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Archbishop Robert J. Carlson distributed the Eucharist to priests of the archdiocese at the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in 2019.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson distributed the Eucharist to priests of the archdiocese at the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in 2019.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Archbishop Carlson maintains fatherly qualities through his influence of priests here

Archbishop Carlson’s fatherly influence, approachability are cited as key qualities in relationships with priests

Father Brian Fallon gave a blessing to Archbishop Robert J. Carlson after the Mass of ordination to the priesthood in 2012. Father Fallon is now pastor of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in St. Louis and vocation director for the archdiocese.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
Fr. Hogan
Father David Hogan was a NET missionary traveling in Sioux Falls, S.D., when he met then-Bishop Robert Carlson. The bishop invited the team to his residence, where he cooked them a Thanksgiving meal. Father Hogan remembered fondly the bishop’s hospitality — as well as his two large dogs.

“He had a very calm demeanor and was very present, and engaging with us,” Father Hogan said. “As a missionary, you’re going all the time. We were in town a day and a half, and we were able to connect with him easily. He reminded me a lot of my father.”

Several years later, when Father Hogan was discerning a vocation to the priesthood, he reached out to the bishop, by now serving as Archbishop of St. Louis. He sent him a copy of a picture that the NET team had taken with him when he was in Sioux Falls back in 2003.

Archbishop Carlson invited him to come to St. Louis, with an invitation to stay at Kolbe House for men discerning a possible priestly vocation. By the fall of 2010, Father Hogan entered Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. Looking back, he thinks how their initial meeting in Sioux Falls ended up playing an important role in his discernment.

Ordained in 2014 by Archbishop Carlson and now an associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie, Father Hogan said “God was providential in putting him in my life.” His father had passed away when he was in high school, and the young priest said that he appreciated the fatherly qualities that he came to discover in Archbishop Carlson.

“I didn’t really know anybody here,” said Father Hogan, a native of Aurora, Colorado. “But I felt a deep sense of peace here, and knowing Archbishop (Carlson) had that connection to NET, he made me feel welcome and comfortable discerning a vocation here.”

Father Hogan said he’s witnessed the importance of the relationship between a bishop and his priests. “If you have a good relationship, that goes a long way of fulfilling the needs in the archdiocese,” he said. “I appreciate his approach to people. He’s been a great person to look up to. I’ll be forever grateful for his friendship. His retirement is bittersweet — I want him to enjoy his retirement and I wish him all the best. He has been a great friend in a lot of ways.”

Fr. Jones
Father Scott Jones was ordained as a religious order priest, serving in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, when he considered moving to Missouri, where his family originally was from. He contacted Archbishop Carlson in 2015 and was incardinated as an archdiocesan priest here in 2017.

“He was extremely welcoming, and he was always very supportive,” said Father Jones, now pastor of Sts. Teresa and Bridget Parish in St. Louis. Archbishop Carlson had regularly scheduled clergy days at his residence, where priests could stop by to talk or ask questions. Being new to the archdiocese, Father Scott took advantage of those meetings. “He was always willing to answer questions and give me advice,” he said. “He was really supportive of a transition into an archdiocese where I had never lived before. I felt at home very quickly.”

He’s appreciated Archbishop Carlson’s kindness and good humor. “I think that has had a ripple effect here,” he said. “We leave those (clergy days) and come back to our parishes and that influences us. He’s very solid and down to earth. I know he has worked extremely hard here, and I hope he has a wonderful experience of retirement.”

Father Patrick Russell remembers he was still in high school when Archbishop Carlson came to St. Louis. At the time, Father Russell was a high school junior and he knew he wanted to enter the seminary. He attended the archbishop’s installation Mass in 2009, but it didn’t dawn on him until much later that this might be the same archbishop who would be ordaining him 10 years later in 2019.

Through his time of seminary formation, Father Russell found himself growing in friendship with the archbishop, who he described as a mentor and formator. “But I also saw him as someone I could go to with questions and get input,” he said. “It was very valuable to me.”

Fr. Russell
Now an associate pastor at Assumption Parish in O’Fallon and a chaplain at St. Dominic High School, Father Russell also said that the archbishop has a fatherly presence. “He definitely wants to teach and

instruct, but it’s not contrived or difficult. It’s easy to approach him and say I am struggling with something, and he is willing to lend a listening ear.”

In his work as a priest and especially as a high school chaplain, Father Russell said he hopes that he is helping to fulfill the archbishop’s vision in all that he does. “I have felt accompanied by the archbishop, but he’s also taught me how to do that through his example,” he said. “I hope to accompany these kids like he has accompanied me, and that they know they have that priest who loves them as the archbishop loves me.”

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