Fr Barry FischerFr. Barry Fischer, C.PP.S.

On the wall of his room in Schwieterman Hall on the campus of Saint Joseph's College, Fr. Barry Fischer, C.PP.S., has hung icons of Jesus, Mary, and Chilean-born St. Alberto Hurtado, a Jesuit priest, whose personal motto was "Contento, Se'or, contento!" Fr. Barry translates that to mean "Happy, Lord, happy," a mantra of joyful service that he wants to keep in his heart.

Fr. Barry, who has served as a missionary in Peru, Chile and Guatemala, and who has led his religious congregation, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, as its moderator general, must now muster his inner joy as he takes on his latest assignment.

Effective May 13, 2017, Fr. Barry became rector of Saint Joseph's, leading an effort to re-engineer the college, which was founded by the Missionaries in 1889 in Rensselaer, Ind. Fr. Barry moved into Schwieterman Hall in early May from his position as director of the Precious Blood Center for Spirituality in Salzburg, Austria. For him, it was a homecoming: "To me, the college has always been home." Born in Columbia, Penn., Fr. Barry graduated from SJC in 1969. The day before graduation, he and another classmate and fellow Missionary were commissioned to travel as missionaries to Latin America. "Those were happy years for me. I loved Saint Joe," he said. "I was very involved here." At the time, there wasn't much contact between the C.PP.S. seminarians and the secular students; Fr. Barry worked at building a bridge to bring the two groups together. He also worked at the student union office in Halleck Center.

He had planned to return this summer in a new position as Vice President for Mission and Ministry. He was going to reinforce the school's Catholic identity, intending to work with the faculty to teach a new generation of Pumas about Precious Blood spirituality. He was going to pitch in with the strategic plan to place the college on more solid footing. He was excited and happy, thinking about the challenges ahead. His task now is significantly different. As rector, Fr. Barry will be responsible for making decisions about the future of Saint Joseph's, building a team that will explore options for the future while negotiating its debts from the past. What will that look like? The team, while hopeful, sees through a glass darkly. There's a lot of work ahead, now to be done on a quiet campus without students or faculty, with few staff remaining. Operations were suspended after graduation on May 6. "When I heard about the suspension I was crushed. I had been flying so high with enthusiasm for coming here. All of a sudden, it all fell apart," he said. "But I came anyway and I'm going to do whatever I can to help. Count on me." He knows it's daunting. The closing of the college hurt and angered many people: students and their families, faculty and staff, alumni, the town of Rensselaer. "It's heartbreaking for everybody. I want to say to them, 'I want as much as you want for this place to continue in some form. Let's help each other.' I'm open to ideas," he said.

Fr. Barry plans to reach out to alumni and others in the college family, the community of Rensselaer, and all who want to see the mission of Saint Joseph's continue. "I want to have conversations with people, find out how we can continue to serve, to ask for forgiveness when necessary. I hope that we can turn a page," he said.
He has a history of bringing people together. After serving two terms as moderator general of his religious congregation, he was asked by the Vatican to lead another religious institute that was so riddled with distrust and discord that it was about to be disbanded. Fr. Barry led a patient, painstaking effort to reach out to all parties with a new vision and new hope, to bring them back together. That institute is now back on its feet under its own leadership. At Saint Joseph's, with the support of his team and others who love the college, he is willing to help with a new creation. "I know it will take time. I can't just come in and acknowledge the hurt and the next day it's gone. It's a process. But we have to be willing to do that. We have to want to move on.

It's going to take a while but the first step has to come from us (the Missionaries of the Precious Blood). We're the founders and sponsoring community. We put 128 years in this. How many of our priests and brothers gave their lives to work here? We're invested in this place. People think it's easy for us, that we're just going to walk away? If that's true, why would I be here? Saint Joseph's still has something to offer to the world, something unique and valuable. Something necessary, something vital. "None of us wanted to see it end," Fr. Barry said. "So if we really want something new, we have to work together. We can't go back; we have to look to the future. Let's work together."

Notes from Fr. Barry

December 21st, 2017

September 21st, 2017

August 8th, 2017

July 7th, 2017

June 13th, 2017

May 30th, 2017