Over the years I've gotten to know the majority of diocesan priests who serve the faithful of the Green Bay Catholic Diocese. Unfortunately, there is one priest I've heard so much about -- and have even read of his great achievements -- but have never had the opportunity to meet. That fine person is Father Marty Carr. Father Carr died this past Father's Day after a prolonged illness attributed to diabetes. The tributes on screen and written in many local newspapers honoring this good person have been numerous; but the most intriguing and impressive tributes, I believe, were voiced and embodied at my Thursday morning Masses at the Green Bay Correctional Institute over these past few weeks. Inmates attending the 8:15 and the 9:30 Masses have approached me before and after the Masses to give me updates on the kind priest's condition. And yet, the "Prayer of Petition" offered at the 9:30 Mass last week is what really caught my attention.
At that particular Mass, one of my parishioners offered his own prayer for his priestly friend, "For a quick and speedy recovery for Father Carr. I thank God for the kindness he has shown to me and so many of us in the Oshkosh area." The prayer seemed heartfelt -- similar to a prayer you'd hear invoked at any parish church. But what really caught my intention was the crackling in his voice, the pause in his speech, and the flow of tears running immediately down his cheeks.
Over these past eight years at GBCI, I suspect I've seen and heard it all. The inmates are very open and honest in their conversations with me. And yes, their intercessions are usually quite personal -- very honest -- incredibly conciliatory. However, last week's intercession was different. It is the ONLY TIME I have encountered a bit of a 'breakdown' in the public forum at the maximum security prison. Most men at the institution would consider such emotion as weakness -- and as I've said before, it's not all that often that one is willing to allow himself to show such 'weakness' [from their perspective] in such a public way.
As I listened to the prayers and observed the emotion over these past few weeks -- amidst the peak of Father Carr's illness -- I realize that I did not have an opportunity to meet the man many of the inmates consider to be truly holy! Nevertheless, it will be an honor and a privilege to offer Mass for Father Marty Carr at GBCI this Thursday amidst those who knew him best and loved him most. Until then, rest in peace, faithful friend of God. May the Angels now lead you into paradise to the New and Eternal Jerusalem where all are welcomed, where all are loved, and where all are One!
Father James Baraniak, O. Praem.