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Fr Robert Barry RIP

Fr Bob Barry died peacefully on Saturday 15th December, at Northwick Park Hospital with members of his family at his bedside.  

The Funeral Mass will take place at Ss Sebastian and Pancras, Hay Lane, Kingsbury Green NW9 0NG on Monday 14th January at 12 noon.

Fr Bob was born in January 1945 and Ordained to the Priesthood in July 1976. His first ministry in the diocese was as a curate at Our Lady of Lourdes in Acton.

Sympathy is extended to Fr Bob’s family and friends, and to the staff and residents at St Vincent’s Nursing Home, Eastcote where he had been living.

Fr Bob’s mortal remains will come into the church of Ss Sebastian and Pancras on Sunday evening at 6pm when there will be a Requiem Mass (not Mass of The Baptism of the Lord). Fr Michael Kennedy will preside.

Burial at Hendon Cemetery will follow the funeral Mass.  Refreshments will be available in the Parish Centre adjacent to the church after the Funeral Mass. 

Concelebrating Priests are welcome at either or both Masses, with their alb and purple Mass vestments, and are asked to kindly notify the parish office at Kingsbury of their intention: kingsburygreen@rcdow.org.uk or telephone: 020 8204 2834/2117  

We pray in thanksgiving for his life and ministry, and now for the repose of his soul.  May he rest in peace.

Obituary:

Robert Joseph Barry will be remembered by relatives, friends and colleagues in the priesthood as a truly holy man. His holiness was evident because of his closeness to, and unfailing trust in, God. He believed in God and he heard and followed God’s call to priesthood and to the Religious life. His vocation was lived out with simplicity, humility and courage, especially in the face of illness and the restrictions that living with Multiple Sclerosis imposed.

Bob was born, educated and grew up in Ballybunion, County Kerry in Ireland. He was the fourth of six children born to Joseph and Margaret (formerly Keane) Barry, on 26th January 1945 and baptized two days later at St John’s Church, Ballybunion, the church in which he was confirmed on 26th April 1957. His father was an honest and hard-working farmer, and Bob brought experience and knowledge of farming to his employment on local farms. When he was 17 Bob left Ireland in search of work in England, and joined his siblings who were living in Kingsbury in northwest London. Bob worked in construction as a labourer, along with so many others who had emigrated to England to earn their living and provide for their families in Ireland. At this time Bob’s spiritual life was developing, and by 1963 he had become aware that God was calling him to the priesthood. He attended daily evening Mass and Benediction twice weekly at Ss Sebastian and Pancras Church on Hay Lane, Kingsbury Green while continuing in employment. The parish clergy, Fr John O’Callaghan and Fr Paul Dewe Mathews, were supportive of Bob’s desire to be a priest of the Diocese of Westminster. However, Bob was very aware that he would struggle with studies and so he was put in contact with the Dominican Sr Catherine of St James’ School in Burnt Oak. Sr Catherine saw Bob’s potential, and gave him weekly lessons in English and also Latin for a year, and employed him at the convent. She described him as having ‘fine qualities of soul’, a man ready to respond to God’s call to priesthood. Bob was determined to become a priest in response to God’s call, and with the encouragement of those who knew him he applied to and was accepted as a student for the Diocese of Westminster and sent to Campion House, Osterley for studies in preparation for seminary formation.

After two years at Campion House Bob was sent to Allen Hall Seminary in Ware, Hertfordshire. He was a hard-working and conscientious student but he struggled academically. The Superior at Campion House endorsed Bob’s vocation. He reported, ‘There is no mistaking the sincerity and good will of this man. He is never going to be brilliant academically, but has compensating qualities of good sense and perseverance’. Sr Catherine OP wrote, ‘If there is patience over his initial difficulties I believe he will make a holy priest’. The Rector of Allen Hall, Mgr (later Bishop) James O’Brien, described Bob as a student who ‘is conscientious, tries hard…works well and is a good member of the community’. Bob was ordained to the priesthood on 10th July 1976 at Eden Grove, Holloway by Bishop Victor Guazzelli following ministry in the parish as a deacon in formation for priesthood.

Fr Bob’s first appointment was to the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, Acton where he served from 1976 to 1978. He was then appointed as Assistant Priest at Hertford until 1980. Fr Bob had spoken with Cardinal Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster, about a sense of calling to the monastic life. Fr Bob had a deeply contemplative spirit, and spoke to the new Archbishop, the Benedictine Basil Hume, to ask permission to try his vocation with the Carthusians, an enclosed community of monks founded by St Bruno in 1084 with a monastery in England, St Hugh’s Charterhouse, Parkminster near Horsham in West Sussex. In April 1980 Cardinal Hume wrote to Fr Bob, having given permission for him to go to Parkminster: ‘I do wish you all that is best. I only ask that if you discover that this Carthusian life is not for you… you will be received back into the diocese with open arms. But there is a side of me that prays and hopes that this is truly God’s will for you’. Himself a monk, Cardinal Hume recognized and supported Fr Bob’s monastic vocation. And so, in 1980, Fr Bob became Dom Joseph and lived in a cell at Parkminster, living a radical life of prayer and contemplation, sharing in the silence and work of the community.

Dom Joseph embraced the monastic life in response to God’s call. He found happiness and peace in the monastery, and enjoyed every day of the seven years he remained there. In 1985, at the time of renewal of temporary profession, the Novice Master wrote of Dom Joseph: ‘All who meet him quickly notice his sincerity, his real faith, his dedication to the life of prayer. He has never had any doubt about his vocation. He tends to play himself down to identify with the underdog… it is interesting to note how he regularly impresses the more intellectual among our aspirants…all speak highly of him.’ Dom Joseph is remembered by a contemporary at Parkminster for his humour and humility. His strong Kerry accent seems to have fascinated, amused, and, at times confused, his brother-monks! However, Dom Joseph was diagnosed with a serious illness, Multiple Sclerosis, necessitating his departure from the monastic life as lived as a member of the Order of St Bruno in October 1987. This was a great disappointment and challenge for him. He had met the philanthropist Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, who had established homes for people with serious disabilities, and he went to the Cheshire Home in Cavendish, Suffolk as resident Chaplain. The Prior of Parkminster, Fr Bernard, had visited the home and described Fr Bob’s accommodation as ‘a little cell of two rooms, quiet and remote, where he can continue to live a life of prayer and solitude, very like our own’. The Prior wrote to Cardinal Hume, saying ‘Fr Barry was very well liked and respected in this community, and we were sorry to lose him. He accepts his infirmity and disappointment in great peace and acceptance of God’s will…he is very close to God, and will bring down many graces in your Diocese by his life of prayer, and the suffering that is inevitable in his condition’. Fr Bob was happy and content at Cavendish, but declining health meant another change in 1990, this time to the diocesan Pastoral Centre at London Colney for four years.

Fr Bob’s next move was to the parish of Southall, with the presbytery adapted for his needs. Fr Bob was pleased to give assistance to the Parish Priest in the sacramental and pastoral life of the parish. He had a particular gift as a confessor and counsellor, able to listen to people’s concerns and burdens and showing them understanding, kindness and mercy. But deteriorating health meant another move, in 2000, to Nazareth House. After a few years Fr Bob moved to the new St Vincent’s Nursing Home in Eastcote where he remained a resident until his death at Northwick Park Hospital on 15th December 2018 with members of his family at his bedside.

Since his departure from the monastery, Fr Bob continued to live a monastic life in other places and circumstances. He was respected by all with whom he came into contact. His faithfulness to prayer and to God’s will, with its challenges, inspired members of his family and his friends. He modelled courage and dedication to his vocation, living a life of quiet simplicity and evident joy without complaint about his personal cross of illness and suffering. Fr Bob seems to have made his own the motto of the Carthusian Order: Stat crux dum volitur, the Cross is steady while the world is changing.  He readily saw the good in others, and was unfailingly complimentary about people that others may have found difficult. He was always grateful for the understanding, support and friendship given by his family, friends and brother priests, and by the diocese. He, in turn, gave to all an example of faithful service to God and to the Church.

May this holy man and priest of God rest in peace.