By MARNIE McALLISTER
Record Assistant Editor
Deacon David J. Carr, who will be ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville on May 26, discerned his voc-ation while standing guard as a security policeman for the Air Force in the Marshall Islands.
It’s an unlikely scenario that led this man, now 45, to the priesthood. He’s a native of Louisville who attended Ascension School until seventh-grade, when his family moved to Seymour, Ind.
He joined the Air Force about a year after graduating from high school and spent eight years in the service. For three years when he was in his 20s, Deacon Carr was stationed in the Pacific islands, where he spent much of his time alone, guarding a post with nothing to do.
He spent that time in prayer.
“I’ve always enjoyed prayer; that’s always been a part of me,” he said in an interview last Friday, May 12. “That’s where a lot of God’s call became very clear, because there were no distractions. Nothing was interfering.
“I thought at first God was calling me to be a hermit or a monk because I was called in solitude,” Deacon Carr noted. “The call to minister, the call to be a teacher, the call to be a shepherd, came much later.”
He left the Air Force knowing he wasn’t called to a military career, but he remained unsure of his next step.
Deacon Carr tends to be reserved around people he doesn’t know and he’s keenly aware that he’s an introvert — a characteristic that served him well during his soli-tary duty in the Pacific. But he is also quick to offer a cheerful, good-natured, often self-deprecating laugh. He also tends to take things slowly, whether he’s getting to know someone or making an important choice.
That was how he approached discernment.
He returned to Indiana after the mili-tary and earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University while discerning his vocation. After that, he decided to enroll in St. Meinrad Seminary and University’s lay program while he continued pondering his call.
That was the bridge he needed to bring him to the Archdiocese of Louisville’s vocation office.
By then, he said, he felt called to active ministry — not to a monastery. He enrolled in seminary formation in 2007 at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Md., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology.
But he still had his doubts about how he could serve.
He asked himself, “If I become a priest, do I have something to add? This was always the challenge to myself,” he said. “God has shown me over the years, yes, I do have something to contribute.”
It was only in the last two years or so that he discovered exactly what form his contribution might take. He discovered an affinity and talent for teaching while he was working on his master’s degree at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis. He graduated in December.
He had the opportunity to test his skills during his pastoral year, which he spent at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Church in Fairdale, Ky.
He offered a 10-month long course that he called “Practical Catechism.” It gave parishioners an opportunity to ask questions and delve into a variety of complex topics.
“We talked about mortal, venial sin; original sin; the second coming of Christ,” he said, as examples. “It was fun because it was so informal.”
The experience also helped him to understand himself as a pastoral minister and helped him to prepare for his future duties as a pastor.
“They were my parish when I was still in formation,” he said. “That was a critical time when they were there for me. Living there was really helpful and gave me a lot of insight. It gave me a chance to see what I could do.”
The parish also helped him to discover that his affinity for solitude and reserved nature aren’t obstacles to active ministry. In fact, they may even be an asset when he comes to new assignments.
“When I first go to a parish, I’m cautious and quiet. I have to get a feel — what’s the mission of the parish? what do they want? I come in gradually, but once I feel I know all the pieces, know what they need, that’s when I can respond and focus my preaching and teaching. I’ve found out if you don’t listen first, that’s when you make your mistakes.
“That’s why my vocation was late,” he noted. “I want the accurate picture before I start making decisions. I want to understand it first before I act.”
Since he graduated in December, Deacon Carr has been serving as a deacon at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz announced last week that Deacon Carr will serve as associate pastor of St. Michael Church in Fairfield, Ky., and St. Joseph after ordination.
He’s glad to be staying on to serve as a pastor.
“The part I enjoy is when I have a role in their lives,” he said. “I think that’s really special. To share their ups and downs and whatever they’re going through is meaningful.”
Deacon Carr will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Church on May 26 at 5 p.m. He will also celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving on May 27 at 11:30 a.m. at the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown.
He is the son of Verna and Alfred Carr, members of St. Albert the Great Church. He also has two brothers who live in Michigan, a sister in Indianapolis, two nieces and a nephew.