Thursday, 05 September 2013 11:18
One year ago Father James Barry, retired pastor of Salem, died in the Lord. Priests are easily forgotten and their good deeds "oft interred with their bones." But, for me, there was a defining event in Father Jim's life rendering him forever memorable.
Father Barry lived with us at St. John Bosco Parish, Millville, while he was vice principal of Sacred Heart High School, and, later, as parochial vicar. He was ever a gracious and gentle member of the household.
During the troubles in Northern Ireland, 1968-98, there was a period of internment, 1971-75, during which 1,981 young people, mostly from the Catholic minority, were arrested and imprisoned without trial. Unfortunately, internment only led to outrage in the minority community.
It was during the internment period Father Barry spent his vacation at my sister's home in Belfast. He went out every day, trailed by an army helicopter, to visit those distraught young people who languished in jail. It was a dangerous undertaking, and a secret mission he shared with none.
It was only after his return to America my sister began to receive calls from parents of the interned thanking her for Father Barry and the consolation he brought to their sons and daughters.
In death he was embraced by the One who was also arrested, who stood with people of little significance; pushed off the road of life and relegated to the margins. Perhaps He whispered gently into Jim's surprised ear:
"I was in prison and you came to visit me" (Mt 25:36).
Msgr. Ciaran P. O'Mearain is a retired pastor of the Diocese of Camden.