As Bishop John Barres becomes spiritual head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, there are several areas he is expected to address as he guides Long Island’s Catholics, who account for two-thirds of the region’s population.
1. Listen and learn
Barres says that as a newcomer to the Diocese of Rockville Centre he will first of all listen to people to learn about them and the diocese. With 1.5 million Catholics, Rockville Centre is the eighth-largest diocese in the United States. “What our world and all of us need is real, deep, contemplative listening,” Barres said.
2. New evangelization
The bishop wants to emphasize the church’s efforts to re-energize parishes and bring more people into the pews and parish life. The “New Evangelization” also includes outreach to Latinos and other ethnicities. “Where the church’s mission really moves is in our parishes,” Barres said. “I’m so excited about discovering the New Evangelization mission of the parishes in the Diocese of Rockville Centre and the wonderful creativity of our people, of our priests, our deacons, our religious. It’s going to be a great adventure.”
3. Latino Catholics
The bishop speaks Spanish, which he studied in Peru for nearly a month, and plans to make the same kind of strong outreach to Hispanics here as he did in Allentown, Pennsylvania. After his trip to Peru, he visited every parish in Allentown where Mass is conducted in Spanish, and celebrated Masses and preached in Spanish without any notes. At his farewell Mass in Allentown, he closed his homily by speaking three paragraphs in Spanish. “To our Hispanic brothers and sisters,” he said. “Your presence . . . enriches every dimension of the church’s life and every dimension of American society.”
4. Catholic schools
This was a major focus of Barres’ efforts in Allentown, and he is likely to bring the same commitment and innovations to Rockville Centre to try to strengthen Catholic schools. Barres’ team reversed a 15-year decline in student enrollment, diocese-wide, of about 3 percent a year. The losses were stabilized and small growth began to occur, bucking regional trends. In 2011, Barres decided to merge two rival Catholic high schools with declining enrollments. The move was not popular among some Catholics at first, but eventually the new school’s enrollment grew.
5. Religious freedom
This was another major focus of his seven years in Allentown, and he is likely to pursue the issue here as well. It involves, for instance, fighting government efforts to force religious institutions to provide health insurance that includes contraceptive drugs used for abortion. In Allentown, Barres helped form a local chapter of the national St. Thomas More Society, which supports such efforts.
Installation of Long Island’s new bishop
Hundreds of people will attend religious services at St. Agnes Cathedral as Bishop John Barres is installed as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
Barres, 56, succeeds Bishop William Murphy, who is retiring.
The events are for ticket holders only and are sold out, diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan said.
Monday, 7:30 p.m.: Evening prayer vigil.
Tuesday, 2 p.m.: Installation Mass. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, are principal prelates for the service