MOUNT PLEASANT—Msgr. James A. Carter has started a new era in his life as a priest. After five decades of serving in the Diocese of Charleston, he retired after celebrating a last round of Sunday Masses Feb. 26 at Christ Our King Church, where he served as pastor for 27 years.
“I’m proud of making it to 50 years as a priest — it’s been a long journey,” Msgr. Carter said. “I never thought I would make it this long. I’m entering retirement with mixed emotions because I’ve been a priest for so long. It’s going to be a whole new experience.”
The Charleston native was ordained on May 7, 1966, by Bishop Ernest Unterkoefler. Over the years, he served at parishes around the state, including Holy Spirit on Johns Island, St. Paul the Apostle in Spartanburg, and St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken. He was rector at Cardinal Newman School and chaplain at the Ursuline Convent in Columbia.
Msgr. Carter returned home to the Charleston area in 1989 when he was assigned to Christ Our King. During his years there, he also served as vicar general from 1990-2004.
He also founded East Cooper Community Outreach in 1989, which started as an effort to provide relief for people affected by Hurricane Hugo. Since then it has grown into a mainstay for the area, providing food, clothing, financial aid and other needs for thousands of families each year.
The longtime pastor is now moving to a home built on land his family owns on Edisto Beach, a place where he will be close to the scenery he loves. He acknowledges it will be an adjustment after 50 years of parish and diocesan work.
“It’s going to be kind of isolated compared to where I have been, so this will be a whole new ball game,” he said. After a month or so of getting situated at his new home, Msgr. Carter said he will make plans for the future, which he hopes will include a trip to San Juan and other travel.
He also will continue to make weekly trips into Charleston to work at ECCO, where he still serves as chief operating officer.
Another way he has helped the organization he founded is by donating the proceeds from his collection of homilies, “Let Me Tell You a Story,” to the outreach. So far, his book has sold about 750 copies and raised more than $7,500 for ECCO.
Msgr. Carter readily acknowledges that he’s not fond of computers and other technology, and wrote every single homily in longhand.
“It was only through the perseverance of my secretaries that they ever got typed — they were the only ones who could decipher them,” he said with a laugh. “Honestly, now that I’m retiring one of the things I’m looking forward to is not having to write one every week.”
When asked to sum up his feelings about his priesthood, the people, and the parish he served for so long, it was fitting that Msgr. Carter chose to read aloud from his final homily.
“I was asked recently, ‘What was the highlight of my priesthood?’” he said. “My answer was celebrating the Eucharist with you each Sunday. You are reverent, attentive and holy people and have been such an inspiration to me … you have helped to make me a better person and a holier priest.”
Top photo, Miscellany/Doug Deas: Msgr. James A. Carter celebrates his last official round of Masses before retiring as pastor of Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant.