Bishop Thomas Francis Barry

by Mary Ann Riordan Barry

Thomas Francis Barry was born March 3, 1841, at Pokemouche, New Brunswick.

His parents were Thomas Barry (b. 1804 or 1807) and Marry Hammond (b. 1818?).

Thomas Sr. was the son of Nahor (Cornelius) Barry and Mary/Molly Barry from County Kilkenny, Ireland.

Siblings of Thomas Sr. (the Bishop’s father) (b. 1804) were:

Edward/Edmund Barry (b. 1779) (m. Alice Pendergast),
Julia Barry (b. 1798) (m. John Whitty),
and Patrick Barry.

Thomas and Edward came from Ireland in 1826. Patrick came later. Julia arrived in 1832.

Siblings of Thomas Francis Barry (the Bishop) were:

James Barry (b. 1834) (m. Johanna Riordon),
John J. Barry (b. 1838) (m. Mary Harriet Walsh),
Catherine (b. 1839) (m. John Joseph Riordon),
Francis Barry (b. 1847) (m. Maggie Keating),
Anne Barry (m. Patrick J. Foley)
and two other girls who possibly went to U.S.A.

Thomas Francis travelled to Saint John in the 1850’s to pursue his education at an academy founded by Bishop Connolly.  He went on to Montreal where he completed a classical course in rhetoric and philosophy at the Sulpicians’ College.  He was trained in theology at the Grand Seminary and he was ordained to the priesthood on August 5, 1866 in Montreal.

Father Barry was an imposing figure of a man, well over six feet tall. He spoke three languages fluently; English, French and Latin.  He returned to his native diocese of Chatham, which had been created in 1860.  The diocese consisted of the northern half of New Brunswick.  Within six months, Bishop James Rogers appointed Thomas the priest in charge of the Chatham Parish, chancellor of the diocese and president of St. Michael’s Male Academy.  In 1871 he was transferred to the Restigouche missions.  Eventually the area which he administered required the assignment of seven priests.  Father Barry then served at St. Basile (1876 – 1880), Caraquet (1880 – 1885), and Bathurst.  In Bathurst he became pastor of Sacred Heart Church.  There he built the beautiful church, rectory, and convent of stone.  The church is now the cathedral of the diocese of Bathurst.

Bishop Rogers observed that Father Barry “has exercised the pastoral ministry with the most perfect success and fruitfulness in all the principal centers of our Diocese.”  Thomas also understood the wider connection of the parish to the diocese and universal church.  He assisted Bishop Rogers in diocesan administration as Vicar General, travelled to Rome (1877) and the Holy Land (1884), and represented the Bishop in the 1896 ad lumina visit to Pope Leo XIII.

When the aging Bishop Rogers considered retirement (after forty-two years of service as Bishop), it was apparent that any successor would face formidable challenges.  He would labour in the shadow of a charismatic predecessor, have to deal with internal tensions emanating from the Acadian renaissance, and function in a society divided by sectarianism.  In 1899 Pope Leo appointed Father Barry the Titular Bishop of Thugga (now Dougga, Tunisia), and Coadjutor Bishop of Chatham with right of succession.  Thomas was consecrated on February 11, 1900 in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Saint John, New Brunswick.  He succeeded Bishop Rogers and was installed as Bishop of the Diocese in November, 1902, after Bishop Rogers’ resignation.

Among the many accomplishments of Bishop Barry are: the initiation and construction of st. Michael’s Cathedral (now Basilica), the Bishop’s residence, the Hotel Dieu Hospital, helping Father Richard and the Trappists in establishing the Rogersville monastery, and founding St. Thomas College with the Basilian Order.  He did not live to see St. Thomas College completed.  These accomplishments happened when he was aged 61 to 79.  Throughout the diocese he dedicated and blessed many new churches, opened new parishes, schools and other institutions, fostered education and ordained many priests.

Bishop Barry died on January 19, 1920.  His fine qualities were not founded on family name nor ethnic heritage, but on a desire to be good.  By offering spiritual vigour, religious authority, and supernatural emphasis, Bishop Barry opened wide the door of faith, and many entered.  He made clear that where people go in the hereafter depends on what they go after here.  His body lies in rest in the cemetery at St. Michael’s Basilica, Miramichi.

Submitted by Mary Anne Riordon Barry, February 4, 2008 at Miramichi.

Information taken from works by Reverend B.M. Broderick, Graeme A. Barry, Edith McAllister, Mrs. Eleanora Mahoney Glidden and Guy F.H. Riordon.

Note: As children, we often sat listening to our Dad, Guy F.H. Riordon (1904-1976), tell stories of many relatives.  He relished in making connections and explaining who was related to who, and how.  Finally, my sister, Christina (Taylor), started to record the many links he made for us. And, my brother Gregory also was forever interested in retelling geneology stories and inspecting old photos.

My husband, Allan Barry (of Antigonish and Halifax) and I spent many hours going through church records (in the early 1980’s) of Inkerman and other Pokemouche files to try to find dates and proof for all Daddy’s explanations.  We had lots of success.  Christina, Greg and I had lots of papers and notes from conversations with elderly aunts and uncles so we decided to amalgamate all our information and I inherited the “box” of treasures for the time being.  We value it dearly.

Daddy’s ability to pass on stories must have come from his ancestors.  The name “Riordon” comes from “O’Riorbardain” which means the family members were bards.  Daddy was an impressive bard.  Many people would go to him to trace roots, and he inherited the Riordon homestead so whenever long-lost cousins came home it was to our century home in Pokeshaw that they stayed and where so many family threads were woven.

Daddy used to tell us about mother (Mary Anne Barry Riordon) (1867-1942) (daughter of John J. Barry and Marry Harriet Walsh), who was Bishop Barry’s niece, and how she used to play the organ or piano for the Bishop.  She went from home (Pokeshaw) to Chatham to be with the Bishop when he died in Chatham.