The Rev. David M. Carey, a Roman Catholic priest who turned his own struggle with alcoholism into leading those similarly afflicted to a life of sobriety at Father Martin’s Ashley, a Harford County treatment center, died Nov. 2 from respiratory failure at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. He was 83.
“David was the most wonderful person you’d ever want to meet and when it came to working with people and helping them toward recovery … he knew what it was like,” said Lora Mae Abraham, a co-founder of the center in 1983 and a recovering alcoholic. She and the Rev. Joseph C. Martin, also a recovering alcoholic, founded Father Martin’s Ashley, now Father Martin-Ashley Addiction Center, near Havre de Grace.
“He conducted lectures, said Mass, and listened to anything they wanted to talk about. He’d do anything for them,” she said of Father Carey. “He did so much for Father Martin’s and he’d fill in wherever and whenever he was needed, and he did that for more than 30 years.”
The Rev. Mark Hushen, a member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, was president of Father Martin’s for a decade and was a close friend of Father Carey.
“He helped the addicted with these issues. He made them see spirituality in a positive way and that it was a significant part of recovery,” said Father Hushen, who is now chief mission and legacy officer at Father Martin’s. “He connected with them and gave them the tools so they could move forward and into the future.”
David Michael Carey, the son of George N. Carey and Mary M. Carey, was born and raised in Archbald, Pa. He attended St. Thomas Aquinas School in Archbald, and was a 1953 graduate of Archbald High School.
After attending the University of Scranton for two years, he moved to Baltimore in 1955 and entered St. Mary’s College on Paca Street, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy two years later.
Before entering the seminary, he taught at St. James High School in Penns Grove, N.J., and then studied theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Roland Park. He was was ordained a Roman Catholic priest at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in 1962 by then-Rev. Lawrence J. Shehan.
Father Carey was associate pastor at St. Luke Roman Catholic Church in Edgemere from 1962 until 1968, when he was named associate pastor of St. Thomas More Roman Catholic Church in Northeast Baltimore.
He served as an associate for three years at St. William of York on Cooks Lane in Baltimore, until 1972, when he was assigned to the clinical pastoral education program at what is now Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, and also to serve as part-time chaplain at Villa Maria in Towson.
A year later, he was named associate pastor at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Glyndon, and pastor in 1980.
While pastoring Sacred Heart, Father Carey confronted his alcoholism. He met with Father Martin, who suggested treatment at Guest House, in Lake Orion, Mich., a center for the clergy.
Father Carey initially balked, claiming that he had to officiate at a wedding that afternoon. “We will get a replacement, you’re going,” Father Martin told him.
Father Carey successfully completed treatment at Guest House, and in 1987 left Sacred Heart to pursue alcohol counseling studies at Rutgers University. He returned the next year, and also began serving as part-time chaplain at the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s motherhouse and Villa Assumpta, both in Baltimore County’s Woodbrook neighborhood.
He also began working one day a week at Father Martin’s.
“He had a quick wit and a great sense of humor,” Father Hushen said. “He included lots of music in his lectures, which he had downloaded onto his iPad. Residents in recovery gave him the nickname of ‘Father iPad.’ ”
Camilla L. Thomas of Abingdon worked for more than 20 years as program director at Father Martin’s.
“He was a very charismatic or people’s priest who could touch your heart and soul. He never gave a stilted Mass or lecture. He could connect with the 21-year-olds and all young people,” Mrs. Thomas said.
“He used music, poetry, quotes and things in his lectures that lifted the patients and gave them hope,” Mrs. Thomas said. “The patients loved him and his music touched their hearts and souls, and said there was a lot more to talk about and that was life without alcohol or drugs.”
He was known for his homilies and “could hold people spellbound” with them, wrote Diane L. Barr, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, in a biographical profile of Father Carey.
He was committed to working with people in Alcoholics Anonymous, said his niece, Dianne Jubinski, of Devon, Pa.
“A.A., that’s what he was all about. His depth of his alcoholism was the same depth as his sobriety. He took it very seriously,” she said. “It was his passion being at Father Martin’s where he was second in command. As a person, he had lots of humor, and was very loving.”
“He won the battle of alcoholism,” said the Rev. Michael J. Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester, and an old friend. “He was an extremely likable man who was always very approachable and accommodating. I never saw him out of sorts and he was very mild-mannered. Just a wonderful guy.”
When Father Martin, who had become an international leader in the battle against alcoholism and substance abuse, could not travel to events, it was Father Carey he sent in his stead.
The two men had grown very close and when Father Martin died in 2009, it was Father Carey who was asked to give the homily at his funeral.
Father Carey “was close to celebrating about 30 years in sobriety,” his niece said.
Father Carey retired in 2003. A longtime resident of the Mercy Ridge Retirement Community in Lutherville, he enjoyed spending weekends at his sister’s cabin in Chapman Lake, Pa., boating, traveling and vacationing in Florida. He also enjoyed conducting weekend retreats for patients at Father Martin’s.
“David would finish retreats with the words, ‘Go in peace and for God’s sake enjoy your life,’ ” Father Hushen said in his homily at Father Carey’s Mass of Christian burial, which was offered Wednesday in the chapel of Villa Assumpta of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
“So this morning we say a final farewell. Father David Michael Carey, rest in peace and for God’s sake enjoy eternal life.”
In addition to his niece, Father Carey is survived by a nephew, Bill Powell of Louisburg, N.C.