Meet Sister Barbara Thiella

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Sr. Barbara Thiella with her boss and good friend Bishop Stephen Blaire.

Sister Barbara has a commanding presence, a sharp mind, a heart full of compassion, and as one homeless man noticed, “a kind look in her eyes.” These attributes have stood her well as a teacher, administrator, campus minister and most recently in her 12 years serving as the chancellor of the Diocese of Stockton.

As chancellor she coordinates and implements a number of programs that have brought life and joy to the diocese including a popular spiritual renewal program. Additionally, Sr. Barbara is the diocesan point person for clergy, staff and parishioners who seek advice. She claims she doesn’t have the wisdom of Solomon, just a good grasp of what’s needed and the resources available.

Though her calendar is always full, Sister makes time to lead retreats and days of reflection that offer parishioners a welcome respite from the hardships of life.  And “hardship” is an apt word in this California farming region that has high unemployment, illiteracy and poverty. On top of that the diocese is still trying to recover from one Oliver O’Grady.

Father O’Grady rocked the diocese in the ’90s when his actions as a serial pedophile came to light. Victims of his abuse are still coming forward. “O’Grady seriously damaged these children and damaged their sense of God,” Sr. Barbara voices. She is part of the diocesan effort to bring healing to victims by linking them to needed services.

Though she wears many hats and has many responsibilities, her boss, Bishop Stephen Blaire, says of Sr. Barbara, “To all these tasks she brings the wisdom of experience in leadership, the grace of a warm and caring heart, and a determination to carry out her work with excellence.”