By CHUCK MOODYStaff Writer
Father Joe Carr says it initially wasn’t his idea to become a priest.
“It was God’s,” said Father Carr, who was ordained to the priesthood May 20, 2006 at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. “I always wanted to get married, but God kept whispering in my ear. I am grateful that he did.”
Father Carr, 48, grew up in St. Rosalia Parish in Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University, and he also graduated with degrees in theology from Duquesne University/St. Paul Seminary and St. Vincent Seminary.
His Parents are Anthony Joseph “Joe” Carr and the late Hilda Carr, who died during her son’s second year in the seminary of leukemia.
“I’m sure God will give her the best seat in the house on May 20,” Father Carr said about his mother prior to his ordination.
Father Carr worked a number of jobs before he listened to God’s whisper and entered the seminary.
“I worked for about 12 years for the diocese as director of programs for the unemployed,” he said. “This included running Bishop Boyle Center in Homestead for about two years. Prior to that, I worked for U.S. Steel doing outplacement and career counseling for those who lost their jobs in mills around the country. I was blessed to receive a Duquesne Light fellowship and attended Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School for Graduate Studies in economic development for a few semesters.
“Prior to all of this, I worked dozens of jobs while growing up, often working several casual or part-time jobs at once. This included working at PPG making windshields, UPS uploading tractor-trailers, managing the first Kinko’s in Pittsburgh, working construction laying sewer pipe for my grandfather’s construction company, parking cars for Pittsburgh Golf Club in Squirrel Hill, to name a few.”
In addition, he worked other jobs during the summer while in the seminary, including as a bricklayer’s helper and building retaining walls.
“I worked along with four men from Guatemala who spoke little English,” Father Carr said. “My Spanish was limited to ‘good-bye,’ ‘Merry Christmas’ and a few other tourist phrases. Over the summer, as we built the huge retaining walls that are now part of Brentwood Towne Centre on (Pennsylvania) Route 51, I came to really appreciate and love the Spanish culture. They didn’t have much. They lived together in a little hotel room and cooked their meals on a little charcoal grill, but whatever they had, they shared. It is a way of life, and it made me understand the beatitudes when Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for their’s is the kingdom.’”
Father Carr credits a number of priests with whom he worked with having direct influence on his decision to enter the seminary: Fathers Ron Lengwin, Ben Vaghetto, Joe Luisi, Garrett Dorsey, Frank Almade and Aux. Bishop Paul Bradley.
“All showed me what it is to be a priest,” he said.
Father Carr said it is hard to put into words what finally being ordained means to him.
“The priesthood isn’t something you choose for yourself,” he said. “God has to choose you. At first it seemed like I was making an enormous sacrifice, never knowing what it’s like to grow old next to someone you love. But after spending a year in the parish as a deacon, and five years in the seminary, I see it’s not a sacrifice. It’s a blessing. It’s like finding that one thing in life – that reason God has in mind for you from the beginning.
“When I was agonizing over the decision to enter the seminary, someone who is very dear to me once told me, ‘You can’t keep looking over your shoulder the rest of your life. Go. Quit your job. Enter the seminary and give it a try. If that is where you are meant to be, you’ll know it. If not, you’ll find out. Either way, you will know.’
“As soon as I entered seminary, I just knew this was where God wanted me.”
Now that he is ordained, Father Carr said the aspects of the priesthood he is looking forward to most are preaching and celebrating the Eucharist.
“I look forward to being with people who are in time of need and are searching for hope,” he said. “I look forward especially to being able to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. I can’t imagine what it must be like to offer Christ’s forgiveness to someone who is burdened and carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.”