Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"I Want To Do For Oakland What Francis Is Doing For the Church" – For the "Barber Shop," A Grand Opening

For the post-Communion address at the close of his Ordination Mass, the rubrics say that a new bishop is to wear the miter on his head and hold the crozier in hand as he gives his first message to the flock.

When his turn came Saturday, however, Bishop Michael Barber did neither.

The move can ostensibly be chalked up to one of two things: either the Jesuit head of Oakland's 600,000-member church – Pope Francis' first US pick to take office – knew the optic would freak out at least some of the natives... or, coming all of 22 days after his appointment from the other side of the country, the 58 year-old nominee (a longtime Navy chaplain) simply didn't have time to check the books in the unusual rush toward the rites.

Along the same lines, whether the ordinand's omission of the violet cassock under his alb was a matter of style – or that the choir robes just aren't done yet – likewise remains unknown.

In any event, the first priest to be directly handed the reins of a large US diocese since 2005 – and one who, notably, has spent most of his ministry not in administration, but as a teacher and spiritual director – delivered a rather exceptional opening word, going well beyond the usual pleasantries to touch on the widely-pondered matters of what his "style of collaboration" will be and the East Bay's significant debt (some $115 million of it remaining on the construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Light), all while joking with another, albeit former, Jesuit in attendance: the liberal Democrat Jerry Brown, once-and-present governor of California, who served as Oakland's mayor before returning for a second tour in Sacramento.

Seated in a front pew in the semi-circular nave of the six year-old "Space Egg," Brown received the Eucharist from Barber at the liturgy.

Likewise on that score, as the new bishop's mention of the cleric who baptized him – Fr John Cummins, later Oakland's shepherd for half the diocese's 50-year history – scored a raucous standing ovation, it was rather conspicuous that the fifth ordinary made scant to no reference to his other two living predecessors, both seated at the fore of the sanctuary – namely, the current, distinguished archbishops of Detroit and San Francisco (the latter believed by many to have been the architect of this appointment) – while paying a wavering-voiced tribute to the prelate who ordained him a priest: John Raphael Quinn, a figure both revered and reviled as the very embodiment of progressive Catholicism by the Bay, his latest renaissance spurred amid reports that his writings on the papacy have influenced Papa Bergoglio's thought on reforming the Vatican.

Given the mix of issues at hand and a start of this sort, it'll be rather interesting to see what transpires over time. For now, backed up by spontaneous "Amens" from the Gospel choir in the wings, here's fullvideo of Barber's talk:

Looking ahead, tomorrow brings the installation of Francis' first senior US appointee, the Lincoln-formed Michael Jackels, as archbishop of Dubuque. 

A protege of the now Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI as one of Joseph Ratzinger's CDF staff, the new head of the church in Iowa will receive his pallium a month from today from the new pontiff alongside the aforementioned Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishops Joseph Tobin CSSR of Indianapolis, Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon and all the metropolitans named worldwide over the last year.

Going into the home stretch of the Curial cycle – the Vatican offices largely being in shutdown mode through July and August – seven Stateside dioceses currently stand vacant, with another seven led by (arch)bishops serving past the retirement age of 75.

PHOTOS: Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group