'Father Fred' Gets Warm Reception in Watertown's St. Patrick Parish

By Jillian Fennimore
Watertown TAB & Press
May 16, 2008


Last year, the Rev. Fred Barr spent 18 months lying in a hospital bed, not knowing if he would survive.

Today, he is the new pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Watertown, happy to be alive and continuing his ministry.

"To be here like this is such a grace, such a gift," said Barr, 57, who recovered from a severe ulcer. "It's a miracle."

The Beverly native said he started his work at Watertown's Main Street church last month, taking over for the Rev. Steve Madden. Madden moved to St. Mary's in Foxboro.

Father Fredís installation

Bishop Walter Edyvean will install Father Fred Barr as pastor of St. Patrick Parish, 212 Main St., during the 4 p.m. Vigil Mass on Saturday, May 31.

Inside St. Patrick's Chestnut Street parish center, Barr sits with a kind smile as he discusses the warm reception he received upon his arrival. He was previously interim priest at St. John the Evangelist School in Canton.

"This is a dynamic parish full of both young and old," he said. "People from various ethnic and racial groups. This church is still very live, very active."

Still in "the listening stage" of his ministry at St. Patrick's, Barr said there is nothing to immediately improve upon at the parish, but instead things to "affirm."

"There's so much good going on here," he said, noting the work of the food pantry, church choir, religious classes and outreach.

Barr's priesthood began when he attended college at St. John's School of Theology-Seminary. For him it was a decision of either becoming a priest or a teacher.

In 1975, he was ordained as a deacon.

And if Barr could do it all over again, he would.

"I love being a priest," he said. "I want to continue the movement toward growth [in both Christ and numbers], and deepen the faith of the parish community," he said. "For me, it's about being touched by Christ and allowing Christ to work through me in various ways."

Weekday mornings for Barr begin with a prayer and a 7:30 a.m. Mass. After breakfast and discussions with his office staff and administration, he tends to church members who either pop in for a visit or schedule an appointment to talk.

Barr said he has already married a couple, christened a baby, and presided at wakes, funerals, First Holy Communion and confirmation.

"There is never a dull moment," Barr said. "The day doesn't wind down until 9 p.m."

Barr's past ministry work includes St. Mary's Catholic Church in Boxboro, St. Mary's Church in Charlestown, St. Clement's Religious in Somerville/Medford, St. Luke Catholic Church in Belmont, St. James the Great in Wellesley, St. Patrick's Parish in Natick, Star of the Sea Parish in Quincy and administrative work at St. Mary's Church in Cambridge. Barr also worked with the homeless in Quincy and was a part-time chaplain at Logan Airport, running three Masses a week inside the terminal's chapel.

But Barr said he is content now in Watertown, and glad to be a part of parish that has been active since 1847.

Despite scandals that have surrounded the Archdiocese of Boston over the years, Barr said many churches and religious communities are making a change for the better.

"Most people sense it," he said. "It has turned a corner. It's about hope. It's a sense of the future. We are moving on."

Barr said he wants Watertown's Catholic community to move up. In a culture Barr said that is secularized with decreasing numbers in church attendance, there are still people looking to be welcomed.

"People drift away," he said. "But at the same time, others are coming forward to us."


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