Before our next Express, Noel Barber will be Socius to the Provincial, taking up the job on 2nd February. The job of Socius is not mentioned in St Ignatius’ Constitutions, nor does it turn up in a search of the Ignatian Wiki website. Yet it is of great importance in a Jesuit Province. The Socius is the companion, secretary, sounding-board and friend of the Provincial in his onerous job. No socius in living memory has gone on to be Provincial. He is typically an approachable discreet Jesuit of high competence, with a small ego and a capacity for enduring stress. The strain of the job persuaded Paddy Meagher that he should move to calmer pastures. Philip Fogarty’s heart almost gave way under the pressures. John Dunne, who loved and suited the job remarkably, has gone to the Lord. What does Noel bring to the job? Read on…
Fr Noel Barber SJ
Noel is a Belvederian from Sandymount, a healthy 73 with no worse physical complaint than a successfully resurfaced hip. He stays fit by walking everywhere and watching his diet.
He has been headmaster in Belvedere and Gonzaga, and taught education in Gonzaga University, Spokane. Two years’ research in the ESRI yielded a book on the development of comprehensive education in Ireland. He was editor of Studies for ten years, chaplain to the Cheshire Home for twenty, consultant (still) on the Westminster Marriage Tribunal, and also, for four years, on the Irish Marriage Appeals Tribunal. He chaired the Cherryfield board for nine years, and still serves the boards of Crescent Comprehensive and the National College of Ireland.
Noel was superior of Milltown Community for six years, of Leeson Street for seven years (during which he supervised the cleaning, re-ascription and loan of the Caravaggio painting), and of Gonzaga for four (this entailed chairing the school board of management). For the last three years his biggest job has been committee work on the future of the Milltown Community and Institute, including negotiations with UCD and Trinity.
You may wonder. what does Noel do to fill in his afternoons? He reads Gerard Manley Hopkins, on whose spirituality he is a kind of expert. His guiding philosophy in administration has been (borrowed from Fr Ciaran Hanley): “I may not like everything that’s happening, but I’m damned if it’s going to get me down.”