Father Peter Carota, former pastor of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Ripon, passed away Friday, July 8, after a long illness.
The news was posted on Father Carota’s personal blog (http://www.traditionalcatholicpriest.com/) by a fellow priest, Fr. David Nix, as well as on the official website of The Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco (https://sanctatrinitasunusdeus.com/).
The announcement on his blog about his passing simply reads: “Fr. Peter Carota Has Passed – Requiescat In Pace.
“Fr. Peter died this morning at 7AM. Please join me in having many masses said for him. Father was an exceptional priest and has helped us all in many ways. Pray that his soul will be at peace in the arms of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.” The announcement was posted by Father Nix.
No funeral services have yet been announced. Staff at St. Patrick’s referred all queries to Msgr. John Armistead, Vicar of Priests for the Diocese of Stockton. That call was not immediately returned.
Father Carota has been in poor health since a few years after he left the Ripon church on East Highway 120 to start his sabbatical four years ago.
Sabbatical is a term used when, according to church cannon law, a priest wants to make a change in his ministry such as transferring to another diocese, start a religious order, or join another religious order. In his case, Father Carota said at that time that he was taking that time off to pursue a dream that he has nurtured for a long time.
“I want to start a Catholic Church television station that has the Latin Mass every day. That’s my dream,” he said in an interview with the Manteca Bulletin just before he left.
He had been in poor health since he started his sabbatical, and became progressively worse after that. Around that time, he started a blog in which he shared his sabbatical journey with regular posts about the many places he visited plus a lot of prayerful entries and about the Traditional Latin Mass.
His health continued on a downward spiral. He spent the last few months at a private home in Escalon where he was receiving full-time care. A few weeks ago, following his wish, the feeding tube that has been keeping him alive the last few months was removed. Following that development, during the Sunday Masses including the 6:30 a.m. Sunday Latin Mass at St. Patrick’s which he started five years before his sabbatical, Pastor Jeff Wilson who succeeded him to the post kept the congregation up to date on Father Carota’s condition and asked everyone to pray for him.
Death of a devout priest
Writing on Fr. Carota’s blog soon after his death, Father Nix shed some light on how the devout priest died without mincing words.
“There is no flowery terminology to say this next sentence: Fr. Peter Carota starved to death today. This past year, I would frequently check in with him, and it was always the same story without any complaint: He could not eat. His body simply could not assimilate food. The saints often live a redemptive suffering that is reflective of the century in which they live and die. Did he die “with” the 3 million children who starve to death every year in the world? Or was his physical starvation a reflection and reparation for the spiritual starvation of Catholics and non-Christians across the globe? I don’t know. Perhaps it was a just a long, painful death in reparation for his own sins. This is why the Mass I offer in honor of Our Lady tomorrow will be for the repose of the soul of Fr. Peter Carota, and I ask you to join your prayers to mine. I will lift up all your prayers on the patten of the Traditional offertory tomorrow.
“But if comparison to the lives of the saints means anything, then this priest of God finished the course; he kept the faith and he died on a Friday like His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the only high priest. May He rest in Our Lady’s arms the next day, a Saturday of Our Lady whom he loved as purely as any man I’ve met.”
Fr. Nix wrote that he and Fr. Carota met “two years ago when we were both wandering the desert in semi-exile from our respective dioceses (literally the Sedona desert....).”
15 years as priest, 10 years
as pastor of St. Patrick’s
Ordained on May 24, 1997, Father Carota was assistant pastor, first at St. George’s in Stockton, followed by St. June in Ceres, and Our Lady of Fatima in Modesto. St. Patrick’s in Ripon was his first assignment as pastor. He took over his pastoral post on Oct. 3, 2002 succeeding Father Mark Wagner who was named pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Modesto after Father Joseph Illo left. After the departure of Father Carota, several priests alternately presided over the Latin Mass at St. Patrick’s. Among them was Father Wagner who continues to take time off from his parish in Modesto to officiate at the early Sunday Mass in Ripon.
During his 10 years as pastor at St. Patrick’s, Father Carota, who was a successful real estate broker in Aptos, Calif., before he entered the priesthood, noted the following as among his memorable accomplishments:
uturned the parish’s $240,000 in the bank to around $1,400,000.
uremodeled the Parish Hall and replaced all the roofs, which were his first projects as pastor.
uled the parish to prepare for Caltrans’ plan to widen Highway 120, which is pretty close to the church, by purchasing 22 acres behind St. John Cemetery along Carrolton Road for $1 million, which was paid in cash.
uhad the parish obtain a use permit from San Joaquin County “with great difficulty” to build a new chapel, a new church, a multipurpose room, and a school on the property.
ubuilt a new chapel on the 22-acre property for $600,000.
In a letter he wrote to his parishioners just before he left, Father Carota stated: “Here at St. Patrick’s, we do not charge for anything. Catechism is on a donation basis. We have a suggested donation for weddings and (quinceaneras). No one is expected to have to pay for anything here. And look how God has blessed us over these 10 years, thanks to God and to all of you who have made it possible and have supported me.”
He added, “I have grown in these ten years. Hopefully you have too. Five years ago, the Pope (referring to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) encouraged the saying of the Latin Mass again. Since saying it these last five years, I have truly understood my priesthood in a totally deeper way as being sacrificial. Above all, I love the reverence and sacredness of this mass. Jesus is God and truly present in Holy Communion. Therefore we should kneel and receive Him with all reverence that God deserves. This mass is only concerned with adoring God…. Please pray for me, and thank you for all you have done for me. Thank you to all who have taken seriously your spiritual growth as Catholics. With your help, the parish has a great future with the 22 acres.”
A late-vocation priest, Fr. Carota gave up a successful career to start a soup kitchen in Santa Cruz providentially called St. Patrick’s Catholic Kitchen which is still serving the poor today after three decades. Working in the soup kitchen and serving the poor and homeless, he was often mistaken as a priest. With that seed planted in his mind, Father Carota pursued what actually was a childhood dream when he played “priest” pretending to offer the sacrifice of the mass.