By David Okonkwo
My experience of our Bishop Gerald Barnes from the first time I met with him after being hired as the Director of the Ministry to Catholics of African Descent was clear, concise and freeing. It was a clear marching order that the mission statement of the Diocese is meant for all peoples, including residents of the Diocese that are of African descent. And he has shown that by his love and appreciation to the communities of African descent in many occasions. I have grown in my leadership by watching him lead in all seasons.
He has shown how to be humble in leadership. His availability to the people of the Diocese, be it at the Eucharistic congress or in the parish visitation is unparalleled. He teaches us who work with and for him how to be - what a wonderful way to teach. And for me personally, it gives me a model that I strive to follow, especially when the situation is immovable.
And spiritually I yearn to be at his Masses and talks, for there he exudes so much wisdom. In his simple ways, he brings the mountain down to a hill and a hill to a flat land. He is a man of God gifted for his ministry. He is the man who shook my hand one year after I served as a lector in a Black History Mass, when I did not know his name, and shook my hand a year after and called me by my name; sending shock through the hand shake through my body. I remember saying to myself, ‘this is truly a servant of the most High God.’ Congratulations Bishop in this memorable year for all of us!
David Okonkwo is the Director of the Diocesan Ministry to Catholics of African Descent.