Michael C. Barber arms.jpgFather Michael Charles Barber, SJ, was ordained a bishop today for service in the Diocese of Oakland. Last eve he professed his Catholic faith and took the oath of fidelity. The Sacrifice of the Mass with the Rites of Episcopal Ordination were offered at 11am pacific time.

With prayer to the Holy Spirit and the laying on of hands by Metropolitan Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, Jesuit Bishop Carlos Sevilla (emeritus bishop of Yakima) and Bishop Thomas Daly. Sevilla is also a member of the California Province of Jesuits. For trivial purposes only, Bishop Gordan Bennett, SJ, bishop emeritus of Mandeville, former auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, is also a California Jesuit.
Father Barber is the first member of the Society of Jesus to be elected a bishop by his fellow Jesuit and Pope, Francis. The appointment was made on May 3. Barber is the first Jesuit to be a bishop who will serve in the USA since Bishop George Vance Murry (Youngstown, OH). 

In recent years there have been fewer religious order priests ordained to the episcopal office for the USA. Catholic episcopal ministry is more fitting for the secular priests. The presumption made is that when a religious priest is nominated to episcopal ministry there is good reason to do so: local need, spiritual competencies, certain intellectual gifts, exceptional human qualities not found in the local church, etc. The recent appointment of the archbishop of Indianapolis is a priest of the Redemptorist congregation is a good example; he previous served as his order’s superior general and until his move back to the USA, he served the Holy Father in the Congregation for Religious. That a Jesuit was made a bishop raises all sorts of key questions viz. his vocation as a Jesuit, the ability to serve and his own vow to turn down prelacy. For example, a Jesuit friend raised a question when a Jesuit was made a bishop several years ago that this particular man had not been admitted to solemn vows, and thus not held a leadership role in the Society. For my Jesuit friend, if the Society wouldn’t entrust leadership to a Jesuit, then neither ought the Church entrust a greater office to the same. While this may be nit picking and being overly critical, there is some good wisdom here to consider. In the end, an appointment to be bishop is made by the Vicar of Christ, and one obeys. AMDG.
May Saint Ignatius of Loyola intercede on behalf of Bishop Barber and the Oakland Diocese.