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He became a priest, to give the world God

Homily by Archbishop Wenski on the Funeral Mass for Fr. Joseph Carney

Homily by Archbishop Thomas Wenski on the Funeral Mass for Fr. Joseph Carney at Blessed Trinity Church. Saturday January 5, 2013.

Tomorrow the Church celebrates the great feast of the Epiphany, the Feast of God’s manifestation to the nations in the humility and weakness of a small child.  And could we not say that the life of this man was also an epiphany, a manifestation of God revealed in this man’s weakness and humility.  For this reason, the death of a parish priest, especially when that priest is a sitting pastor, is felt so deeply by all the people of his parish.  For in losing him, the parishioners not only lose the man but also his unique way of manifesting to them God.  And this is certainly true here at Blessed Trinity where Father Joe Carney had served for more than 30 years.
As your parish priest, he administered to you the Sacraments, those fountains of grace that are truly living encounters with the Risen Christ.  Father Joe had been here long enough to have baptized, to have absolved, to have married, to have anointed and to have buried at least one loved one from each family of this parish community.  And he touched many beyond the boundaries of this parish – those people he ministered to in his previous assignments and those couples he counseled in the Marriage Encounter movement.
But, here at Blessed Trinity, Father Carney found a home – and as pastor of this beautiful community hidden away in this jewel that is Miami Springs – he faithfully taught both the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the devout and the lukewarm that the Church was their mother.  Whether in the pulpit or on the golf course, he was always “Father Joe” – and “Father” described him perfectly, for he was a gentle, humble and zealous shepherd of souls.  He made Blessed Trinity not only his home but your home as well.
Always dignified, courteous, humble and kind, he seemed to inhabit a different world from ours—certainly different from the godless one that inspires ambition, greed, lust and all the capital vices to which so many—priests included—have succumbed in our day. Father Carney stood out from the backdrop of the corruption of the times and seems to have passed his days among us as a visitor of a bygone time when civility and holiness were more the rule than the exception
In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “Being a priest means becoming an ever closer friend of Jesus Christ with the whole of our existence.  The world needs God – not just any god but the God of Jesus Christ, the God who made himself flesh and blood, who loved us to the point of dying for us, who rose and created within himself room for man.”
And in these days since we learned of the passing of Father Carney into eternal life how many people have said, “Father Joe was there for me”.  The comments logged on our Archdiocesan website under Father Carney’s obituary witness eloquently to the effectiveness of his ministry as a priest.  He became a priest to give the world God – and not just any god but the God of Jesus Christ. 
.  He was a member of the first ordination class of our Major Seminary, St. Vincent de Paul., ordained a priest in that tumultuous and terrible year, 1968.  It was the year of protests against authority, the year of the sexual revolution and drugs, the year of riots in our inner cities and on our university campuses; it was the year of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy; it was the year of Humanae Vitae that saw many walk away from the Church and reject her teachings.  Certainly it was not an easy year to begin one’s ministry as a Catholic priest.
Yet Father Joe Carney survived 1968 – and he faced the challenges of the Church in the years that followed the Second Vatican Council whose 50th anniversary we are observing during this Year of Faith.  He survived because he was a friend of Jesus, and that friendship was nurtured in prayer which allowed him to live “not for himself but for him who died and rose” (cf. 4th Eucharistic Prayer). 
As a priest he gazed on Jesus Christ hidden under the appearance of the bread that he consecrated at Mass each day.  And each day his friendship with Jesus grew.  Now we pray that he sees this friend face to face.  
Father Carney –like all we priests – carried this awesome treasure which is our priesthood in vessels of clay.  So we commend his soul to Jesus, his friend, praying that in his Divine Mercy he will forgive him whatever sins he may have committed through human weakness.  We priests know our weakness – and so we are not shy in asking prayers for Fr. Joe, and when we die we hope that you will pray for us. In fact, the priests of this Archdiocese recently committed themselves to having Masses celebrated by priests in mission lands for every priest of the Archdiocese who dies.
To Father Joe’s two brothers, Robert and Timothy and to their families, we extend our condolences. Grief is a difficult cross to bear but as you see you do not bear that cross alone. The Carney family was extremely generous in giving this man to the Church and we are grateful. Father Carney and his ministry was truly a gift to this local Church and to this parish.  His life was a true Epiphany, a manifestation of God’s love, of God’s closeness, of God’s gentleness to every person who knew him.
Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord; may his soul and the souls of all the Faithful Departed through the Mercy of God rest in peace.

Comments from readers

Msgr. Richard C. Antall - 01/09/2013 04:26 PM
I gave a mission appeal at Holy Trinity some years ago and Archbishop Wenski's words about Fr. Carney ring true for me. I am a Cleveland priest and I think that Cleveland's loss when Fr. Carney moved to Florida was definitely Miami's gain. He was a good man. May he rest in peace.
Amy Valdes Hernandez - 01/06/2013 05:10 PM
Thank you, Archbishop Wenski, for a truly beautiful homily on Saturday at the Mass for Father Carney. It was a great honor to hear you speak. Your words were very comforting during this time of grief. I really appreciate your accurate and loving description of the Pastor who I've known and admired for most of my life.

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