Carl Carlozzi '62
Carl Carlozzi '62 finds a spiritual outlet in the Phoenix Fire Department
Father Carl G. Carlozzi '62 is the rector of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Phoenix, Arizona, but he isn't always a practicing Episcopalian. In fact, as volunteer chaplain for the Phoenix Fire Department, he says he's prepared to take on any religious guise that's necessary.
Carlozzi recalls a memorable experience when he visited a hospital trauma room to comfort a Hindu woman who needed a religious figure to be with her six-year-old daughter who had just died. "The woman looked at me and said, `But you're a Christian,'" says Carlozzi. "I said, `Tonight I'm not a Christian, I'm a Hindu,' and she said, `You can do that?' I said, `Yes, I can.'"
Carlozzi believes the needs of people in times of tragedy are the same regardless of their religion. "I have no right to invade someone's space with an attitude that says, `But wait, I'm a Christian. We better have this person give his or her life to Jesus,'" he says. "Give me a break. You have to respect that person's religion."
In his five years of unpaid work with the fire department, for which he spends about eight hours a week on call, Carlozzi has seen countless deaths in many forms. When someone jumps off a building, he's there to comfort the family and witnesses. When a person puts a gun to the head and pulls the trigger, he's there. He even worked on a trauma team at the Oklahoma City federal building bombing site. And through it all, he has maintained a steady sense of calmness, delivering a message of diversity, love, and open-mindedness.
The author of seven books with varying spiritual themes, he's a self-described liberal who's quick to say that some will accuse him of heresy. But he never waivers as he professes the specifics of his faith and his work.
As chaplain of the fire department, he drives a donated, fire-engine-red sports-utility vehicle with lights on the top, emergency-band radios, and fire-department markings. Because it involves being paged at all hours of the day and night, much of the work sounds horrific, but it's evident that Carlozzi has the requisite training--and faith--for the job. He rattles off tragic situations in a matter-of-fact manner that almost makes him sound callous. Carlozzi explains that while he does feel the pain of those he helps, he strives not to become too involved emotionally.
"If you get hooked emotionally, if you internalize it, you not only wreck your life; you're no good on the call," Carlozzi says. "Calls come in that are so bad, they seem surreal," he says, recalling a scene where a woman and her daughter jumped off a building. In such situations, Carlozzi says he tells people to remember that the deceased person doesn't live here anymore. "We have one life, but we live it in two places, on earth and in heaven," he says.
A native of Canton, Ohio, Carlozzi entered Kenyon with aspirations of becoming a medical doctor. After realizing he couldn't grasp organic chemistry, he knew his future would have to take a different turn. "My advisor said, `Pick another career. You're not going to medical school, kid,'" says Carlozzi.
His first-year English teacher, Irving Feldman, saw the writing on the wall long before Carlozzi ever thought of entering the ministry. After grading Carlozzi's first paper of the term, Feldman returned it saying, "`This is a bunch of crap. It sounds like a sermon,'" Carlozzi recalls. "I had no idea I was going to seminary at this point." He entered the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, after graduating from the College, eventually earning a master of divinity degree.
Carlozzi's days at Kenyon, as he recollects them, hardly sound like preparation for a life devoted to the ministry. He has fond memories of such antics as stealing a bulldozer, in an attempt to dig up Middle Path, and a host of other activities that characterize the rowdy atmosphere of the College's all-male campus of the early 1960s. "When I was at Kenyon, we worked hard all week long, hitting the books," he says. "But Friday afternoon through Sunday was one big party."
Those party days stand in stark contrast to Carlozzi's work at the church and his volunteer work with the fire department. That's not to say that he sees his volunteer work as particularly depressing. Carlozzi says it's some of the most rewarding work he does. At All Saints' Episcopal Church, he oversees a day school with 438 students, manages a staff of fifty-seven full-time employees, and ministers to the needs of twenty-one hundred parishioners. Since the majority of his work at the church is administrative, Carlozzi feels his work with the fire department gives him an outlet for pastoral ministry.
"When you call 911, you get an immediate response," he says. "They don't ask if you're a saint or a sinner. They say, `We'll be right there.' That's not always the case with the church."
Carlozzi credits Kenyon with giving him an open mind, and he believes the Episcopal Church has always been on the cutting edge of what's happening in the world. He says the church is currently at the forefront of gay and lesbian issues. "There are a lot of people who don't agree with me on many issues, but when they get to heaven, they will see that I was right," Carlozzi laughs.
"There's only one truth in life for me, with a capital `T,' and that truth is God. Everything else is with a small `t,'" he says. "I get distressed over churches so sure of their idea of the truth that they put some people down. Those churches are like a bad advertisement for God. There ought to be signs on them, similar to the warning label on cigarettes, that say `This religion can be hazardous to your health.'"
Carlozzi says he's always been comfortable with the idea of death. As a child, he grew up across from a funeral home, whose owner's two sons were his friends, and he worked at a mortuary while at Kenyon. "I've never really been bummed out by death," he says. "It's never been spooky to me."
Just as Carlozzi strives to be committed to multiculturalism, he tries to be multipurpose in his position with the fire department. In addition to helping with funeral arrangements and the like, he has taken pets home after the owner was sent to the hospital and picked up victims' relatives at the airport. "I'm part of customer service for the Phoenix Fire Department," Carlozzi quips.
With all of his faith in heaven, Carlozzi doesn't put much stock in hell. "I think it's a bunch of baloney," he says. "It's a theological term devised in the Middle Ages as a marketing scheme to get people to come to church and give money. I'm not saying God doesn't have a way to deal with those who are really rotten, but I don't think there's a hell."
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