BROOKLYN, New York – Father Martin Carter, a Franciscan brother in the Atonement, died on December 25 at the age of 91.
The black priest, who was initially turned away from seminaries because of his race, was well regarded in the Diocese of Brooklyn, where he headed Our Lady of Victory parish for 13 years.
He had also served the diocese as director of its Black Ministry Office after a stint as Director of the Black Ministry Office for the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, in the 1980s.
A native of North Carolina, he heard a call to the ordained priesthood very early on but had difficulty convincing a diocese or religious order of his vocation until the brothers at Atonement welcomed him in 1948. He delivered his first words. vows in 1950 but was not ordained to the priesthood until 1975.
Carter, while ministering as a high school teacher in Chicago in 1977, founded Kujenga – to “build” in Swahili – a leadership training program to emphasize positive identity and giving. young people. He took Kujenga with him to Brooklyn when he began his ministry there.
He is perhaps best known for having been the first black pastor of Our Lady of Victory, which has long been a black parish in Brooklyn, largely populated by Caribbean immigrants when Carter was appointed pastor in 1995.
A 2000 New York Times profile of the priest, the parishioners, instead of welcoming him, longed for the return of the popular white pastor who had been in the parish for two decades before. Carter outraged some of his flock when he sent a white nun with a paint bucket to coat the statues of Mary and others outside the church in black paint.
“We’re not Johnny-come-latelies,” Carter told the New York Times, noting that the first three popes came from Africa. Carter added that he was motivated by the belief that black Catholics must understand their roots in Catholicism to claim equality in the church.
Carter’s efforts brought new members and vitality to Our Lady of Victory. But a decade after he left in 2008, then Bishop of Brooklyn Nicholas DiMarzio ordered the merger of Our Lady of Victory with two other neighboring parishes, St. Peter Claver and Holy Rosary, both of which were losing members. The parish was renamed Saint-Martin de Porres.