St. Agnes student greets bishop at historic Mass


Three weeks ago, St. Agnes seventh-grader William Lim was collecting his belongings just before the end of another school day when he was summoned to the office. Usually, a call like that results in bad news for the student, but that was not the case this time.

Instead, Lim’s assistant principals told him that he was selected among everyone in the school to meet Bishop John Barres during the Mass of Installation.

Lim was one of 22 people to personally greet Barres in front of his cathedra during the historic Mass on Jan. 31. Among those who met him were church representatives, civil authorities and ecumenical and interfaith leaders of Long Island.

He was unaware that a student was being selected to represent the school at the Mass.

“At first I was kind of confused because it was a big thing,” he said. “But I was kind of excited.”

School officials were less confused about their choice. They felt that Lim, one of 10 children in his Rockville Centre family, best represented the Catholic identity and is a model student.

“He’s a great kid,” said St. Agnes office employee Patricia Wren. “We felt it would be a good representation of what we’re all about. When I go to church, I don’t even pay attention to the priest, I watch this family. They are the most well-behaved, most respectful to one another, to their parents, to the mass, to the sacrament. They’re really, really lovely.”

For the next two weeks, Lim said he began to worry about doing something wrong or not knowing what to do. The thought of Barres possibly asking him a question he did not know the answer to also began to overwhelm him.

Even though St. Agnes had a half-day classes that snowy Tuesday, he still attended school and headed to the cathedral early in the afternoon. The group of greeters made their way to the altar moments after Barres displayed his apostolic letter from Pope Francis to the crowd and officially seated as the fifth bishop of the diocese.

Dressed in a light blue, short-sleeved shirt and navy pants, Lim walked across the altar and spoke with the bishop for about 10 seconds. He introduced himself to Barres and said he was representing St. Agnes and was praying for him.

“He said, ‘Thank you, William and God bless you,’” he recalled. “He seemed like a nice guy, so I walked back smiling and sat down. I was calm after that and stopped worrying about it.”

Since arriving in Rockville Centre, Barres has focused his remarks and homilies on the children and how they could positively impact the future of the diocese. Lim said he was especially attentive during his speech at the Mass of Installation and learned some important life lessons.

“I think that I should be a little more responsible because I’m the future of the church,” he said.