This is the 12th and final installment in a series of profiles of friars commemorating anniversaries of profession in 2013. The previous issue of HNP Today featured William Herbst, OFM.
BOSTON – Former lawyer, self-professed cook, and priest at St. Anthony Shrine Barry Langley, OFM, celebrated 25 years as a friar at the Province’s Jubilee Mass last month at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City.
The second-career priest, who spent five years practicing law before joining Holy Name Province in 1987, said he finds great joy and fulfillment as a Franciscan.
Barry, who grew up in Millville, N.J, was raised as a Methodist, but became a Catholic while attending Delaware Law School. “Our Methodist church had an evangelical approach, but I wanted to have a deeper relationship with God, so I learned about the Catholic Church and its history and it seemed to be more uniform in its traditions.” Unlike the Protestants, Catholics believed in saints and, Barry said, “put their money where their mouth was for social justice.”
He was active in his new parish and was drawn more to religious life. After five years as a lawyer handling general, injury and bankruptcy cases at a firm in New Jersey, he answered the call to religious life and decided to contact the local diocese. “They told me that they didn’t understand why a lawyer wanted to be a priest, and to wait a year.”
Giving Back Blessings
When someone in his parish told Barry about the Franciscans, he decided to apply. “The Franciscans resonated with me, and I wanted to give back to God all the blessings that had been given to me,” he said. In 1988, he professed his first vows as a friar in Brookline, Mass.
With a bachelor’s degree in history from American University in Washington, Barry did his theological studies at Washington Theological Union and also took classes in religion at St. John’s University in New York City. He became a deacon in 1994 at the National Shrine in Washington, and ordained later that year at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan.
His first assignment was as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Wilmington, Del., where he also served as assistant director of the Franciscan Center. St. Joseph’s is a diverse inner-city parish that the Franciscans took over from the Josephites, an order that served African Americans. Ministering with David Schlatter, OFM, who “was a great mentor and friend,” Barry said the two learned a lot about the diverse ministry.
During his 11 years in Wilmington, Barry also attended summer programs at the Institute for Black Catholic Study at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where he said he took enough courses to almost qualify for a master’s degree. “It was a great way of understanding how to minister at St. Joseph’s.”
For five years, he served as chairman of the board of St. Francis Hospital, the area’s Catholic hospital.
In 2005, when Holy Name Province was taking over Sacred Heart Church in Tampa., Fla., from the Jesuits, Barry, who had experience in church transitions, was sent to help. He served as parochial vicar there for two years, but missed the change of seasons enough to request assignment back up north. “Lack of winter didn’t sit well with me,” he said with a smile.
He spent the next eight months as parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish on the Jersey Shore community of Long Beach Island, and then asked to go to St. Anthony Shrine. “I wanted to work in a service church,” he said.
Serving at the Shrine
Barry was no stranger to Boston, having lived at the shrine during his internship as a financial advocate with AIDS Action Committee.
His ministry at the shrine for the past six years has been diverse. When David Convertino, OFM, was executive director, until last year, Barry was assistant executive director, doing mostly administrative work.
“I still do some odds and ends, like scheduling,” he said. In addition to saying Mass, hearing confessions, and providing spiritual direction, Barry oversees several shrine programs. He coordinates the seniors program, Seniors on Arch Street, which provides light exercise, speakers and presentations, crafts, trips, games and a hot meal after Wednesday Mass. He also oversees Tony’s Travelers, which manages day trips, and is the friar liaison with the 20s/30s Boston, the young adult ministry, and the Lazarus program, which reaches out to bury the homeless and abandoned babies in the Boston area.
“My life as a friar was confirmed in finding the Franciscans, where I found home and a big welcome and that continues to be the case. I find great joy living this life with the brothers.”
Barry likes to travel and visits his mother and older brother in South Jersey.
Barry, who admits to being a good cook, said he can make any kind of dish, adding that he often alternates cooking the holiday meals with the cook at the friary. For creativity, he quilts, and makes wall hangings and crib quilts, many in the mandala pattern.
He also likes riding his bike — sometimes for 20 miles going along the Charles River — and going on several cruises a year as chaplain.
“I enjoy being a part of Holy Name Province for many reasons, but mainly because of the diversity of ministries offered. This makes it interesting. We can do a variety of things.”
Barry said he would like to be remembered as an open-hearted and caring person.
— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.