Archbishop Barron: Establishing “Order of Priests” and Building Physical “Institutes” Next Big Goal

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Bishop Robert Barron, a cleric controversial on both the secular left and right for his talk of ethics and evangelism, says the Catholic Church needs a new order of priests for a new secular world.

And the bishop thinks his team may be the group to establish it.

“One of my dreams is to establish an order of priests,” Barron told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview. “Let’s go back to the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Jesuits. They all responded to a need of their time – what they perceived to be this pressing spiritual need.”

Barron, of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, 62, is the most followed online Catholic cleric in the country, aside from Pope Francis himself.

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Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, left.
(Word on Fire Ministries)

“We have mostly lay people. It’s a mostly online presence, but we want to set that up institutionally and establish Word on Fire centers in all major cities,” Barron said. The centers “would be centers of evangelism, of instruction, of liturgy – which would then influence the culture at large”.

While Barron’s episcopal office extends to his parishes in Minnesota — where he is already widely known — his public influence extends worldwide through his books, videos, radio shows and documentaries with his Word on Fire ministries.

“Who would doubt – today, in our culture – that the pressing spiritual need is how to reach the unaffiliated?” asked Baron. “How to evangelize a secularized culture?

The Bishop continued, “So I would dream of an order of priests who would share my charism, which is, you know, to teach and to preach, to use the media, to engage the culture.”

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Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota (center)

Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota (center)
(Word on Fire Ministries)

One of the reasons for Word on Fire’s success is its educational infrastructure.

The Word on Fire Institute markets itself as a “digital platform providing members with expert training, community discussions, live presentations, and more.”

The institute offers courses, lessons, and counseling in Catholic apologetics and evangelism. It is run primarily by lay people, but in cooperation with church prelates and the wider Catholic hierarchy.

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Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota

Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota
(Word on Fire Ministries)

“I’m not going to stay here forever,” Barron told Fox News Digital. “I don’t want that to go away with me. So that’s the next step, I would say – the institute, the order, getting a foothold all over the country.

Word on Fire CEO Fr. Steve Grunow, who leads day-to-day operations and overall planning for the ministry, wholeheartedly supports the idea.

Grunow explains, “It’s ‘institutionalizing’ the Word on Fire Institute. Because right now the institute is mostly an online phenomenon. But we want to create it as a physical campus, a physical place – so it’s is kind of the next step.”

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Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota

Bishop Robert Barron of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota
(Word on Fire Ministries)

Bishop Barron recently had major success in his evangelistic work after an interview with actor Shia LaBeouf, who converted to the Catholic Church while working on a biopic of St. Padre Pio.

“I had a gun on the table. I was out of here,” Shia recalled in the nearly 90-minute interview. “I didn’t want to be alive when all this happened. A shame like I’ve never felt before – the kind of shame that you forget how to breathe. You don’t know where to go. You can’t go out and get like, a taco.”

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“But I was also in this deep desire to hold on,” he added.

LaBeouf described talking about his feelings and learning about the Christian understanding of sin and forgiveness as the key to getting him out of the darkest period of his life.


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