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A son of Ireland called to Corpus Christi for the New Millennium

by Msgr. Michael Howell, Contributor
March 1, 2013

Bishop Edmond Carmody was installed as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi.
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The Jubilee Year of 2000 heralded new beginnings for the Diocese of Corpus Christi, but thankfully it was not the predicted Y2K disaster so feared by many. Instead there were “tidings of great joy” in the announcement of a new bishop and a new diocese.  

On March 17, 2000–on the feast of St. Patrick–a son of Ireland, Bishop Edmond Carmody, was installed as the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi.  

Born in County Kerry, Ireland in 1934, the second of 13 children in an agricultural family that knew hard work and solid Catholic values, Bishop Carmody studied and was ordained a priest in 1957 for the Archdiocese of San Antonio. After arriving in San Antonio, he served in numerous parochial and diocesan assignments while pursuing further studies in Spanish and education.  

It was as a result of serving as archdiocesan director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith that he requested permission from Archbishop Patrick Flores in December 1982 to serve for a period in the mission fields of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia–leading him to an even greater sense of a truly universal Church. However, in 1988 his missionary work was cut short when he was called back to San Antonio for new responsibilities as an auxiliary bishop.

Bishop Edmond Carmody worked to increase awareness of the diabetes problem and also became personally active in annual fundraising endeavors such as the Diabetes Walk.
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In 1992, Blessed Pope John Paul II named him bishop of the young Diocese of Tyler and eight years later, the pope sent him to Corpus Christi.

From the beginning of his ministry in south Texas, Bishop Carmody signaled his desire to be connected to his new church family.  He made it a goal to visit each parish and mission at least once for weekend Masses within his first two years. This task was made easier when four counties from the Diocese of Corpus Christi were included in the new Diocese of Laredo erected in August 2000.  

In keeping with his belief–nurtured by his experiences as a missionary in South America–in the value of a priest in smaller communities to provide a leadership and a focus for spiritual formation, the bishop sought more priests from the international community. He recruited more than 30 priests from India, Poland and Columbia so that mission churches in the diocese visited by priests only on a weekly basis, could have a resident shepherd.

Bishop Carmody places a rose at the Homeless Person’s Memorial Day Sunrise Service at Kinney Park in Corpus Christi for the 12 homeless people who died in 2008.
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The bishop consolidated the diocesan departments so that most could be housed at the Chancery. In keeping with the suggestions of the 1988 Diocesan Synod, the bishop also sought to focus diocesan ministries around evangelization, catechesis, good family and youth formation and biblical stewardship. Ministries for spiritual formation were organized, such as programs for those recovering from the loss of a spouse through divorce or death.

In 2004, the diocese initiated the Catholic Count–an effort to reach out to Catholics in south Texas and to get a better sense of the demographics of the area. A mass mailing was made to every known home in the diocese. The information received was forwarded to the local parishes to help in their evangelization efforts.  
Bishop Carmody continued the tradition of recruiting international priests and women in consecrated life when he came to the Diocese of Corpus Christi. Bishop Carmody, and his long-time secretary Mary Sedberry, shared a moment with most of the priests he recruited from India. Bishop Carmody also welcomed many priests from other countries, such as Colombia and Poland.
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Bishop Carmody maintained close ties with Blessed John Paul II High School and was a big supporter of student athletes, including the Centurion baseball team.    
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Growth on the parish level led to the establishment of the new parishes of St. John the Baptist and St. Helena of the True Cross in Corpus Christi’s south side, St. Francis of Assisi Mission in Lagarto and Stella Maris Chapel community in Lamar. New church construction included St. Thomas the Apostle, dedicated in December 2007, and St. Joseph in Port Aransas, dedicated in February 2009.

Besides trying to assess and address the needs of the church in south Texas, Bishop Carmody also worked with local civic leaders in Corpus Christi to determine some of the needs specific to that urban area. As a result, the bishop made it his priority to focus on three challenges that were a concern to all local leaders: the large high school dropout rate, the increasing homeless population and the high incidence of diabetes among the population of south Texas.  

Racquetball was one of Bishop Carmody’s favorite pass times. He often engaged civic leaders, like Citgo representative Jesse Garcia, in a match to benefit the American Diabetes Association.     
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The bishop worked to increase awareness of the diabetes problem and also became personally active in annual fundraising endeavors such as the Diabetes Walk and his own racquetball challenge games with community leaders. To stress support for education, Bishop Carmody and the diocese provided facilities for a charter high school for two years and then established the new John Paul II High School in December 2005.

The work to address the needs of the increasing homeless population culminated in the dedication of the Mother Teresa Day Shelter for the homeless on Oct. 16, 2003.  The shelter offers restroom and shower facilities, a laundry room, escape from inclement weather and individual storage lockers. In conjunction with Catholic Charities, it also provides food, toiletries, clean clothes, basic health screening and assistance, employment opportunities, counseling and the support of Christian compassion and respect.

In accordance with Canon Law, Bishop Carmody submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI when he turned 75 in 2009. In January 2010, the pope named Msgr. Wm. Michael Mulvey of Austin as his successor.