He may become known as the “point guard bishop.”
Bishop John O. Barres, the pope’s choice to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, is a basketball guy — big-time. He loves the game, played on Princeton University’s junior varsity squad for three years, and plans to draw upon his experiences on the court in leading Long Island’s Catholics.
“My experience as a point guard, even at the JV level at Princeton, was one of the ways the Holy Spirit formed me to be a point guard with the Catholic Church as the bishop of Rockville Centre,” Barres, 56, said Friday on the Telecare news program “Everyday Faith Live.”
Playing on Princeton’s team was a lesson in “radical unselfishness, radical death to ego, team chemistry, team fundamentals — and the beautiful pleasure of executing a backdoor cut-and-pass beautifully,” he said later at a news conference.
Telecare on Friday broadcast a video of Barres holding basketball clinics with young people and making a 20-foot jump shot that was all net, showing he still has good shooting form.
“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,” Barres said.
Growing up in Larchmont in Westchester County, his Catholic Youth Organization basketball team made “pilgrimages” in the early 1970s to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to watch “the Doctor” — future Hall of Famer Julius Erving, of Roosevelt — “perform midair surgery with a red, white and blue ABA ball,” he said.
Today, he counts among his friends Steve Mills, president of the New York Knicks, and David Blatt, who used to coach LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers. He thinks his former Princeton coach, the legendary Pete Carril, may attend his Jan. 31 installation as bishop of Rockville Centre.
Barres’ personal connection to Long Island goes back to childhood, he said, recalling the beaches not far from St. Agnes Cathedral — seat of the diocese that spans Nassau and Suffolk counties.
“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 Galaxy car to head to Jones Beach, with a preference for either Field 6 or Field 9!” he said.
And from Larchmont, he noted, “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.”
Barres’ late parents, Marjorie and Oliver Barres, were Protestant ministers who met each other at the Yale Divinity School and later converted to Catholicism. In 1960, Barres was baptized by Bishop Fulton Sheen.
He earned an undergraduate degree in English literature at Princeton and a master’s degree at the New York University Graduate School of Business Administration. He studied theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Barres was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wilmington in Delaware in October 1989.
Pope John Paul II named him a chaplain to His Holiness in July 2000 with the title of monsignor. Pope Benedict XVI named him a Prelate of Honor in November 2005.
In Allentown, Barres started a diocesewide St. Thomas More Society for lawyers aimed at promoting the issue of religious liberty. He also started a program for young men considering the priesthood, and has the diocese sponsor a weeklong summer camp for high-school-age boys who may have a vocation to the priesthood.
Barres is a proponent of using social media to promote the Catholic faith. He has a video blog on the Allentown diocesan website and has opened a Twitter account.
On a national level, he serves on the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.