Thomas Barry Led Mission Churches

By Jean Torkelson
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
April 3, 2003

Monsignor Thomas Barry, the oldest priest of the Denver Archdiocese - who was still active in parish work until last fall - died Tuesday at age 97.

His last parish, All Souls Catholic Church in Englewood, will hold a 7 p.m. vigil Monday night.

Archbishop Charles Chaput will celebrate a funeral Mass on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

"Monsignor Barry," as everyone called him, was a beloved visitor in the mountain parishes he led 50 years ago.

In his last years, he shrugged off the pains of cancer and other ills to celebrate Masses in mission churches in Grand and Jackson counties, several of which he founded as a young priest. He celebrated his last Mass, in Granby, the day after Labor Day.

"He worked right up to the end. He was a great man. I learned a lot from him and enjoyed his friendship," said the Rev. Frank Gerber, who was the 12th pastor to follow Monsignor Barry at the mission churches of Our Lady of the Snow in Granby, St. Anne's in Grand Lake and St. Bernard's in Winter Park.

Monsignor Barry lived in residence at All Souls before moving to the Gardens of St. Elizabeth Retirement Home in Denver.

He was 19 when he left Ireland to come to the United States, "just a poor simple peon from the sod," as he described himself to the Denver Catholic Register.

He graduated from Montrose High School and was ordained in 1939. During World War II, he became an unforgettable presence to almost 200 German POWs who had been sent to detention camps in Colorado. Most were Catholics, and Monsignor Barry would celebrate Mass and hear their confessions.

"Some came back in recent years and said how well he treated them," said Gerber, who is writing a parish memoir that centers on Monsignor Barry.

After World War II, Monsignor Barry was assigned to the far-flung western reaches of the archdiocese, where he oversaw the growth of the mountain missions.

His life work merged into his hobby of fishing, which he liked to indulge at his favorite fishing hole, Granby Reservoir.

Monsignor Barry achieved legendary status when, during the course of one summer, he caught about 1,500 fish, Gerber said. He added that Monsignor Barry took generations of parishioners - and Gerber - out on the water to teach them the intricacies of the sport.

"He just liked people," Gerber said.

Monsignor Barry also enchanted listeners with fish stories.

Recalled Gerber, "He liked to say, 'St. Peter and St. Andrew were fishermen, and if a monsignor adds a couple of inches to the head of a fish and a few to the tail, I think the Lord will understand.' "


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