Father John T. Carter
Father John T. Carter

The Rev. John T. Carter, a retired Roman Catholic Navy chaplain who later pastored several churches in Western Maryland, died Tuesday at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center of respiratory failure. He was 71.

"Our Uncle Martin Hyland was a priest, and I think he was somewhat of an influence on my brother as well as the priest at St. Ambrose," his sister, Sally Louise Protokowicz of Bel Air, said. "Since he was 14, he always wanted to be a priest. It was the only thing he ever wanted to do."


The son of Blight G. Carter, a Baltimore Sun photoengraver, and Agnes L. Hyland, a homemaker, John Thomas Carter, one of seven children, was born in Baltimore and raised in the city's Pimlico neighborhood.

Father Carter attended Pimlico elementary and junior high schools and graduated in 1960 from City College. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1964 from Maryknoll College Seminary in Glen Ellyn, Ill.

"He was initially attracted to becoming a Maryknoll missionary after reading the Maryknoll Magazine, but found he was called to a different kind of ministry," his sister said.

Father Carter enrolled at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Roland Park, where after the completion of his religious studies, he was ordained a priest in 1970 at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen by Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan.

Father Carter held pastoral assignments at St. Clare Roman Catholic Church in Essex and at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church in Woodlawn. In 1972, he was assigned to St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church in Linthicum, where he remained while receiving training as a chaplain at the Newport, R.I., Naval Station, and later at Parris Island, S.C.

"As a priest, I was exempt from joining the service but I thought I should serve my country, and that's what I did," Father Carter told the Catholic Review in a 2006 interview.

In 1979, he began serving as a circuit chaplain at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va., while concurrently serving as associate pastor at St. Louis Roman Catholic Church in Clarksville.

Father Carter became a Navy chaplain in 1981, and was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Assuage, Japan, and was re-assigned later that year to the Naval Air Station in Kingsville, Texas.

In 1983, Father Carter joined the officers and crew of the USS La Salle, a command ship, as the command chaplain assigned to the staff of the Middle East commander during the Iran-Iraq War.

In addition to Catholics, Father Carter also ministered to Protestants, and flew from ship to ship aboard a helicopter he named the "Holy Helio."

He also provided assistance to the Roman Catholic parish in Bahrain, as well as sacramental assistance to the U.S. State Department and the expatriot community in the area.

Recalling his experiences during the Iran-Iraq War, Father Carter said in the Catholic Review interview that they had spent "12 arduous months drifting around monitoring the situation," and that once during that time he was allowed to leave the ship.

"I think my presence was a help to the men," he said.

Father Carter was transferred in 1987 to the Subic Bay Naval Air station in the Philippines, where he oversaw pastoral care of the military community including the naval hospital and Cubi Naval Air Station.


He later returned to the naval air station at Norfolk, where he was stationed until 1992, when he was subsequently assigned to the Naval Air Station in Bermuda, where he was supervising chaplain.

When the base was closed in 1994, he was named senior chaplain and pastor at the Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., which is the largest Roman Catholic parish in the Atlantic Fleet.

In 1995, Father Carter was sent to the naval station in Cuba where he worked with 2,000 Cuban and Haitian refugees, and after three months, took on his final assignment as command chaplain for the commander of Submarine Squadron 11 and the submarine base at the naval base in San Diego.

He had attained the rank of commander by the time of his 1998 retirement from the Navy. His decorations included three Meritorious Service Medals, which are the second highest peacetime decorations presented to members of the armed forces.

Father Carter was also awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Navy Expeditionary Medal and National Defense Medal, the latter two for his service during the Persian Gulf War.

After leaving the Navy, Father Carter returned to Baltimore where he was assigned in 1998 as associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Towson. In 2001, he was named pastor of both St. Augustine in Williamsport, and St. James Roman Catholic Church in Boonsboro, where he remained until retiring in 2006.

After retiring, he moved to the Mercy Ridge Retirement Community in Timonium, where he lived with other retired priests. He enjoyed reading and traveling and was an inveterate collector of lighthouse replicas.

A Mass of Christian burial for Father Carter will be offered at 11 a.m. today at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church, 36 E. Potomac St., Williamsport.

In addition to his sister, Father Carter is survived by four brothers, Blight G. Carter Jr. of Lake Forest, N.C., James Carter of Berlin, Dennis Carter of Hanover, Pa., and Stephen Carter of Tennessee.