Father Carl Bartholomew Ordained a Pallottine
Bishop Nevins Ordains a Late Vocation at St. Martha Parish

By Josh Noem
Diocese of Venice in Florida
December 7, 2000

(Venice - Dec. 7, 2000) Father Carl Bartholomew, who holds two doctorate degrees and embarked upon his vocation at the age of 53, was mentored by an American spy in World War II and probably survived the Vietnam War because he is a Boy Scout, but his ordination as a Pallottine at St. Martha Parish on Nov. 27 was a peace-filled event.

Bishop John J. Nevins, celebrant and ordaining bishop at the Mass, passed on to Father Bartholomew these words that he had received at his ordination: "Remember that you have given yourself to God. Give, give, give yourself to your people."

The bishop encouraged Father Bartholomew to unite people to the sacrifice of Christ, "the sacrifice performed through your hands."

Just as Jesus was sent by the Father and just as the apostles were sent by Jesus, "we continue the apostolic work as teacher, priest and shepherd," Bishop Nevins said. "Always remember the example of the good shepherd, who came not to be served, but to serve."

The church was full with Pallottine clergy, parishioners, family and students from St. Martha School for the ordination. "Everyone in our community participated in this," said Father Bartholomew. "It was just as it should be—sacraments should be celebrated in the community, with the people of Christ."

After attending high school in Broward County and graduating from the University of Florida, Father Bartholomew enlisted in the Army to serve in Europe during the Vietnam War. Having been in the Boy Scouts since the age of eight, he volunteered to lead a troop in the Transatlantic Council in Europe in addition to serving as an operating room technician.

During his time in Europe in the Army, he watched many of the men with whom he served be sent to Vietnam, many of whom were of a lower grade than he. After his tour of duty, his commanding officer told him that he was never sent to Vietnam because of a written order coming through five levels in the chain of command just for him.

"I had congressional influence," he said. The United States Army was mandated to support boy scouting in Europe by any means possible, so he was kept in Europe because of his leadership in the Transatlantic Council. "Scouting saved me from probably being killed in Vietnam," he said.

After returning to the United States, Father Bartholomew went back to school and received a doctorate in chiropractics. He worked as a chiropractor for ten years in West Virginia, but decided to go back to medical school "because I felt I wasn't doing the right thing. I thought the answer was medical school, but no sooner had I graduated did I know I made a mistake," he said.

He continued to work in a successful general clinical practice in Sarasota when he became more and more involved in St. Martha Parish. He began attending daily Mass and was asked to be a eucharistic minister. It was at St. Martha Parish that he met the late Father Gaetano Tocco.

Father Tocco was raised in a Sicilian family in New York and spoke perfect Italian. He began his formation with the Pallottines in Rome in 1932, but his family had him return to the United States because of World War II. He enlisted in the Navy and was sent back to Italy as a spy because of his linguistic abilities and because he had established many contacts from his time in formation there. After the war, he married and had several children. After his wife passed away, he was ordained Cardinal John O'Connor at the age of 72.

Their friendship through the parish led Father Tocco to tell the doctor, "Son, you're gonna change your ways." Little by little, Father Tocco "with love took me to the place where I decided to take the plunge," Father Bartholomew said.

"I wasn't doing what the Lord wanted," he said. "I worked until I wasn't happy. I reached all the goals I had set, but they were man's goals, not God's."

Father Bartholomew recalls offering his life to God during the daily Masses he attended and eventually discerned a call to the priesthood. He entered the novitiate in 1993 at the Pallottine headquarters in New York and in 1996 elected to attend Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. He returned to St. Martha Parish in May with a Masters of Divinity. He continues to work on an additional master's degree in theology.

Being a late vocation has its advantages, Father Bartholomew said. Having experience in the world, he can personally relate to issues such as family problems and death "because I have suffered through that pain already, I can relate."

Also, he has the advantage of having confidence in his calling because he tried a different vocation and found it unfulfilling. "I know why I am here," he said with conviction.

Father Bartholomew is currently involved in the Boy Scouts in Sarasota and teaches religion to eighth graders at St. Martha School.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.