at the Mass.) Following the Liturgy of the Word, the rite of ordination began. The hymn was the chanted “Veni Creator Spiritus.” Archbishop Viganò, apostolic nuncio and personal representative for Pope Francis, read the letter of appointment of Bishop Barber.
Archbishop Cordileone gave the homily. He spoke of a recent homily given by Pope Francis at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome, where the Holy Father preached on the same Gospel that had just been read: among the Risen Christ’s final words to Peter “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.” The theme was our unworthiness and how it can be cancelled out by true poverty, by the openness to the will of God wherever it may lead. His Excellency noted that even after Jesus’s death and resurrection, Peter and the apostles had gone back to fishing. But Jesus came to the apostles, and especially Peter, again and asked him three times if he loved him.
The Archbishop noted that after Peter’s thrice-affirmative response, Jesus told him that “when you are older you will be taken where you do not want to go”— foretelling Peter’s martyrdom. Archbishop Cordileone then noted the first reading included Jeremiah’s vain protestations to the Lord of his lack of qualifications. He said that he saw Bishop-Elect Barber nodding and that he might be saying with Jeremiah, “Lord… are you sure you have the right Jeremiah?” Archbishop Cordileone then went back to the recent words of the Holy Father: “None of us is qualified… it is the Lord who qualifies those on whom he calls.”
Bishop-elect Barber then made the Promises of the Elect. Next, he prostrated himself before the altar; the faithful knelt and joined in chanting the Litany of Supplication and the Litany of the Saints. Then the bishops, led by Archbishop Cordileone, laid their hands on the bishop-elect. Archbishop Cordileone then anointed the newly-ordained Bishop Barber, placed the ring on his finger, the mitre on his head, and presented him with the crozier. Archbishop Cordileone invited him to take his occupy the Cathedra, the seat of authority and governance of the church of Oakland.
Following the Mass, Bishop Barber addressed the congregation. He thanked his predecessors, his brother bishops, and those who had been present at formative times in his life. He straightforwardly faced the problems of the Oakland diocesan debt: “People ask me: what are you going to do about the diocesan debt… I don’t know yet, but I do know this: if we are generous in responding to God and in taking care of God’s people, God will take care of us!”
He closed by saying, “I know that I am unworthy, but I do know one other thing: that through all eternity in the mind of God to be bishop of Oakland has been my vocation, and with God’s help and your prayers and the love of Mother Mary, I intend to fulfill it. Thank you!”
The recessional music was the Navy Hymn, in recognition of Bishop Barber’s service as a U.S. Navy chaplain.