Interview with Fr. Brian Barker, O.S.A.

Anne Russell: Hi. I'm Anne Russell, from the Augustinians' province office in Chicago. How are you today?

Fr. Brian Barker, O.S.A.: Good, how are ya?

Russell: Fine. How ya doing?

Barker: Pretty good.

Russell: First question I have is when are you going to have another concert in Chicago, because I missed the last one?

Barker: Oh, well thanks. (laughs) I don't know.

Russell: We had bad weather that day.

Barker: Oh, yeah. That's right. I remember.

Russell: All right, Father Brian, I'm going to ask you a few questions.

Barker: Okay.

Russell: Put your thinking cap on.

Barker: It's on.

Russell: (laughs) My first question is what was it that called you to be an Augustinian?

Barker: I think it would be a couple of things. One is the sense of community that one of our, you know, our core values is to be of one mind and one heart on the way to God, and we know that the journey goes easier when we travel with another.

Russell: Right.

Barker: I don't think God calls us to be a bunch of lone rangers.

Russell: No, I hope not. (laughs) Okay. What would you say...

Barker: Let me give you the second part, though, too.

Russell: Okay, give me the second part.

Barker: The second part was just the various different types of ministry that are involved. Like, for a diocesan priest, I was started out as, you know, if you're a diocesan priest, you're going to be in a parish, but with the Augustinians, you can still do parish work, or you can do missions, you could do campus ministry, you could do teaching. You know, there's just a lot more opportunities for ministry.

Russell: Okay. What important ministry to you do you like to do with the Augustinians? I know you parish and, you know, teach, and all that. What do you really focus on?

Barker: Well, now it's... I'm in the administration here now as Director of [Augustinian] Mission, so I'm only teaching three classes, but I'm doing more administrative stuff, promoting Augustinian values in the school [Cascia Hall Preparatory School], in the Augustinian mission.

Russell: Do you find that challenging?

Barker: Yeah, it's been--it's a good challenge, it's a healthy challenge. It's, you know, trying to incorporate the many things that Augustine said, especially in ways of truth, unity, and love--its  trying to incorporate that in every day life for our kids.

Russell: Trying to get through to them is not easy. (laughs)

Barker: Yeah, sometimes you've got to think like a teenager. (laughs)

Russell: (laughs) Sometimes we all have to think like like that. (laughs)

Barker: (laughs)

Russell: All right. Now, my second question is to you. What would you say the role is of the Augustinians today?

Barker: Basically, kind of what Pope Francis is saying, is just to serve the needs, especially those who are disadvantaged. You know, we're all disadvantaged in one way or another, you know, but it's just to serve and bring Christ to areas that aren't used to recognizing the face of Christ, or presence of Christ, in their lives.

Russell: And also, how do you think the Augustinians are still relevant today, in today's society?

Barker: I think they're relevant because the teachings of Augustine, I think they're rather timeless, you know. It doesn't matter what age you live in, to try to have a life of truth, being people of authenticity and being genuine, is a value that is needed today, more than ever, I think.

Unity, working together, journeying together, like I said before, and then just being people of love, to bring the love of Christ to others, so it's still very relevant, I think.

Russell: No, I agree with you. My third question is as you know, we're doing the Continuing Our Journey of Faith capital campaign, and what we hope to do is build the Father Ray Ryan Trust for men in formation and vocations, and also a trust fund called a [Journey of a] Lifetime Trust for the retired and infirm Augustinians.

Barker: Mhm.

Russell: Why do you think, at this time, this campaign is so important at this time in our lives?

Barker: Well, I think it's important cause it involves our past and our future. One way to honor our past is to take care of the people who served so well and so tirelessly, for decades, in the past, and now they've come to the end of their journey on Earth, and they need help. They need help and support, and they need our affirmation. This is one way we can do that.

And, then with the formation aspect, the Ray Ryan Trust, that's really preparing for the future, so we have friars ready, and willing, and able, and well equipped, and well prepared to face the demands and challenges of ministry today.

Russell: Okay.

Barker: Did that sound good?

Russell: That sounds really good. That's what about it is today, you know. You have to prepare for the future, and yet we have to take care of the men who have served us so willingly.

Barker: Yeah.

Russell: Yep. Now, do you have any advice for those currently in formation, or discerning their religious vocations they have?

Barker: Just be open to the voice of God, who calls us in many surprising and mysterious ways, through friends, through enemies, through family, through work, through nature, through the Eucharist and the scriptures, of course.

Russell: How did you come about your vocation?

Barker: I grew up in a very Catholic family. Daily mass was something my parents would go to, and my dad especially, and there was just always... in the neighborhood I grew up on the south side [of Chicago] was, you know, every one was Catholic, you know. (laughs)

Russell: (laughs)

Barker: The whole block was Catholic. (laughs)

Russell: We still are! (laughs)

Barker: And, it's just a way of ... it's kind of a more of a, it was much more ... the culture was much more favorable, I think, than it is today. Several cases of the priesthood and religious life, but I think strong support from family and friends. Vocation's not an individual thing, it's really a community thing.

Russell: Yeah, I agree. Okay, my last question is regarding this campaign that we have, why do you think some people should go the extra mile to make a special gift to this campaign?

Barker: I guess kind of like I said before. It's honoring the past and preparing for the future, you know, and that's I think a way to handle... to deal with in the present is, you know, we've got past, present, and future right there. By giving now, we're preparing for the future and we're also honoring our past, in the spirit of gratitude and thankfulness for those who've gone before us, and a spirit of hope for the ones that will come after us.

Russell: Was there any special Augustinian that touched you to go into the Augustinian order?

Barker: There was, but he's left the Augustinians. (laughs) He left...

Russell: (laughs)

Barker: ... his name was Bill Conroy. I was a little kid then, but ...

Russell: Oh, okay.

Barker: He was the first, but...

Barker: My heroes, my three Augustinian heroes are Ted Tack, and Ray Ryan, and Jack Gavin.

Russell: Oh my gosh.

Barker: Those are the three that... those are my heroes.

Russell: They are... I think they're many people's heroes. I really do.

Barker: Yeah.

Russell: Great men, great men. Well Brian, thank you for your time.

Barker: Okay. Hope it helps.

Russell: I hope so and have a good rest of the day.

Barker: All right, you too.

Russell: Okay, bye-bye.

Barker: Bye.

Posted on October 24, 2014 and filed under Brian Barker O.S.A..