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Barry, Colman James


Church historian, college president; b. Lake City, MN, May 29, 1921; d. Collegeville, MN, Jan. 7, 1994. Colman Barry entered the Order of St. Benedict of St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, in 1943 and was ordained a priest in 1947. A student of John Tracy Ellis at the Catholic University of America, he received his Ph.D. in 1953. His dissertation, The Catholic Church and German Americans, was later published; it was widely received and is a standard work in that vital area of American Catholic history. At St. John's he taught history from 1951 to 1966 and served as president from 1964 to 1971. As president of St. John's, Barry oversaw an extensive building program, gained the first local affiliate for Minnesota Public Radio, and opened the Center for Ecumenical and Cultural Research and the Hill Monastic Library, a microfilm collection of manuscripts from monasteries throughout the world.

As a church historian Barry's publications were wide-ranging, and include American Nuncio: Cardinal Aloisius Muench (1969); Upon These Rocks: Catholics in the Bahamas (1973); Worship and Work. The Centennial History of St. John's Abbey and University (1956; revised 1980, 1993); and three volumes of Readings in Church History. He was president of the American Catholic Historical Association (1977) and served as editor of Benedictine Studies and the American Benedictine Review.

As an indication of the widespread respect for his scholarship, he was appointed visiting professor of Church History at Yale University in 1973. His administrative leadership was evident during his four-year tenure as the first dean of the School of Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America. It was a challenging position, one that entailed incorporating constitutive departments into a new school and brokering a consensus on other foundational policy issues.

When he returned to St. John's in 1977, Barry became the first executive director of the Institute of Spirituality, well-known for its creative conferences in an ecumenical context. Concurrently, he was president of the Hill Monastic Library. Barry's richly diverse life marks him as an excellent teacher, a highly regarded historian, a creative administrator, a dynamic fund raiser, and a committed monk.

[c. j. kauffman]

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