Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Alumni Obituaries

Carl Collins

Serving as a priest at an independent Catholic church wasn't always part of the Rev. Carl Collins' plan.

But for the priest, who stumbled into the offshoot church after a marriage gone awry, developed a large following and spent his days tending to the homeless, it might have been God's plan all along.

The Rev. Collins died Oct. 14 of liver and heart failure at a Pompano Beach hospital, surrounded by parishioners who were his only family. The reverend, who lived in Oakland Park, was 63.

The priest found a calling at All Saints Catholic Mission and Soup Kitchen, which was started in 1990 by the Rev. Bob Caudill, who was forced to leave his Miami church for breaking rules such as baptizing the child of unwed parents.

At about the same time, the Rev. Collins left his mainstream Georgia church after becoming smitten with a beautiful Romanian woman. He was "devastated" when the marriage soon dissolved, Caudill said."

He lived out of his car for a couple months," Caudill recalled.He took odd jobs: selling flowers, working at a drug store. He was even homeless at one point.

"I said, 'Why you don't come down here, I have an independent church.' "

So the friend he had known from seminary moved from Georgia in 1995.

As a team, they grew their church and tended their soup kitchen.

While the Rev. Caudill battled the city of Oakland Park for enforcing laws that targeted the homeless, the Rev. Collins took a more quiet role, preferring to pray and continue the feedings.

"We always had a joke here: If you're having a party, call Father Bob. If you're sick, call Father Carl," Caudill said. "He could sit with somebody for an hour and a half and not blink. He was very patient."

At the soup kitchen, he worked 10 hours days, often seven days a week, making sure food deliveries were on time, and the meals dished out to the area's homeless accounted for. He sorted clothing donations and cans of food, and organized the volunteers.

When he became sick two years ago, the breakfasts of bagels, toast, pancakes and sometimes sausage were cut, and only dinner remained. Almost 200 people a day come to eat.

"He was a true Catholic priest — kind, caring and very concerned for the homeless," said parishioner Denise Arico, of Fort Lauderdale. "He had a beautiful Irish smile, blue twinkling eyes, red hair. Anybody who had a problem, he would sit and listen to it, he was great at listening and helping you solve your problems."