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Reflecting on Father Joe at Father Joe's Villages

Outwardly, Father Joe was a confident man, but his unique brand of humility could be seen in his life’s work.

SAN DIEGO — With the passing of Father Joe Carroll, the entire San Diego region has been reflecting on the deep meaning within his life's work. In downtown San Diego Thursday, staff and clients gathered at Father Joe's Villages to share their memories and experiences with Father Joe.

“I call him the Miracle Worker because that is what he is. He cares. He loves us and he accepts us as who we are and gives us hope,” said former client Sebastian Herrera.

Sebastian Herrera was homeless for 15 years and met Father Joe during that time in the late 1990’s.

“Been on drugs my whole life. He said, 'let me tell you something,'” opined Sebastian.  “'I can’t change Sebastian. Sebastian has to change Sebastian.'”

Staff at Father Joe’s Villages eventually placed Sebastian in an apartment where he paid partial rent, and a few years ago, he actually bought a condominium in El Cajon.

“This would never have happened if not for Father Joe and staff members reaching out to me,” admitted Herrera. “He has changed my life.”

Success stories like these are not uncommon with the clientele at Father Joe’s Villages. Vanessa Ahoua was experiencing homelessness when she came to San Diego in 2008.  She recalled the first time she met Father Joe Carroll.

“I was coming down the stairs as he was going up the stairs,” said Vanessa. “It was like I met a movie star.”

During her time at the Village, Vanessa blossomed and improved her life in many ways.

“I got a job while I was here. I started at the Salvation Army,” remembered Vanessa. “I go from homeless to a two-bedroom apartment.”

With decades of devotion to serving those in need, Father Joe touched countless lives in the community.

“Everywhere he would go, people would run up to him and say, 'Father Joe, I’m doing good. The family is doing good,'” said staffer Laura Kojima. “And he’d always say, 'I didn’t do it. The staff did it all.'”

Outwardly, Father Joe was a confident man, but his unique brand of humility could be seen in his life’s work.

“If you look around at the way he lived his life and who he lived his life for, that is where his humility was,” said behavioral health clinician Marc Stevenson. “He could’ve done anything with his creativeness, his intelligence, his ability to talk to people, and where was he?  He was here caring and devoting his life to helping people who were experiencing homelessness.”

WATCH RELATED: Father Joe Carroll dies at 80 leaving behind legacy of helping the homeless in San Diego