Bishop Carmon followed Christ’s truth

By Christine Bordelon & Peter  Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

Retired Auxiliary Bishop Dominic Carmon, S.V.D., was remembered Nov. 17 at his Funeral Mass at St. Louis Cathedral as a humble, dedicated priest and bishop who always put the needs of others before his own.

“Yes, he was a shepherd, but he was a servant leader,” said Archbishop Gregory Aymond, the principal celebrant of the Mass of Christian Burial. “He led by the words he preached, but he also led by his attitude, his actions and his example. He was an inspiration to me in his humility and his dedication to Christ.”

Bishop Carmon, 87, died Nov. 11 at Chateau de Notre Dame, where he had been living for several months as his health declined.

Auxiliary Bishop Fernand Cheri, who delivered the homily at the Funeral Mass, tied Bishop Carmon’s life to the words of Jesus in the 14th chapter of John: “I am the way, the truth and life.”

Missionary at heart

Citing Bishop Carmon’s seven years as a missionary priest for the Society of the Divine Word in Papua, New Guinea, in the 1960s – just after his priestly ordination   – Bishop Cheri said his predecessor knew the humble path to take and was able to spread God’s love through his own work, going from village to village in the jungle communities.

“He learned the way from those who guided him from village to village,” Bishop Cheri said. “He learned the way, picking up clues within the brush, so well that he became a guide himself.

“Dominic applied those skills to his faith in God, always trusting that God would show him the way and be the way in life. As a man of faith, Dominic knew how to be still. He followed Jesus, believing he would end up at the eternal city where Jesus has already prepared an abiding place just for him.”

Bishop Cheri said people spend their entire lives searching, mostly in vain, for the answer to the question: Why am I here? They will latch on to the words of celebrities or other gurus, when the truth is right in front of them in the life of Jesus, he said.

He said Bishop Carmon lived out the truth of Christ by ministering in Chicago to the Black Panther party, “calling them and those who misunderstood them to reconciliation.”

“He gave them a place, the Catholic church, as a sanctuary where justice and peace could kiss,” Bishop Cheri said. “As long as you hold to the truth, you don’t have to fear going the wrong way.”

A seminary service

Bishop Carmon’s body was received at Notre Dame Seminary on Nov. 16, and Archbishop Aymond presided at a prayer service for seminarians and the general public.

Archbishop Aymond said Bishop Carmon modeled for the world the Gospel reflection from Matthew when the disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus replied that unless his followers became innocent and humble like a child again, they would not be able to enter the kingdom.

Archbishop Aymond said that was how Bishop Carmon lived his life – as a humble servant.

He expressed his gratitude for Bishop Carmon and his truly being a servant of God’s people. He asked everyone present in the chapel to reflect for a few moments on Bishop Carmon’s life.

‘Buddy’ persuaded him

Bishop Carmon’s brother, Clifton Carmon, then gave a reflection of Bishop Carmon’s life, beginning with the story how in 1946 his “buddy” talked him into taking a train from his hometown just outside Opelousas, Louisiana, to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, to enter the Divine Word seminary.

His “buddy” never showed up, however, having changed his mind about becoming a priest. 

“Seventy-two years ago, a boy left home to begin a journey he himself was not sure why he was undertaking,” Clifton Carmon said.

Then, on Feb. 7, 1960, the young man who had gone to the seminary simply because his buddy had asked him returned to the community to celebrate his first solemn Mass. What a day it was for that small community.”

The bishop’s brother recalled the day in February 1990 when Bishop Carmon was given a cancer diagnosis and was told he had only a few months to live. Clifton asked him how he felt about that.

“He was undaunted,” Clifton said. “In his usual calm and unruffled manner, he said, ‘I’m OK with that. In his priestly life, he never wanted for anything.”

That was true everywhere he went, including the New Guinea missions. Bishop Carmon had a great love of his family, celebrating with them on special occasions such as those being united in marriage, and “when needed, just being a good confidante.”

“We are sad today, but at the same time, we are happy as we reflect on a life well lived,” Clifton Carmon said, adding how Bishop Carmon was not only his brother but his pastor, godfather and true friend.

Clifton turned to Archbishop Aymond and said how grateful Bishop Carmon was to have his love and support over the years. Clifton thanked the archbishop on behalf of his sister Vercie Carmon Johnson and brother Aubrey Carmon.

“We say thank you for your concern and generosity toward our brother,” he said. “We are grateful to you.”

He also offered a public thank you to his cousin Barbara for all of her help during Bishop Carmon’s illness and to the many friends “who so generously and unconditionally took care of him as long as they did.”

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