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Rev. Msgr. William J. Barry

Deceased: 2007-03-18


Seminary Graduation Year: Faculty 1973

Funeral Mass will be celebrated March 23, 11 a.m. at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Claremont, for Msgr. William J. Barry, pastor emeritus and a major figure in the local priesthood for more than 60 years, who died at home in Newport Beach March 18, 2007. He was 87.

Cardinal Roger Mahony will preside at Msgr. Barry’s funeral Mass, the morning after a rosary vigil (7:30 p.m.) at the parish Msgr. Barry shepherded for 31 years until his retirement in 1994. A former officer with Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Inc. Msgr. Barry was a member of the agency’s emeritus board at the time of his death and was involved with numerous parish and diocesan outreach and educational efforts, both as an active and “retired” priest.

William Joseph Barry was born in Akron,Ohio on April 21, 1919 — the middle of five brothers (Robert, David, Theodore and John) — and moved with his family to Southern Californiain 1927. He graduated from San Marino-South Pasadena High School and went to UC Berkeley for one year; attended St. Thomas Seminary in Denver; and matriculated to St. John’sSeminary, Camarillo, as a theology graduate student in 1939.

He was ordained by Bishop John J. Cantwell at the Cathedral of St. Vibiana on May 28, 1944. He served as an associate pastor atSt. JosephChurchinSanta Anauntil 1945 and then was assigned to St. Mary Church inLos Angelesthrough 1950.

Father Barry, who in 1969 was named a monsignor on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of his ordination, was instrumental in organizing the program for Pastoral Studies for Priests and was appointed chairman. In 1970, he was appointed archdiocesan director for the Campaign for Human Development. In 1971, he was elected the first president of the newly organized Senate of Priests for the archdiocese.

The popular priest was honored in 1972 with an appointment as “pastor in residence” at the North American College in Rome for one year where he taught third and fourth-year students preparing to take up pastoral work in their home parishes. Along with three Southern California priests taking graduate classes in Rome at the time — Msgr. Thomas Welbers (current pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption), Msgr. Justin Rigali (now Cardinal of Philadelphia) and Msgr. Helmut Hefner (St. John’s Seminary rector) — he was a co-founder of the “California Club.”

“We were amazed to find 50 California priests in Rome, from students to a superior general. Every Saturday night, 12 or 15 of us would gather at my room and walk to some trattoria for dinner,” Msgr. Barry told The Tidings upon his return to Los Angeles. Before leaving Rome, he was personally thanked by Pope Paul VI for “taking a year away from home” to work with American seminarians.

Msgr. Barry received two other awards in the late ’80s: the Papal Decoration of Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and, in 1988, he was honored by the Holy Father by being raised to the highest level of Monsignor, Protonotary Apostolic. When he retired in 1994, he had completed 50 years of laudatory service as a priest for the archdiocese.

In 1994, Msgr. Barry celebrated three milestones: his 75th birthday, his golden jubilee as a priest, and his retirement after 31 years as pastor of OLA. The parish dedicated the new Msgr. William J. Barry Center for Education and Parish Life in 1995.

Msgr. Barry is survived by his brother, David, sisters-in-law Mary and Lorna, and numerous nieces/nephews and grand-nieces/nephews, all of whom he baptized. In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to make donations to Catholic Charities of Los Angeles or the Building Fund of Our Lady of the Assumption Church.