Although Barry had his first beer when he was on a Boy Scouts camping trip as a teenager, it was not until after he graduated from college in Houston that he started to drink regularly—after he got a job as a merchant seaman, a lifestyle that enabled alcohol to become a regular part of his life.
“I was in my senior year of college and was offered a job as a merchant seaman and that takes one to the next level of drinking and partying,” Barry said. “After three years, I had gotten married, and my wife at the time wanted me not to sail anymore and I got out and got into more drinking. I never considered myself an alcoholic. All of my life I drank beer just to be drinking beer. I never realized there was a problem.”
Later on, he divorced his second wife and won custody of his two daughters, whom he raised. While he ensured they were brought up in the Catholic Church and received their sacraments, at this time he had personally drifted from the faith of his upbringing. This occurred even though he had been quite faithful as a younger person (he had discerned the priesthood in seminary for two years in college).
However, this would all come to an abrupt halt when, after a wedding, he drove home under the influence of alcohol and got into an accident.
As a result, two people were killed and Barry was critically injured. He spent two weeks in the ICU due to serious injury.
“This happened in 2011 and that was the day that I had my last drink,” Barry said.
He was arrested once well enough to leave the hospital. At first, he struggled to come to accept the consequences of his drinking and driving.
“I fought my case and didn’t really come to grips with everything and what had happened didn’t bother me,” Barry said. “But during that first month I was there I eventually accepted responsibility and came back to the Church. And it wasn’t in a fake way but in a true one, like how my faith used to be when I was in seminary.”
Barry was convicted and sentenced to ten years in Texas’s state prison system.
In prison, he began reading the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church voraciously, turning his life back over to the Lord in response to the destruction his drinking had caused. As he immersed himself more in the faith, he started to witness the visible fruits of the Holy Spirit.
“I would see fights and blood and I would say the prayer to the Holy Spirit to fill the hearts of your faithful,” Barry said. “I was asking God to help stop this kind of craziness.”
And there would then be instances when, remarkably, a fight would dissipate unexpectedly after he prayed.
“One time, this guy pulled razor blades out and was going after another guy and I prayed,” Barry explained. “I got this warm feeling all over me and the fight immediately de-escalated and then ‘boom,’ it stopped. And I was like, ‘Where is this coming from?’”
He continued growing in his faith, reciting rosaries daily on his fingers, reading Scripture and the Catechism, and studying various educational resources. With the help of a priest named Fr. Paulson, he developed a solid understanding of Catholicism (in fact, he earned two certificates to teach catechetics).
At this time he also started to notice that others began seeking him out.
“People would start coming up to me for no reason, and they would sit and face me and talk to me about things and ask for my advice and I didn’t know where my words came from in response to them,” Barry shared. “I asked Fr. Paulson about it and he said the Holy Spirit was speaking through me, and that really made me feel good and I could see the results of my growing faith.”
Barry also began praying the Divine Office (a series of prayers and Scripture readings recited daily in the Church) every day and encouraged a handful of other inmates to pray it with him early on Sunday mornings.
Barry continued to let the Spirit guide him in bringing Christ to those around him.
“There was one man whom I offered to help learn how to read. And for the six months before I got out, I taught him to read using the Divine Office and the Bible,” Barry said. “And when I left he was so happy because he could read the Bible and the Divine Office. I was able to pass on the Divine Office to others before I left prison.”
Life for Barry since the accident had changed for good.
“Throughout all that time after the accident I never really wanted another drink,” Barry said. “I guess I replaced the alcohol with God.”
He was released from prison in October of 2020 and is now an Oblate of Saint Benedict, seeking to live out each day according to Benedictine tradition and grow closer to Christ. As soon as he was released, he began looking for a Catholic recovery group and found Catholic in Recovery. He attends virtual meetings on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
“I enjoy Catholic in Recovery because I hear a lot of where different alcoholics have come from. I thought I had it bad with prison but some of these people have had it ten times worse than I have! I also really enjoy Catholic in Recovery meetings because they support me too and it makes me not want to want to drink,” Barry said.
In response to those who might be on the fence about coming to a meeting, he explained, “I would invite them to come and see. If they were one-on-one with me I would say, ‘Why don’t you just sit in with me one day and listen? In the meetings, we discuss Catholic things and readings from the Bible.’”
This October Barry will hit a major milestone of ten years of sobriety. He never celebrated his sobriety date when he was in prison but he is looking forward to celebrating it this year. He hopes it will encourage and give hope to others.
“I want to show people in Catholic in Recovery that it is possible to stay sober,” Barry shared.