Father Michael J. Carrier, pastor of Church of the Holy Child in North Wilmington for the last six years, knows every corner of Diocese of Wilmington better than most priests.
During his time at Holy Child and previously while pastor of Christ Our King Parish and earlier as the rector of the Cathedral of St. Peter, Farther Carrier also served nearly 14 years as director of the diocese’s Office of Worship.
His “worship” duties included being master of ceremonies for countless liturgies celebrated by both the late Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli and Bishop Malooly. The job took him to every parish in Delaware and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Now, in his second six-year appointment as pastor of the more than 1,500-family Holy Child and his first year away from the Worship Office, Father Carrier’s pastoral geography has narrowed but he’s very happy at his parish on Naamans Road.
“Holy Child has a good sense of community,” Father Carrier said. “It’s a warm community. That’s what people
pick up on when they come to visit; it’s something we hear constantly, even from those looking for a parish.”
And, while you can take the priest away from the Worship Office, you can’t take the pastor away from liturgy.
“Liturgy is important to our community,” Father Carrier said. “And music plays a major part.” he added, noting that Holy Child’s choir still has four or five members who started singing with it when Msgr. Joseph F. Rebman founded it decades ago.
Holy Child is a “north star” of sorts for the diocese. The church is about a half mile from the Pennsylvania border.
“We have about 35 to 40 percent of our parishioners from Pennsylvania, Father Carrier said. “Some come because they liked the parish when they stopped in for the liturgy. Others have come because of the situations of closings along the border.”
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia parishes closed in hailing distance of Holy Child have included churches in Marcus Hook and Linwood, Pa.
While Holy Child doesn’t have a school, its religious education program teaches about 260 kids from about 187 families, the pastor said.
Baptisms are scheduled twice a month. “We don’t do more than four at a time,” Father Carrier said.
Weddings have varied at Holy Child at a time when they’ve declined nationally.
“Last year there were only a few. This year there are eight or nine on the books.”
Funerals keep the pastor busy. Oblate Father Mike Vogt assists with some of the daily and weekend Masses.
“We’re high on funerals, 74 last year. We average about 60 or so a year,” the pastor said.
Like all pastors, Father Carrier admits to feeling bogged down at times by his administrative duties.
“We’re in the process of hiring a person to be both the bookkeeper and business manager,” he said. “If we need something done, I won’t be the one having to call out and get the bids. That way I can focus more on the spiritual needs of the parish.”
Holy Child parishioners are generous in both their volunteer work for the parish and their donations, Father Carrier added.
“We’ve re-established all the subcommittees from the pastoral council, liturgy, social concerns, parish and family life, Christian formation and building and maintenance. They’re doing the work of the parish as well.”
Also, Holy Child’s faithful are generous donors, he said. “Very, very generous.
“However, we’re finding because it’s an older community, the challenge is how do we encourage the younger generation to continue the generosity.”
Holy Child doesn’t have a school. Area parishes that do can draw young adult parents from the area to church while their children attend those schools, “so that affects some of the membership of our parish,” Father Carrier said.
The joys of his ministry at Holy Child are the joys of his priesthood, the pastor said.
“It’s humbling to be able to enter people’s lives,” he pastor said, “just the opportunity to be there with them as they celebrate a joy or as they deal with a struggle. To be able to celebrate the sacraments with them is a gift.”
For a priest who worked so closely with Bishops Saltarelli and Malooly, it’s ironic that Father Carrier was ordained when the diocese was without a shepherd.
In 1995, between the time Bishop Robert E. Mulvee had been assigned to Providence, R.I., and when Bishop Saltarelli was named the diocese’s eighth bishop, a prelate from the Military Ordinariate, Bishop John J. Glynn, ordained Father Carrier and his classmate, Father Michael T. Casari, who is now retired, in October that year.
Father Carrier, a native of Lewiston, Maine, moved with his family to Delaware in 1977.
He recalled that when he attended Catholic school in Maine, “I was intrigued by the life of a priest from what I saw.
“At the end of grammar school, I was thinking about possibly going into a high school seminary. My parents and I had a conversation. We looked at a couple of religious orders and they decided to encourage me to wait until after high school.”
In Delaware, Father Carrier attended John Dickinson High School. He also worked in youth ministry with Father Joe McMahon’s mother, who asked him one day if he ever thought about becoming a priest. Father McMahon worked in the vocations office at the time. His mother connected young Michael with her priest son.
“I met with him, and the rest is history,” said Father Carrier.
Church of the Holy Child
2500 Naamans Road
Masses: Saturday (vigil) 5 p.m.; Sunday: 8 a.m.,
10 a.m., noon; Monday-Friday: 9 a.m.