Jeannie Ewing
Freelance Writer
June 22, 2018 // Diocese

50 years of priesthood

Jeannie Ewing
Freelance Writer

Father Barry England: A life of gratitude and generosity

Father Barry England

“Priesthood is a gift,” said Father Barry C. England, who celebrates his 50th jubilee of priestly ordination this summer. Indeed, when one listens to Father England, it’s evident that his life has been filled with gratitude and generosity: gratitude because of the immense appreciation he has for everyone who has been part of his journey, and generosity because of his willingness to serve God and His people wherever he was called to go.

Father England was ordained to the priesthood in 1968 after attending Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. His parents were from Fort Wayne, which was the deciding factor for Father England to become a diocesan priest. His first assignment was at St. Mary Church in Huntington, which surprised him. “At the time, I had no idea where Huntington was,” joked Father England. His time there, which included teaching at Huntington Catholic High School, was what he called “a learning experience and challenging.”

Much like the rest of his assignments following the first, Father England payed attention to what he was supposed to learn from the other, seasoned pastors who mentored and guided him. One of the most formative for his priesthood, he said, was the late Msgr. Edward I. Hession, at St. Charles Catholic Church in Fort Wayne. “I learned a lot from him about priesthood,” explained Father England. “He was very kind. It was obvious that he was truly a man of prayer, because I always observed him praying the rosary or Divine Office. He was just a good example of a priest.”

It was during his assignment as associate pastor at St. Charles that Father England became involved with the building committee. It started as a conversation with Msgr. Hession and turned into a very beneficial field of knowledge for Father England. At nearly every subsequent assignment, Father England had to tackle some very challenging structural issues pertaining to the parishes or parish schools: at Queen of Angels, Fort Wayne, renovations to the roof and school building; at St. Anthony de Padua, South Bend, construction in the sanctuary and school.

Two weeks after the completed renovations at St. Anthony, Father England was transferred to St. Bavo Parish in Mishawaka – and there were more building projects in the works there, too. “We don’t know which direction we’re going to be led by God,” he shared, “but the different experiences we have in life can build upon another. Whatever we learn always has its purpose for the plans God has in mind for us.”

As he reflected upon the last 50 years of his priestly vocation, Father England summarized his life as one of gratitude. While each parish challenged him as a priest, he said, each was also an incredible gift to him.

“The beauty of being a diocesan priest is that we get to participate where the action is,” he said of the first aspect of his thankfulness – for the priesthood itself. “You are with families from birth to death, joyous occasions and sad situations. I’m just grateful to God for the opportunity to serve the many people throughout our diocese.”

In addition, Father England is also appreciative of the support he’s received from staff and encouragement from parishioners. He said he prays for Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades to get the priests he needs, who will continue to serve the diocese. He also prays for the seminarians who are discerning their vocation.

A refrigerator magnet he kept from his mother reminds him to be grateful. It says, “If the only prayer we ever say in our lives is thank you, that will be enough.” It’s certainly enough to keep Father England aware of the needs of other priests, young and old, whom he remembers in both prayer and service.

Despite the fact that Father England has been retired for three years and currently lives at Holy Cross Village in South Bend, he still volunteers to help out priests who need a substitute for Mass. “I recently said Mass and heard confessions at St. Anthony’s so that the pastor could attend the diaconate ordination,” he said.

He decided on a quiet, more intimate celebration of his 50th jubilee. “I wanted to celebrate with my siblings and extended family,” he said. “The Saturday before Mother’s Day, we had Mass in the afternoon at the Village chapel and then shared a meal together.”

To new priests, Father England shared this wisdom: “Be willing to learn from the wisdom of your pastor. Be open to whatever challenges come your way on a daily basis and be available to the needs of the parishioners. Always put God first, your parishioners next and yourself last.”

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