OAKLAND -- Long before he knew who the next bishop of Oakland would be, John Hurley knew what he should be like.
"A people person," Hurley said Saturday. "A person that could connect with people."
Little did Hurley know that person would be someone with whom he had once connected.
Rev. Michael Barber, 59, who grew up in Northern California, was installed as bishop of the Oakland Diocese on Saturday in a ceremony at Cathedral of Christ the Light. Appointed by Pope Francis, Barber is the fifth bishop in the history of the diocese and the first Jesuit.
A capacity audience, which included Gov. Jerry Brown and 18 visiting bishops, filled the cathedral a half-hour before the 11 a.m. ceremony. Hurley was seated in an outdoor viewing area, where a large video board allowed 300 ticketed onlookers a view of the service.
"We were classmates from 1973-75 at Santa Barbara," said Hurley, 57, who biked to the cathedral from his Alameda home. "We picked grapes together. We harvested a couple of seasons of crops together. I don't know if I'll see him today or not, but I wanted to come."
The man Hurley knew during their time in a Jesuit novitiate program was "a hard worker," he said. "Very dedicated and very committed to what he was doing with his life. From my remembrance of Mike, this is probably a bit uncomfortable. Probably meeting someone on a bench at Lake Merritt, sitting down with them, is more his style."
Barber was not available for comment Saturday.
It was quietly festive in the viewing plaza. People arrived with guitars and drums, some in formal dress, a few in jeans and athletic apparel. Shoppers filtered in and out of the Cathedral Shop just off the plaza.
"I'm glad I get to see this once in my lifetime," said Geralyn Joy Marcelino, 25, a kindergarten teacher at Our Lady of the rosary School in Union City -- one of the diocese's 45 elementary schools. "It's like a lifetime event that's really exciting to watch and be a part of."
Marcelino heard Barber speak Friday night at a vespers service.
"He was really sincere," she said. "I liked his tone and attitude. He humbled himself to the community to serve everyone from the poor to all walks of life."
In remarks shortly after being appointed, Barber said he would "be keeping an eye on Pope Francis. I think he wants servant leaders who look to the needs of the people. Listen first, speak second."
That sentiment impressed Ann Schmidt of Fremont.
"I think he'll be a good shepherd for the Oakland church," said Schmidt, 60, who also liked that Barber was once a military chaplain. "I think that is a very strong background for leading people who are of diverse cultures and persuasions. It's a very good sign that he has a heart for people who are struggling."
"I always thought he would go where he needed to be," Hurley said of his old friend. "If it was some far, distant, hideaway place, that was fine. If it's here, that's fine, too."
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/garyscribe.