Bishop Carmon: A man of honor
Bishop Dominic Carmon sat humbly, indicative of his nature, while being honored Nov. 5 as a “saint among us” at the annual Black Saints Celebration held at Xavier University of Louisiana’s St. Katharine Drexel Chapel in New Orleans.
“We are standing on holy ground, and I know that there are saints all around,” sang main speaker Father Daniel Green, parochial vicar at Blessed Trinity Church in New Orleans, at the event.
Father Green said when he prayed about what he would preach that day, he was reminded of the African-American Catholics who had gone before him, paving the way for him to be a priest.
Among those on whose shoulders Father Green stood were his grandmother, who gave him his priestly vestments; Sophie Aramburo, a local leader in the black community; Father Augustus Tolton, the first American Roman Catholic priest publicly known to be black at his ordination in 1886, and someone who worked hard to bring the people the sacraments until his death at age 43; Sister Thea Bowman, an evangelist who walked Xavier University’s grounds and “embraced the church, all the more calling her to her fullness and belief” and who spoke the “true truth” to Catholic Church leaders about the struggles of African American Catholics; and Holy Family Sister Eva Regina Martin, who was superior of her order and encouraged many, including Father Green, to never give up.
A cherished mentor
Father Green said he counted Bishop Carmon as a mentor and guide, someone who gave him the confessional stole he still wears today. He thanked him for his leadership, inspiration and Christ-like example to everyone, and the quiet and calm manner in which he stood up for African-American Catholics.
He recounted Bishop Carmon’s accomplishments: a priest for almost 57 years, having been ordained for the Society of the Divine Word in 1960; a missionary in Papua, New Guinea; a pastor in his hometown of Opelousas and the Archdiocese of New Orleans; a bishop for almost 24 years, named auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 1992.
“He took on pastoral assignments to bring peace, to bring healing, to bring God’s love,” Father Green said. “This is what it means to be a saint. Bishop Carmon, I am sure, would tell us he’s not been perfect, although from the outside looking in, it’s hard to find a fault. “
Although Bishop Carmon retired in 2006, he was never far from serving the archdiocese. He continued to show love for the archdiocese in the celebration confirmations and filling in for parish priests.
“This man is one who lives and breathes hope,” Father Green said.
Live like saints
After recounting the accolades of saints before and among us today, Father Green cautioned that it was not enough to revere them. People should pray for guidance and learn to emulate their Christ-like behavior.
“If we want to become like the saints before us … then we have to start praying for the gift and graces of the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us,” Father Green said. “Because now is not a time for the weak. Now is a time for a people of fortitude, a people like Sister Eva Regina who don’t take no for an answer. A people like Sister Thea who were willing to tell the truth and be unapologetic about it, but be authentically Catholic.”
He referred to the day’s Gospel of Matthew concerning Jesus eating with the sinners.
“Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel, ‘I did not call the righteous, but the sinners.’ And, if we are nothing else, we are all sinners. So, the Lord is calling us in service to the church. We may not be Father Augustus or Sister Thea or Sister Eva Regina, but we are who we are. And with the example of men, like Bishop Carmon, who allow us to stand on their broad shoulders, we are stronger than we think we are. And we can change the world. We can and we must.”
His family is proud
Bishop Carmon’s family including his brothers Clifton and Aubrey Carmon and several nieces and nephews traveled from Opelousas to witness the honor.
“One word we probably all used was, ‘Wow,’ what an awesome recognition,” his brother Clifton Carmon said. “We’re elated and impressed with this. It really tells us there is an appreciation out there for these many years he’s given to the church in the various communities he’s served.”
Archbishop Gregory Aymond called it a “privilege” to walk with and remember black saints of old, on whose many shoulders and hearts we stand.
“We say amen because we know their spirit lives on,” he said. “We also come together to ask God’s continued blessings on a saint in the making – Bishop Carmon” who is known as friend, missionary, shepherd and bishop in the archdiocese.
“Bishop Carmon we have great love and respect for you,” Archbishop Aymond said. “We thank you for who you are and the ministry you have given to so many people for so many years. You always have a special place in our archdiocese and certainly in all of our hearts.”
A special blessing
All at the celebration extended their hands as Archbishop Aymond bestowed a blessing on Bishop Carmon for God to watch over him as he serves. “But most of all Lord, we ask you to send your sweet, sweet spirit that led our ancestors in faith, to continue to bless the community of the Archdiocese of New Orleans that benefits from Bishop Carmon’s constant presence. O, Lord God, in faithful appreciation for Bishop Carmon, we offer our love and support and prayers and God’s people say, Amen!”
An endowed scholarship to honor Bishop Carmon has been started by the Office of Black Catholic Ministries, with funds distributed by the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of New Orleans for students to attend the summer session of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. For details, go to www.obcm-no.org or call 861-6207