Archbishop, namesake parish honor the spirit of St. Finn Barr

By Christina Gray

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone joined St. Finn Barr Parish in honoring its patron saint on the weekend of Sept. 25, his feast day. Over two days, the Archbishop visited homebound parishioners, greeted St. Finn Barr School students during classroom visits, and celebrated a feast day Mass and reception.

In his Sunday homily, the Archbishop connected the Gospel of Luke 16: 19-31, to the life and ministry of St. Finn Barr, an Irish hermit who founded a monastery in 606 A.D. upon which the faith and the city and county of Cork, Ireland, grew.

The Archbishop said the Gospel message holds a “lesson about what the world is like when everyone lives for themselves as opposed to the good of the other.”

He said Catholics are not immune to falling “into the same trap” as the Pharisees, who became “comfortable and complacent” and blinded to what our faith demands of us.

“It is easy to slip into a routine, fulfill our obligations but still be oblivious to the plight of the poor, both materially and spiritually,” the Archbishop said.

St. Finn Barr attracted many new disciples to his monastery and became the first Bishop of Cork.

“There was certainly no complacency there,” said the Archbishop of the saint.

Father Raymond D. Tyohemba, VC, became parish administrator of St. Finn Barr Parish in 2021. He told Catholic San Francisco he personally invited the Archbishop to join the parish for this year’s feast day celebration so he could see the parish community’s renewal.

“When you run a church, you act on behalf of the Archbishop,” Father Tyohemba said. “I thought it would be a good experience for him to see what we as his agents are doing. He gladly accepted to do it.”

Since the Archbishop’s last visit to the parish, it has had ups and downs, mostly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After years in a fiscal deficit, according to Father Tyohemba, the parish is “in the black” again this year. 

“We are having babies crying in the church again,” he said.

The feast day celebration began on Friday, Sept. 23, when the Archbishop joined Father Tyohemba and others in a small convoy traveling the local neighborhood to visit the homes of the parish sick and homebound. The Archbishop heard their confessions, anointed them and gave them Holy Communion.

In the school classrooms, the Archbishop fielded questions from students from first through eighth grade. ”How did you get this job?,” asked one young student. “Where do you go on vacation?” asked another. The Archbishop clearly enjoyed the encounters.

After the Sunday Mass, Archbishop Cordileone blessed a packed parish hall decorated in shamrocks and student-drawn posters of St. Finn Barr.

“Lord God, we give you thanks for this happy day when we come together to celebrate our patronal saint, St. Finn Barr. Grant us the grace to imitate his example of fervor for the Gospel and of building your kingdom,” he said.

Christina Gray is the lead writer for Catholic San Francisco.

Photo by Debra Greenblat, Archdiocese of San Francisco.