Interview with John Barrett

Michael Gerrity: Hello, I'm Michael Gerrity, Director of Advancement for the Midwest Augustinians. Today I have the pleasure of speaking with John Barrett. John is a long-standing friend and supporter of the Augustinians. John, and his dear wife Diane serving as an associate, managed the fund raising and communications for the Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel for almost 12 years. John and Diane are now retired and live in Midlothian, a nearby suburb of Chicago. Good afternoon, John.

John Barrett: Hi Michael.

Gerrity: How are you today?

Barrett: OK.

Gerrity: John, share with us first how you came to know the Augustinians.

Barrett: Well, we were in church work, as you might know, for quite a while - both Diane and I. For most of the jobs together. And, our positions were always in development and fundraising and PR and that sort of stuff. The previous development assignments we had were in the Diocese of Fort Wayne. Then before that, Wilmington, Delaware. And then before that, Covington, Kentucky. That was a series of about, I would say almost 15 years in that area.

We decided all of those, of course we had good relationships and like the people and that, but we felt a need to maybe move and look in another area still within the church. The Catholic weeklys had ads that we used to check just as a habit or for interest. One of them in particular advertised a development position in the Order of Saint Augustine, in the Midwest Province. And, I asked Diane what she thought, as I usually would, and she felt we should go ahead and write or call and look into it. And so we did that and quite a short time after that we were asked to come for an interview with Father Prevost and we met him. It worked out very well. There were two candidates and luckily we were chosen. We had I think it was 6 years there, 5 or 6. It was a very good experience.

Gerrity:  And I think they, from what I understand, knowing the advancement program, you did great service here and it shows in some ways it's why we're here today because of the work that you and Diane contributed over those years. Can you tell me John, are there any particular Augustinians that made a great impression upon you or had an impact on you and Diane?

Barrett: Well oddly enough, our office was kind of a wide open area. Augustinians and others, mostly Augustinians, would stop by and use the xerox machine. That was the attraction. But, as time went on rather quickly, they used to individually stop and ask questions and maybe sit down and kind of pick your brain, so to speak, on various things including personal matters, sometimes even serious illnesses. As we thought about it we figured, well you know, that is something very important and the time, it wasn't a lot of time, but it was enough time to at least maybe help with them adjusting to what those fears were and just listening and responding. That was really important I think to them and to us. We had no idea we were in that role. And, as I said, it was mostly Augustinians and few other people. That had really impacted our life and of course those people that you are close to like that become pretty much our lifetime friends.

Gerrity: That's wonderful to hear. I know you had a collateral impact on them as well. How would you say, John, the Augustinians are relevant in today's secular society? How would you describe their relevance?

Barrett: Well I think they're right on with what they do, because they have a set of principles, I think, that involve certainly work. When they come to the Order, they know that you're either going to be ordained, of course, or be a pastor or teacher or whatever. And, they stick to that. The people who are professed members and then become ordained priests know what the work is. It's either teaching or retreats or parish work, counseling and several things in that area, in hospital or healthcare. So, I think when you see that there are some areas in other communities that are a little, even though they are great, they're a little too open for a person making his own choice for a job. Sometimes there may be reasons for it, but sometimes a person will just want to get out of the situation all together and I've known some that even that would go take a job at a bank. Then slowly that money is attractive because you get a regular salary and maybe even the community is OK with it too because most of them are in need of money. So I just feel that the fact that they, everybody knows what they do, the success they've had, and their work is pretty much, I don’t want to say assigned to them, but there is discussion before they move into a position. Ninety-nine percent of the time it is a position that is part of the purpose of the Province and what their goals are.

Gerrity: How interesting, John. Can you tell me what you and Diane, I know you decide and you do things together which is a beautiful example for all of us, why did the two of you decide to help Continuing Our Journey of Faith campaign?

Barrett: Well I think we like to keep in touch with, you know, former colleagues and with the Order that way. And that's done very well by Brother Tom Taylor's newsletter. We look forward to seeing those and the Province magazine which just came today, it's wonderful again. So congratulations to you and all who coordinate that. It's just outstanding. We just had a few minutes to go over it because the mail had come right before the interview. And also another thing as I mentioned before that the apparent success of the current campaign is a real draw plus the fact that there is such good follow up. And also because there is a increase in vocations and that's primarily due to the work of the Vocation Director and the religious who is his assistant. They just do a tremendous job around the country recruiting and interviewing men who want some kind of purpose in their life. Often they'll be, Father Tom does retreats with them and often maybe you have 12, 13 something like that at a retreat. Maybe 5 of those you find out in half a year that they have decide to join the community. And that is a real need. So that's attractive in itself in addition to how the Augustinians work in their various jobs.

Gerrity: Thank you John. One other thing I'd like to ask you is, would you encourage others to go the extra mile to make a special gift to this capital campaign? And, if so, why would you?

Barrett: Yeah we would. And I think for those who don't know what I just mentioned about the employment and the success they've had in really important things like vocations and in development. I think people are attracted to that and would have, if they don't know about it that would be a big part of the case for support that you would share especially to a new donor. So I don't see any problem with that. I think the people would feel like they'd be part of the family if they gave to that.

Gerrity: That's very kind of you too, John. I appreciate you saying that. Is there anything else you'd like to add for the benefit for our listeners?

Barrett: No, I think I covered the highlights. We've had 12, almost 12 good years with the Province. They were transition years but there was a lot of growth in there primarily following up on former development and public relations programs. There was a lul before we came with leadership and that, it just wasn't anything good or bad it was just something that happened. Follow up needed attention and so we had that as kind of a important item in our daily tasks.

Gerrity: Well thank you very much, John. You've been a great help to us. I'd like to encourage people who have been listening to John to, if you want to know more about campaign, hear other interviews like John's, go to for more information on ways you can become involved. And I'd like to close by thanking you again John, and wishing you and Diane all the very best. Thank you again, and God bless.

Barrett: OK, thank you very much.

Posted on November 7, 2014 and filed under John Barrett.