Father Joe Carroll explains choice to sell prized possessions

Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-13 09:37:57-05

SAN DIEGO - One of San Diego's most beloved figures is selling his most prized possessions to pay off debt.

The headline led to a flurry of worry about Father Joe Carroll, a man who has helped so many San Diegans over the decades.

Diabetes has not been kind to Father Joe. It has ravaged his body, leading to the amputation of both of his feet.

Despite all he has been through, he considers himself lucky.

As the former head of Father Joe's Villages, he still lives on the St. Vincent de Paul's property in downtown San Diego. The maintenance crew reconfigured his bathroom and the rest of his home, allowing him to still live independently.

He said, "I can't imagine living better than I'm living. Am I rich? No."

The Catholic priest recently decided to pay off some old debts, saying, "The only asset I had was my nativity collection."

Father Joe's collection includes 700 sets. He started collecting them the day he was ordained in 1974.

When he decided he had to sell them, a reporter got wind of what he was doing and wrote a story about it. Some interpreted that to mean that Father Joe had been abandoned by the church and was having financial problems.

"Like I'm living on the street, I'm destitute. I'm thinking I'm spoiled compared to any other priest," Father Joe said.

He admitted it wasn't easy having to part with his beloved nativity sets.

"It hurts. That's why I didn't go out there during the auction. I didn't want to see people picking them up," said Father Joe.

Father Joe has sold 690 of his sets. He plans to keep the last 10, and he hopes to have the rest of debt paid off by the end of the month.