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The Florida Catholic

Bishop Barbarito becomes honorary member of Christian Brothers

BOCA RATON  |  To mark Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 29-Feb. 4, Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito celebrated Masses at the three Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Palm Beach. On Jan. 31, the 47th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, the liturgy at St. John Paul II Academy was extra-special as he became an honorary member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The Boca Raton high school has Christian Brother Daniel Aubin as its president.

As explained by the Christian Brothers, affiliation is their highest and most rare honor bestowed on lay and religious, recognizing them as spiritual sons and daughters of St. John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the Christian Brothers. Those so honored share the brothers’ beliefs and values: religious faith, love for young people, enthusiasm for Catholic and human education, sensitivity to the needs of the poor, and a commitment to Christ and his Gospel.

More than three centuries ago, St. John Baptist de La Salle saw the difference between how the world was and how it should be living in accord with the teachings of Jesus, said Christian Brother Robert Schaefer, provincial of the District of Eastern North America. “He saw himself intimately connected and affected, perhaps a better word is responsible, for the way the world was, and the way Jesus intended the world to be.”

That is why the French saint began to build schools “that are workshops in Gospel fraternity … marked by faith in God’s abiding presence that spills into it ardent zeal to do his will,” Brother Schaefer said. He had a vision of Catholic education that is open to the current needs of young people and a creative determination to respond to those needs.

“You are such an apostolic leader, Bishop,” Brother Schaefer said. “Your passion for quality Catholic education is well known, and your determination to make it accessible to all who wish to experience it is significant. Catholic education in your diocese is expanding. What a gift.”

Reading a letter of affiliation from the brothers’ superior general in Rome, Brother Schaefer expressed the gratitude of the global Lasallian community.

“As an affiliated member, you share in the spiritual fruits of the prayers and apostolic activities of all those who are serving in the Lasallian mission and of the Brothers of the Christian Schools,” he said. “May the Lord in his goodness confirm this affiliation and, through the intercession of St. John Baptist de La Salle, share with you his blessings.”

During the ceremony at the conclusion of Mass, Bishop Barbarito was given the four symbols of the Christian Brothers: a copy of the New Testament, the first and principal rule of a brother, presented by Ed Bernot, principal; a crucifix, a daily reminder of the paschal mystery, given to him by Marian Demarest, assistant principal; a six-decade rosary, a sign of Mary, the brothers’ model of faith, presented by Christian Brother Thomas Zoppo, president of Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach; and the Rule of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, presented by Brother Aubin.

Bishop Barbarito thanked the brothers for the honor of affiliation, acknowledging the leadership of Brother Aubin at St. John Paul II Academy and Brother Zoppo at Cardinal Newman.

“I worked across the street from Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn for many years, at which there were the Christian Brothers,” the bishop said, “and the bishop that ordained me a priest, Bishop Francis Mugavero, received this very, very special affiliation, so it means a great deal to me.”

In his homily at the Boca Raton Mass, Bishop Barbarito urged the students to embrace silence when they can find it. He recalled the recent words of Pope Francis, who said, “When we come to the Eucharist it is important for us to listen. To listen to God because God speaks to us, and to put ourselves aside.”

It is important to experience silence in our noisy world, the bishop said, because it is in the quiet that we can hear God’s voice. He recalled the life and legacy of St. John Bosco, whose feast day is marked on Jan. 31.

“As we continue now to celebrate this Eucharist, God speaks to us. As we continue to celebrate this week of Catholic schools, God speaks to us of the goodness of who we are, of the word he gives us and of each other,” Bishop Barbarito said. “Let us, in a noisy world with so many distractions, which has always been the case in history, follow the example of St. John Bosco and St. John Baptist de La Salle in listening. Listening to God, listening to others and listening to ourselves. And then we will know the true joy of life.”

For more information on St. John Paul II Academy, visit To learn about all schools in the Diocese of Palm Beach, go to or follow the Office of Catholic Schools on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.