Barnes, Robert

From Biographia Cisterciensis

Robert Barnes

Robert Barnes OCSO

5th Abbot of Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Virginia, USA, 1998–2016

* 05 Jan 1942 Baltimore, Maryland
30 Jan 2017 Berryville, Virginia

Born in Baltimore on Jan. 5, 1942, to Mary Evoy Barnes and her husband, Robert Barnes, Sr., Robert Barnes grew up at their home on Lindale Avenue, Baltimore, with his younger brother Jon, and was a member of Little Flower Catholic Parish. He went to public school and proceeded to the Polytechnic Institute of Baltimore for his high school years. After studying Latin – and a few other pre-theology subjects – at St. Charles Seminary on North Paca Street in Baltimore, Robert Barnes entered Holy Cross Abbey as a candidate for the choir on July 7, 1961. The isolation of the novitiate shielded him from the controversies surrounding the retirement of Berryville’s first Abbot, Dom Hugh McKiernan.

Some time after his first profession on August 15, 1963, he survived a tractor accident that punctured his liver. His major disappointment in recovering was to learn that the solemn vows pronounced, in articulo mortis, to Dom Thomas were merely conditional, depending upon his death. Returning to health, meant returning to the scrutiny of canonical formation. He made his final solemn profession on August 15, 1966, and was ordained to the priesthood in May 19, 1970. Having prepared for the priesthood at St. Charles Seminary in Catonsville, Md., he studied theology at Catholic University in Washington, and subsequently received a Master’s degree in pastoral counseling at Loyola College in Baltimore (in preparation to be novice master). Father Barnes had served his community as prior (assistant to the abbot) from 1977–1981 and from 1986–1989. Since 1989, Father Barnes had been responsible for running the bakery.

Elected Abbot on Aug. 10, 1998, Father Barnes was installed by Abbot Damian Carr of St. Joseph’s Abbey near Spencer, Mass., from which Berryville abbey was founded in 1950, and received the abbatial blessing on Sept. 30, 1998, by Bishop Joseph Grossman of Raleigh, N.C. Fr. Robert Barnes was the first Abbot of Berryville to have entered Holy Cross as a postulant (at the age of eighteen) and was re-elected three times. They were not easy years, a real transition between old accretions, a renewed model of monastic life that had not yet clearly emerged and the original founders of the community dying along with the experiments following Vatican II.

On August 10, 2010, at the end of his second abbatial term, Dom Robert Barnes was re-elected abbot of Berryville (USA) for a new six year term.

In 1999 elevators were installed to enable the aged and infirm monks free access to all parts of the monastery. This was followed a few years later by the renovation of the old novitiate dormitory space into an assisted living wing for the infirm. The Lay Cistercian group, which had been consistently encouraged by Fr. Mark Delery, was granted official recognition by the community of Holy Cross. A very significant event arose in 2007: Strategic Planning for the future, resulting in a study, published in 2010. In 2012 a natural cemetery (54 acres) and a natural fruit and vegetable farm (150 acres) were opened and blessed[1].

Dom Robert Barnes died of lung cancer at Blue Ridge Hospice on January 30, 2017 and was buried in the monastic cemetery on February 4th, 2017.


  1. Kim Walter : Holy Cross Abbey blesses natural cemetery and farm., 17 Oct 2012 [1]


Vest.: 7 Jul 1961; Prof.: 15 Aug 1963, 15 Aug 1966; Sac.: 19 May 1970; Abbas: el. 10 Aug 1998, reel. 10 Aug 2010, ben. 30 Sep 1998, ret. 2016.


Patricia Spencer: New Abbot for Holy Cross Monastery. Arlington Catholic Herald, 1998 [2] · Obituary.

Citation: Barnes, Robert, in: Biographia Cisterciensis (Cistercian Biography), Version vom 5.12.2017, URL:,_Robert

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