More than 500 folding chairs had to be brought in to handle overflow at Saturday's funeral of beloved Colorado Springs priest Father Bill Carmody. But the added seating was still not enough as more than 2,000 people packed St. Dominic Catholic Church on U.S. Highway 85 in the Security-Widefield area.
The standing room only crowd, which included Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Colorado Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-El Paso County), was an example of what meant most to Father Carmody. The 58-year-old priest died on Feb. 23 after a long battle with cancer.
"Building community is the most important thing," said Monsignor Don Dunn. "And that was what (Father Carmody) was all about."
Dunn gave the homily at Saturday's Mass of Christian Burial. In his speech, he highlighted Carmody's work to found St. Dominic, the largest Catholic church in Colorado Springs. The church was formed by uniting the congregations of Holy Family and St. Joseph. And Dunn said the best way to honor his colleague and friend would be to "keep building community."
The funeral was the culmination of almost three weeks in which friends, family, parishioners and community leaders remembered the man who they said touched many lives. Carmody will be remembered as a man who loved sports and kids. And he will also be thought of, maybe most prominently, as a man who fought for the unborn.
The priest was a leader in the Pikes Peak region's pro-life movement. He held prayer services regularly outside the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on the city's west side. And Carmody spearheaded a project to place more than 3,000 pink and blue crosses in front of St. Dominic Church to raise awareness for his cause.
"His struggles to protect the unborn are legendary in our community," Dunn said.
Klingenschmitt talked briefly after the funeral service ended on Saturday, saying that he and Carmody were friends. The state representative pointed to a pin on his lapel in the shape of two small feet. He said it was a gift from the priest.
"I'm honored to have received this from Father Bill and to wear it for him today," Klingenschmitt said.
Near the end of Saturday's service Father Carmody's younger brother Pat Carmody addressed the crowd at St. Dominic.
"I'm completely overwhelmed by the size of the group here," he said.
Many of those who attended the service joined an El Paso County sheriff's deputy escort afterward and drove seven miles to Evergreen Cemetery to put Father Carmody to rest.
Pat Carmody thanked everyone for the help they gave his brother during his battle with cancer. He said that their love "gave him the strength and energy to fight the illness."
The brother concluded Saturday's service with words that Father Carmody had told Pat Carmody shortly before his death.
"He said, 'God gave me cancer so that more people would pray," Pat Carmody said.