The Rev. Christopher M. Carney, the retired pastor of three Baltimore Roman Catholic parishes whose uncomplicated style of preaching connected well with his congregations, died in his sleep of stroke complications Tuesday at Upper Chesapeake Hospital. He was 76 and lived in Hickory, an unincorporated area of Harford County.
A native of Philadelphia, he joined the Christian Brothers religious order as a young man and became Brother Daniel Christopher. He graduated from LaSalle Hall High School in Beltsville in 1949 and earned Bachelor of Arts and master's degrees at the order's LaSalle College.
He taught for two years at the LaSalle Institute in Cumberland, then became assistant director in the province's financial office in Beltsville. He then took over his order's top financial post as province financial director, a post he held until 1970.
In 1970, after discussion with the local provincial of the Christian Brothers and with Baltimore's Cardinal Lawrence Shehan, he decided to change his role and take holy orders as a priest.
"He was a fine raconteur and host, with a great sense of humor. He never lost his Philadelphia accent," said the Rev. Michael Roach, a friend who is pastor of St. Bartholomew's Church in Manchester. "He was quite a mentor to young priests, who could place their complete trust in him."
Father Carney was assigned to live at Parkville's St. Thomas More rectory while he completed his training at St. Mary's Seminary. Cardinal Shehan ordained him into the priesthood in 1971.
Father Carney was a curate at St. Thomas More Parish for four years. In October 1975, he was named pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Arbutus and served there for 12 years. In 1987, he was named pastor of Rosedale's Annunciation Parish. Five years later, he became pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Overlea.
"He had a very simple and direct idea about life," said Ellen Adajian, his music director at St. Michael's. "He would say, `You can't take anything with you when you die, but when living, practice love and being gentle.' He hated conflict."
Friends recalled that Father Carney enjoyed traditional church music - including Panis Angelicus and the Ave Maria. He also wrote hundreds of Christmas cards and had a weakness for Rheb's candies, where candy packers kept a list of his favorites, caramarsh, peanut butter patties and a selection of raisin dark chocolates, which he requested "to make sure things were healthy." He also liked Philadelphia-made TastyKakes.
Colleagues said Father Carney spent much of his week visiting the sick and elderly.
"He was a compassionate man who brought a gentle heart and a peaceful presence to any situation," said Monsignor James M. Barker, pastor of St. Ignatius in Hickory.
In 2001, Father Carney was named a senior priest. He retired in 2006 and assisted other priests as much as his declining health would permit.
Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien will celebrate a Mass of Christian burial tonight at 7:30 at St. Ignatius Church, 533 East Jarrettsville Road.
There are no immediate survivors.