CNA—Bishop Robert Barron, the founder of the Catholic media apostolate Word on Fire, was installed as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, at St. John the Evangelist Co-Cathedral in Rochester on Friday.
Appointed by Pope Francis earlier this summer, Barron is returning to the Midwest after almost seven years as auxiliary bishop in the Santa Barbara region of Los Angeles, California.
As a young priest serving in Chicago, Barron broadcast his homilies on a local radio station, attracting the attention of Cardinal Francis George, who urged him to share his talents with the wider world.
With George’s support, Barron founded the non-profit Word on Fire media apostolate that shares the traditions of the Catholic faith through a multi-media platform that includes artwork, theology, and philosophy. In the form of daily blog posts, articles, videos, and an archive of hundreds of online homilies, Barron’s ministry has reached millions across the globe.
In an Installation Mass which took place at the Co-Cathedral on Friday, apostolic nuncio to the United States Archbishop Christophe Pierre recognized Barron’s dedication to spreading the Gospel around the world, adding that he hoped his commitment to evangelization would “continue to be of great fruit.”
Friends, traditionally a new bishop knocks three times on the cathedral doors before Vespers. Earlier this evening, I knocked on the doors of the Co-Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. pic.twitter.com/pK7RDfvrX1
— Bishop Robert Barron (@BishopBarron) July 29, 2022
It is no surprise that evangelization featured prominently in Barron’s homily during the Mass, a theme that has defined the pursuit of his vocation.
Noting his delight that the Mass took place on the Feast Day of Sts. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the bishop explained that the lives of the three “friends of Jesus” reflected the model he desired to bring to the diocese.
Drawing on a quote from Pope Benedict XVI, the bishop explained that the three tasks of the Church are to worship God as Mary did, serve the poor with the commitment of Martha, and evangelize by exemplifying the life of Lazarus, who was one of Jesus’ most effective witnesses.
Like Lazarus, the bishop said, “Those whom Jesus has liberated and untied will most powerfully convey the truth of [Him] to others.”
Barron called on parishioners to strengthen their devotion to corporal and spiritual acts of mercy, noting that he couldn’t help but see a correlation between the diocese’s location near the Mayo Clinic and the need for the Church to be a place of “spiritual healing.”
In particular, the bishop noted the urgent need to draw young people back to the Church, citing that the disaffiliation rate is at least 50% among young Catholics.
The Winona-Rochester Diocese serves more than 136,000 Catholics, including 23 Catholic schools and St. Mary’s University.
Barron was ordained to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1986. In his new appointment, he succeeds Bishop John M. Quinn, whose resignation and title “emeritus” became effective at the Mass on Friday.
One of the goals of Word on Fire is to reinvigorate Catholicism in the modern world by highlighting the “truth, beauty, and goodness of our ancient faith,” a mission that has attracted many to the faith.
In a statement regarding his new appointment, Barron assured followers that Word on Fire’s work would continue, reflecting that “It is a blessing for me to work with you to introduce people to Jesus Christ and invite them to share all the gifts he wants his people to enjoy.”