I just posted this 2011 memory-photo on Facebook on November 29, 2015:
Four years ago today at Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House:
“Junior Retreat closing Mass today with the fantastic Father Brendan Carr!!”
(Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)
I was overcome with sadness when I learned Monday afternoon of the death of Father Brendan Carr, a good and holy retired Baltimore priest. Holy Trinity Church’s Youth Ministry had announced Father Carr’s death on Facebook.
He was a beloved priest who impacted the hearts and lives of people of all ages.
Father Carr could have been the “poster priest’ for this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“They poured out their hearts to him”
Father Carr had joined me and my John Carroll students on our junior retreats in 2011-2012, celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation and their class Mass at the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, Maryland.
He was one of the most effective priests that I ever worked with in my 30+ years of retreat work. Youth were drawn to him. They poured out their hearts to him. They waited hours to have him hear their confessions.
Father Carr’s true kindness and grandfatherly approach with my students, along with the twinkle in his kind Irish eyes, led to four hours of confessions and a joyful celebration of the liturgy each and every retreat.
Taking a personal interest in each student:
I remember the first time that Father Carr joined us. My morning retreat session included a two-hour slot for confessions and Mass, the scheduled timing based on past experiences. After I led a prayerful examination of conscience, Father Carr spoke a few words of gentle encouragement to my students and went back to the the small Reconciliation room.
When the first student came back into the Chapel after her confession, she was smiling ear to ear with joy. The other students looked at her with open mouths. She exclaimed, “He is so cool. And he asked me about my dog!”
That sealed the deal… Students went to confession one by one for four hours. I had never had such a strong response for the sacrament. Father Carr took such a personal interest in my students. They, in turn, responded and God worked with His amazing grace, as He always does.
We were late for the 12:15 lunch that day, and the ladies in the dining room were concerned about what was going on. And we had not even had Mass yet!
This required some quick reworking of the schedule and the need to start our lunch without the full group present.
His calling within a calling:
Father Carr joined us in the dining room about 50 minutes later after hearing the confessions of all those waiting in the Chapel. He reminisced with me about his days as a Christian brother in both Pittsburgh and at Calvert Hall, where we had several mutual brother-friends over the years, now departed.
He spoke also of the joy of having his “calling within a calling,” serving God as a religious brother before heeding the call in 1972 to be ordained a diocesan priest. Father Carr’s impact on young people began in the schools and continued in parishes and during youth retreats. Father explained that he always enjoyed helping his close friend Father Tom Ryan who served as chaplain at Towson Newman Center and at Archbishop Spalding.
The three most important rules of life:
The most powerful message that Father Carr left with my students, one that I’ll never forget, was included in his homily. He gently challenged my students, imploring them to never forget the three most important rules of life:
Holding up his index finger, he said “Be kind.”
Then holding up his second finger, he said “Be kind.”
Immediately followed by three fingers held up, he said, “And… Be kind.”
Indeed, that simple and powerful message always made an impression on everyone who was present in that Chapel.
Our first Mass with the new Roman Missal:
By the way, Father Carr was the priest who first celebrated Mass with us using the new Roman Missal in 2011. It was Monday of the First Week in Advent and the new Missal had just been implemented that weekend.
Father kept apologizing to my students for not making more eye contact with them, since he had to read the new Eucharistic Prayers and turn the unfamiliar ribbon-lined pages. My students were quick to smile and put at ease the priest who had captured their hearts.
Memorial candle in the Retreat House Chapel:
When I learned of Father Carr’s death on Monday, I immediately texted my dear friend and retreat colleague Kellie Reynolds of St Stephen Church, Bradshaw.
And where was she?
At the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House! God’s timing is impeccable.
Kellie lit a candle for me and my now-alumni students in the O’Dwyer Chapel, in memory of Father Carr and in honor of the huge impact he had on my students during their retreats. He was a wonderful priest and touched the hearts of so many youth on retreats from parishes and schools around the Archdiocese.
In loving memory of Father Carr:
Photo by Kellie Reynolds at the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House Chapel
Remembering Father Carr:
“Father Carr was so sweet. He made every single person on retreat feel important and really wanted to know about us.”
—Courtney Wilson, John Carroll Class of 2013
“I’m so sad to hear of Father Carr’s death. He was awesome! I was the one who went to confession first that day, and he was so cool and down to earth. I remember how he took his time and was very interested in each of us. He was so nice, making my confession time feel very comfortable and relaxed. He will be missed.”
—Sierra Fica, John Carroll Class of 2013
“I remember Father Carr also came to the rescue for us during an APYM (Association of Professional Youth Ministers/ Archdiocese of Baltimore) meeting day. I think our scheduled priest got sick. Father Carr was always so easy going and would go with the flow! He always had a smile on his face.”
—Kellie Reynolds of St. Stephen Church, Bradshaw, recalling Father Carr’s ongoing kindness
Father Carr will lie in state at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Glen Burnie, on Monday, January 18 from 3:00 pm until 6:30 pm, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 7:00 pm.
Contributions can be made in Father Carr’s memory to Archbishop Spalding High School, 8080 New Cut Road, Severn, MD. 21144;
Friends of Animals, 777 Post Road, Suite 205, Darien, CT. 06820.
God rest him!
May the angels and saints lead Father Brendan Carr into Paradise.