Farewell to Mrs. Kelly Barnes, the heart of Campus Ministry
Mrs. Kelly Barnes, the assistant director of Campus Ministry, is seated in her office, the place she’s had for the last three years and the place she’ll say goodbye to after 15 years at Jesuit High School Sacramento.
On the walls are pictures and paintings full of sentiment — things that have been chosen or collected, special gifts that were created for her, there’s also a framed certificate of her pastoral ministry degree, and a painting of a candle that was done by her mother for her seventh-grade Confirmation.
It’s a personalized room full of memories and one of her favorite places on the campus — the other being the open space outside her office that, in pre-COVID-19 times, students would bring to life with joy and laughter.
“It was the hangout spot for everybody involved in Campus Ministry or people who hadn’t yet found their spot,” Mrs. Barnes said. “It was a safe, comfortable and welcoming place to be. Lots of laughter, lots of teasing, lots of juggling and silliness. And I think as much as anywhere else on campus, students feel like they can be themselves here — their best selves.”
As for why her office is her other favorite spot, Mrs. Barnes reveals it’s because of the meaningful interactions and conversations that have taken place within it with both students and colleagues.
“I’ve been able to do some spiritual direction, but also, I’ve had students over the years that came to me and asked if I could pray with them, and to be able to do that as part of my job — it is beyond wonderful,” Mrs. Barnes said. “It’s an incredible blessing. I had a student call me who graduated six years ago, and he’s going through a tough time and he knew that he could call and that I would listen and I would pray with him. So that was a lovely little affirmation from God that even as I move on from this place, the relationships that I formed in the Ministry that I have enjoyed are continuing.”
Going back to where her journey with Jesuit began, Mrs. Barnes notes that her family has always been connected with the school — her husband, Mr. Mike Barnes, was a member of the Class of 1981 and her two sons both attended. It was seeing the transformation within her two sons through their Christian Service and immersions that sparked curiosity in her.
“I wanted to know more about it,” Mrs. Barnes said. “And the more I looked, the more I liked. I felt called. So I initially started in the counseling department. While I was working in that department, I earned my master’s in pastoral ministry, and moved over to serve in Christian Service and Campus Ministry. And that happened largely because [Director of Campus Ministry] Mr. [Paul] LeBoeuf invited me to lead a Kairos.”
Mr. LeBoeuf recalls what he initially saw in Mrs. Barnes that compelled him to invite her to be a Kairos leader and explains the impact that her presence has had.
“I saw in her a true care for other people,” Mr. LeBoeuf said. “When she started working here, I saw her and thought, ‘I think this person would be a good person to have on board for Kairos. I think she’d be good for the kids.’ That was kind of it. And then she was — she brought so much joy to this place. She sees others clearly for who they are and wants to nurture that and bring it forward. She cares about you as an individual, as a whole too, but she truly cares about you as a person and that’s pretty evident. There’s something about her presence that makes this office, our school, more complete.”
“It just lit me up,” Mrs. Barnes asserted about her first experience with leading a Kairos. “It was such a beautiful opportunity to connect directly with students and connect them with God that I really wanted to be more involved in. I served as the Director of Christian Service for a few years … [but] I discerned that my own gifts are really best utilized in Ministry, that that’s where I was most alive, felt the Lord working through me.”
Nic Crumley ’15 first met Mrs. Barnes when she first started working at Jesuit in counseling and reveals what struck him about her and commends her intuition for helping others.
“She was always very friendly and was easy to talk to,” Nic said. “When she expanded her role into Campus Ministry, her ability to help and positively impact students grew through Christian Service opportunities and retreats. I always found Mrs. Barnes to be a great person to talk to if I was struggling with something and she’d often know to ask if I was okay before I was ready to ask for help.”
A disposition for helping others is something that is widely recognized in Mrs. Barnes through the people she’s worked with. Christian Burnham ’15 and Jonathan Fong ’20 share how she has influenced them and the ways she helps others.
“She helped me grow spiritually, reflect and learn from my mistakes, and taught me to be open to new opportunities,” Christian said. “Mrs. Barnes helped me to understand the importance of listening with open arms and an open heart. [She] helps her students and the community through her acts of service, endless compassion, and ability to show empathy to everyone she meets.”
“Mrs. Barnes has been the mom of Campus Ministry, ever kind, ever understanding, and ever supporting,” Jonathan said. “Mrs. Barnes helped me personally by introducing and encouraging me to do spiritual direction. It has been an incredibly enriching experience and I am very grateful that she encouraged me in that part of my faith. I’ve seen her help others in that she always takes an extra step in the people she’s touched, she is not superficially kind, she’s kind in her soul.”
From her time at Jesuit, Mrs. Barnes asserts that it’s moments on immersions or student retreats like Kairos, Junior Overnight, or Sophomore Retreat that she values and enjoyed most.
“When you’re shoulder to shoulder, side by side, whether we were building a playground in Chiapas, Mexico, for indigenous Mayan children, or we’re on a retreat, grappling with who the real person is that God created us to be — those times are my very favorite,” Mrs. Barnes said. “I marvel at the fact that I’ve been allowed and invited to do that.”
A specific one of her “very favorite memories” is from Kairos 100, which took place in 2010, when she was an adult leader and her youngest son, Joshua Barnes ’10, was a student leader.
Joshua, who is now a Theology teacher at Bellarmine Jesuit High School in Tacoma, Washington, explains what it was like to share that initial experience with his mother and how it ultimately gave him clarity.
“Going on Kairos with my mom was awesome,” Joshua said. “We actually went on Kairos together more than once. The first time, I was a student leader, and then we led again when I came back as an adult. She and I have always shared a connection around our faith and doing ministry work, and I think working together on Kairos was definitely a moment of growth in that connection. Later on, during college, when I reflected on what I wanted to do with my life, the experience of leading a retreat with her was one of the things which stood out to me as a time where I really felt happy and at peace, and ultimately helped lead me to pursue my Masters in Theology and begin leading retreats myself.”
While Mrs. Barnes holds retreats and immersions as her favorite memories at Jesuit, it’s a mutual sentiment among alumni who share how those moments are a part of their favorite memories of her.
“One of my favorite memories with Mrs. Barnes was leading K122 together,” Christian said. “She taught me to push myself emotionally and spiritually, share my story, and embrace my faith. I will never forget how much it meant to me when she said that she was proud of the man I was becoming and knew that I would do great things with my life.”
Johnny Castillon ’20 recalls one of his favorite memories with Mrs. Barnes that occurred last year and the advice she gave him moments before he delivered his talk on the first Kairos he led.
“[W]hen I was going to speak at a retreat and she noticed that I was nervous, she put her arm around me and told me something that I will always hold on to,” Johnny said. “She said ‘Nerves and excitement are the same thing. One is positive, one is negative. Whenever you are nervous, move those feelings to excitement and remind yourself of all that you are excited about instead [of] focusing on the nervousness.’ This advice has already helped me and I have passed her wisdom along to others.”
Nic also shares his fond memories of immersive experiences with Mrs. Barnes, but his favorite memory of her is a moment that exemplified her giving spirit and character.
“I have had many great volunteer and retreat experiences with Mrs. Barnes including Kairos and Frosh Overnight, but my favorite memory with Mrs. Barnes was when she invited me to have dinner with her and Mr. Barnes because I was staying really late for drama practice with nowhere to go,” Nic said. “That small act of kindness really meant a lot to me. Her kindness, compassion, and generosity truly permeates everything she does.”
While the past has been beautiful, the future for Mrs. Barnes is also filled with beauty and blessings. When Mrs. Barnes’ eldest son, Shane Barnes ’07, asked her and her husband to join them in Kentucky, she said “yes” in order to be more present in her granddaughter’s life. The move will also unite four generations of family as Mr. Barnes’ parents will make the move as well.
The decision to retire and leave Jesuit comes after a year-long discernment and is a choice that Mrs. Barnes grappled with as she expected to spend another 10 years with the school. While in discernment, Mrs. Barnes shares that reading the parable of the merchant, who discovered a pearl of great price and sold everything to pursue it, gave her clarity (Matthew 13:45).
“When I read that scripture, it really felt like it was talking to me that our pearl of great price is our family and our faith,” Mrs. Barnes said. “If I can spend the next 15 years living just down the road from my little granddaughter until she goes away to college — it’s worth the price. It’s worth selling our home and our cars and letting go of a job that I absolutely love to do, to be fully present and available as Grandma, or ‘Mimi,’ as she calls me, which is a job that only I can do … So we’re pursuing our pearl of great price at great cost.”
She adds that her decision is reinforced by conversations she’s had with students on Kairos this year and hearing about the deep relationships that they have with their grandparents.
“I want that relationship with my granddaughter,” Mrs. Barnes said. “The idea of having four generations together to have pizza on Friday nights and go to Mass together on Sundays and go to dance recitals or soccer games — that feels like it’s the right time for this transition in our lives. And that’s where we need to go.”
As Mrs. Barnes finishes her time at Jesuit, she emphasizes that it is the relationships she’s formed over her career that are what she’ll miss.
“I will miss the relationships most of all — the opportunity to be surrounded by amazing people every day,” Mrs. Barnes said. “I’ll be surrounded by my family every day — that’s awesome — so don’t get me wrong. But the joy, the desire for goodness, the silliness — watching the transition from childhood to adulthood that happens in our students while they’re here, as they’re trying to figure out who they are, who they’re called to be, how they’re going to be that person — I’ve been invited into that process. I’m going to miss that.”
It’s a bittersweet moment for Mrs. Barnes. She’s excited to be a part of her son’s life and family and getting to explore her hobbies with her granddaughter: “I want to teach her how to sew and cook and play piano and garden and all these great things.”
But the “cost of this pearl is very great,” Mrs. Barnes continued. “I also have a deep, deep sadness over leaving Jesuit and moving away from dear friends. And yet, even in my sadness, that leads to gratitude, because I wouldn’t be sad if it wasn’t great. So that’s one of the things I’m trying to transition my tears of sadness into tears of gratitude. I am leaving with great experiences and great memories which is a wonderful way to transition from something that I love into something I’m called to do for the next season of my life.”
While Mrs. Barnes bids farewell to working at Jesuit, the Barnes family will still remain involved. They’ll fly back in the fall to help out with Freshmen Retreat and Mr. Barnes will attend his 40th reunion. “It’s a bit of a distance,” Mrs. Barnes acknowledged. “But this is a big part of our lives that we hope to carry it forward with us.”
Mrs. Barnes is at the heart of Campus Ministry, possessing an unmatched warmth and caring nature that emanates in extraordinary ways through her kindness and wisdom, which is personified in everything she does. Her grace and generosity of spirit have touched all those she has encountered. She is always a person for and with others, embodying love and devotion; the work she has done has left an indelible mark on Campus Ministry and on Jesuit.
From all of us who have worked with, known, and loved Mrs. Barnes, we wholeheartedly thank her for all that she has given to our community and wish her all the best as she enters the next chapter of her life.