Down, But Not Out: Thanks to a Bishop and a Guardian Angel

For two years, Bob Carter lived on the streets of Pittsburgh. Homeless, jobless, and “family-less,” hopeless could also describe his former existence.

Trying to keep warm, he recalled sitting in a church on Palm Sunday last year where Bishop David Zubik was celebrating Mass. The Bishop’s homily “stirred up something” in Bob and he wanted to go to the Bishop afterward to ask for his blessing. And yet, he didn’t.

“I was filthy; I smelled bad. You don’t understand how you can’t do things when you can’t even get to a bathroom to clean up.”

A few months later he would have an encounter with the Bishop, but not before Brian Tarquinio, a Catholic Charities donor and volunteer, would come into his life.Early one morning, Brian joined Bob on a bench in downtown.”He told me that he had been watching me for awhile and asked what I needed. I told him,’ I need a job.'”

Immediately, Brian gave Bob some money, got him something to eat, took him for a haircut and a shave, and invited him to his office where he made phone calls to local restaurants who might be in need of Bob’s cooking skills. Brian then went home to get clean clothes for Bob, and when he returned, the two went shopping for a pre-paid phone, toiletries and underwear.

Within a day, Bob went from jobless to employed.A couple of weeks later, he went from homeless to having a room of his own at St. Joseph’s, all because of his new friend and guardian angel, Brian. The men remain friends and talk at least once a week.

“When I look into his face, I see the face of Christ. In his eyes, I see the heart of Christ,” said a grateful Bob who added that many blessings have come to him from living at the residence. Among those blessings is how the staff helped him reconnect with family to witness his daughter’s defense of her doctoral dissertation. Someday, he hopes to help others as he was helped.

He’s already started by sharing his story and bringing awareness about homelessness to others. In September, a local television station featured Brian and Bob in a “Proud to be from Pittsburgh” segment.

But it was a meeting at St. Paul Seminary where Bob was invited to speak that really stands out. “I was waiting to talk when Bishop Zubik walked into the room. I totally lost control of my emotions.”Bob then explained to the Bishop and the group what happened on Palm Sunday.

“As I left the meeting, the Bishop followed me into the hallway.He said, ‘Don’t you ever hesitate to speak to me, anytime, anywhere.’And then he gave me a big hug!”