Father Eugene O’Carroll
(Above: Fr. Eugene O’Caroll gives first Holy Communion to a disabled student in this 1967 file photo. Photo courtesy of diocesan archives)
By Leon Wozniak
Father Eugene O’Carroll’s road to priesthood came about a few years after his father passed away. He was still in high school. His desire to enter the seminary was hampered by a lack of funds. Fortunately, a neighbor was able to come to the rescue.
That neighbor was John Bernard McGinley, a retired bishop from the Monterey-Fresno diocese in California.
At the time, seminaries in Ireland were recruiting priests for Arizona. Bishop McGinley asked Father Eugene, who was still in high school, whether he would be willing go to Tucson. He said yes, especially since the cost of the seminary would be covered.
He was ordained in June 1952 and on Sept. 1 of that year arrived in Tucson.
His first assignment was Holy Cross in Morenci, AZ followed by assignments at Blessed Sacrament in Miami, AZ then Immaculate Conception in Douglas, AZ and finally St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix, AZ.
In 1969, Pope Paul VI established the Diocese of Phoenix. In 1973, Father Eugene, as his first appointment as pastor, was sent to St Henry’s, where he was busy with several construction projects: new buildings, a church and classrooms. When those projects were completed he was asked to take over as pastor of St. Paul’s, where, once again, he was responsible for many projects to expand the parish’s facilities.
“When I look back over the years, I sometimes think that I spent more time reading blueprints than my prayer book.” Fr Eugene reflects.
But even during this busy time, he took on a job that made him even busier. He joined the Army National Guard and was commissioned in 1970. A few years later he was promoted to brigade chaplain, state chaplain. He retired from the Guard in 1997 as full Colonel.
Fr. Eugene, at the age of 70 in 2007, was ready to retire, but Bishop Olmstead asked him to stay one more year. So, he did and didn’t formally retire until 2008.
Meanwhile, he asked Father Jim Turner if he could help out at St Thomas More.
“That was fine with Father Jim,” he said, “but before that could happen, I was asked to administer St. Luke’s parish for a few months until a new pastor was assigned.”
With so many changes during his active priesthood, “It just reminds me of the severe shortage of priests we are experiencing,” he says. “During my lifetime I have seen the number of active priests cut in half.”
“What is a solution? I don’t know but perhaps we need to consider a married clergy in the future.”August 28, 2018