Give freely of his talents as Christ did

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Over the next several weeks, Rhode Island Catholic will feature profiles of the 15 winners in the 10 categories of the diocese’s 2016 Lumen Gentium Awards. The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 18. Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will benefit St. Martin de Porres Multi-Purpose Center and Fruit Hill Day Care for Seniors — are asked to register online at www.dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards. For any questions about the event, please call 401-277-2121.

EAST PROVIDENCE — For Joseph Carter Sr., the idea of using one’s God-given talents to help better the lives of those around him was born at the age of 14 as he walked home one day along the streets of his native Riverside.

He marveled at the sight of a home under construction and asked the contractors if he could have a summer job helping out in some way so he could be close to the action at the site.

Over the next few months his hobby became more of a labor of love, and others began to take seriously his interest in the craft of building.

“For a Christmas present my mom and dad gave me a small Black and Decker jigsaw,” Carter, 56, recalled, chuckling at the memory of the gift, which forged the path he has followed to this day.

Carter would go on to become a master craftsman, one whose talents were sought by Father Pio Francesco Mandato, F.M.H.J., spiritual descendant and close friend of Saint Padre Pio, to build a hermitage and chapel for him in Laceyville, Pa., in 1995.

Carter worked on the project for months, traveling back and forth from Rhode Island regularly until it was completed.

“Joe did this happily for months and for no financial gain because the work was so pleasing to God and his Church,” said Father John C. Codega, pastor of St. Brendan Parish in East Providence, of his dedicated parishioner, whom he nominated for the Lumen Gentium award for Parish Service for the countless hours of selfless labor Carter has dedicated to St. Brendan, his lifelong parish.

Carter and his wife Elizabeth have two grown children, Joseph Jr., and Patrick that they raised in the parish community at St. Brendan.

“Simply put, those who know Joe Carter begin to know Jesus,” Father Codega said. “Joe is a living reminder of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy influenced by Saint Joseph, guide of the Holy Family.”

At St. Brendan, Carter began serving at the altar in his youth and would go on to become an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, teacher of marriage preparation and assistant on youth trips, fish fry dinners and at parish bingo. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus.

I’ll do anything — if I see a need, I’ll take care of it,” says Carter.

He has also left an indelible mark on his parish through his contributions as a craftsman.

“From constructing a manger scene to choir risers to furniture in the rectory, Joe has left a lasting physical mark on the parish, never asking to be compensated,” Father Codega said.

Carter said he was “astounded” to be named a Lumen Gentium awardee, as he has always been very reserved about his work, calling what he does for others a “labor of love.”

“I’ve been blessed with many miracles in my life,” he says. “I’m just happy that I’m able to do it. Christ gave freely, so we all should do the same. I’ve always seen it as a responsibility for practicing my faith.”