Perspective: A letter to the people of San Diego


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SAN DIEGO — Father Joe Carroll’s nephew, Tim Carroll, sent the following letter to the Catholic Diocese of  San Diego on July 24:

This week we said farewell to Father Joe Carroll, or Joey as we knew him.  For nearly 40 years he served the homeless of San Diego through the St. Vincent de Paul Villages, later renamed Father Joe’s Villages in his honor.

Since his passing, we have read countless articles lauding his accomplishments and his accolades. We have also seen the texts, tweets and posts from the good people of San Diego sharing their stories and condolences.  During his lifetime, Joey held many important positions.  He was a Priest, Monsignor, President, CEO, fundraiser, spokesman, and celebrity.  In 1990, President George H.W. Bush recognized Joey as one of his “Thousand Points of Light.”  That was Joey to us, our source of light.

The term light can be many things: “The natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible”; understanding/enlightenment; cheerfulness; leadership.  Joey embodied all of these things. He brought attention to the plight of the homeless and he showed us all how we can help our neighbors help themselves. He understood how to use his gifts and helped others to realize that they too had gifts to share with their neighbors…whether it be their money, time or compassion.

He was always quick with a joke or amusing anecdote and highlighted his tales with a disarming smile.  He took charge and led a community to change the way society views and addresses “homelessness.”

He also served as the spiritual leader of our family.  He said Mass at our family gatherings and performed countless baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Father Joe was a son, a brother, and an uncle. He was a beloved member of a large Irish Catholic family who always had time to sit and talk. He liked to reminisce and tell stories about growing up in the Bronx and always wanted to hear what the nieces and nephews were up to.  He welcomed new members to the Carroll clan with a cherubic grin and kind words that you just knew were more than mere words.  He took the time to get to know the future husbands and wives and helped ease their transition into the family.

As members of the family arrived in San Diego for Joe’s funeral Mass, we were overjoyed by the outpouring of love and respect that you had for him.  It was readily apparent to us that Joey’s neighbors had become extended members of his family – of our family.  We were overwhelmed with the love and kindness that you, the good people of San Diego, showed us on his behalf.  Everywhere we went, we were greeted with warm smiles and heartfelt condolences.  Words cannot express how much that meant to us or how grateful we are for your support.

We would like to thank St. Rita’s Parish and the rest of the Diocese of San Diego for the beautiful funeral service.  Joey would have been both proud and humbled by the turnout, just as we were. Looking out and seeing priests from throughout the diocese, parishioners from St Rita’s, staff from Father Joe’s Villages, Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher, Knights of Columbus, Boy Scouts, Joey’s friends and neighbors, and members of the press showed us how much Joey meant to the people of San Diego.  We thank you all for celebrating the life of “a good priest.”

Joey has done his part and served us all well.  He served as a beacon, a point of light to guide us.  As we mourn the dying of Joey’s light, we rejoice in knowing the light that is Father Joe will shine on.  God bless you all.

With our sincerest regards,

The Carroll Family



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