A former point guard at Princeton University and the current point guard of the Catholic Church, is how Bishop John O. Barres, the new head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, likes to describe himself.
At 48, Barres became one of the youngest bishops in the United States, when Pope Benedict XVI named him to lead the Diocese of Allentown, P.A., in 2009. In January, Barres succeeded former Bishop William Murphy in New York after his Vatican-mandatory retirement at the age of 75.
Last week, St. Dominic’s High School received a visit from the former Princeton basketball player where he led mass for the students, staff and parishioners, and met many of them for the first time. Barres used his relatable college experience to connect to the students, and offered them advice on how to deal with the challenges of life. “Mercy is so key,” he said. “It’s the beating heart of the gospel, it’s the beating heart of the church’s mission around the world and in a special way, here on Long Island.”
At the end of the service, the school presented Barres with a framed number 11 St. Dominic’s basketball jersey as a tribute to his own number 11 basketball days in college. After mass, Barres made an effort to shake hands and say hello to as many students as possible before they returned to class.
Following the mass, Barres toured the school’s new science building where science chair, Kristina Argenzio, and physics teacher, Ken Tiu, gave Barres the St. Dom’s logo that they printed with the school’s new 3-D printer. He also got the chance to chat with students in Rebecca Lahey’s chemistry class while they were turning pennies into gold.
“I want the students to know that God has a bold and beautiful plan for their life,” Barres said, “and even at the moments of uncertainty, insecurity or fear, when they're not quite sure what the next step is, that's precisely the moment when the holy spirit is giving them strength, and leading them and guiding them.”