A New Face at OLPH / St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church


ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – “I love every parish I serve in, but my home really is in Bayshore,” Reverend Thomas Barry said as he began his duties as parish vicar at Notre Dame Parish of Perpetual Help St. Agnes.

Father Barry was recently appointed by Bishop David M. O’Connell to serve as assistant pastor, Reverend Jarlath Quinn, in the parish which spans both the Highlands and the Atlantic Highlands, as well as in parts of Middletown and includes both Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Highlands and St. Agnes in this community.

Ordained to the priesthood in 2017, Father Tom, as he invites parishioners to call him, comes to the ward armed with an experience in churches in Burlington, Ocean and Mercer counties before coming to the nearby parish. the place where he grew up in Hazlet and was a parishioner at St. Ann’s Church in Keansburg during his early years and teenage years. He graduated from Raritan High School before earning an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Brookdale College, later a BA in Administrative Justice from Rutgers University, and finally an MA in Theology and Systematic Theology.

Still a devout Catholic and for many years a teenager and young adult who attended Mass daily, Father Tom spent a few years trying out a variety of jobs ranging from managing restaurants and auto parts stores. to construction and safety work while visiting a large family from Florida to California.

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He frankly admits that he never thought he would be a priest, even though he volunteered and held various positions helping others including CCD instructor, reader and Eucharistic minister in mass and hospital ministry. . He was living in Red Bank at the time and attending mass in St. James and was impressed by the pastor, Monsignor Philip Lowery, who helped him make a decision as to whether he wanted to consider the priesthood.

“I loved doing all the ministry work I could, I loved being able to help people, I loved being able to give to the Church with all my talents,” said the friendly and outgoing priest. “It’s amazing how much you can give, but you always get so much more in return. God is so much more generous.

The father also turned to Bishop Michael Walsh at St. Mary’s in New Monmouth who helped him put aside any doubts he might have and introduced him to the priests in Trenton who could guide him through. the steps he would take to enter seminary for six years. , including the two master’s degrees he obtained from Seton Hall University while at Immaculate Conception Seminary on campus there.

Father’s last ward before St. Agnes was St. Katharine Drexel in Burlington County where he began writing a spiritual play for the ward each week. “I’m continuing this here,” he said with joy, noting that a Journey Through Easter appears both in the Sunday newsletter as well as on the parish website every day. He also uploaded all of his past “trips” for anyone who wants to read what he wrote in the past. The journey through Easter will last throughout the Easter season until Ascension Thursday in May, he said, then added: “Then we will start another journey and I will ask the parishioners here what ideas they have for a “trip” that they would like to take.

While in St. Katharine Drexel, as well as in the Mercer County Parish where he also served, the father became involved in the prison ministry and regularly visits both Fort Dix Federal Prison as well as as state and county facilities, administering to those who are incarcerated.

Eager to serve where he can do the most good, the father said he applied to become a Navy chaplain, but noted that it was a long and complex process that could arise in the future. For now, he said, “I just want to be where God wants me to be, I want to do my best and I am confident that God will take care of it.”

As for loving the parish, the Father laughed again and said, “How can you not? God puts love in the heart of a priest so that he can share it with everyone through the sacraments and prayer. It is simply beautiful for me. I also know and love the Eucharist and the Mass and I feel that God has given me this blessing so that I can share it, so that I can help others, so that I can offer challenges to help bring people back to church and to encourage and help them. I believe this is my mission in life, and I know that God will always be there to help and guide me to do it in the best possible way. ‘

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