We were so happy to see this piece on Fr. Frank Timar, M.S.C., appear in print and online in InVironments magazine. It shows just how important our MSC priests are to our communities and the ongoing need for pastoral care.
The story of Fr. Frank Timar’s journey through the town of Sycamore, Illinois is one shared by many people. It is the story of moving into new areas and places throughout our lives and working to be the best examples of humanity as possible.
At a recent lunch with the former St. Mary’s pastor, Fr. Timar reflected on his inspiration to join the clergy, become a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, and what a life of service is comprised of. Relaxing in his chair, Fr. Timar begins to think backwards; he folds his hands, and with a sense of generosity, looks around the table. A palpable calm emanates from his smile, and the glimmer in his eyes reflects the sense of peace and love that inspired his life of service.
“In eighth grade I said, ‘I’d like to be a priest.’ The word got out,” Fr. Timar recalls. “In fact, the day I said it out loud to my classmates, and the teacher, who was a nun, our priest gave us a speech about vocations – becoming missionary priests, or brothers, or nuns (for missionaries).”
The Seminary was different when Fr. Timar was a child. Schooling started in high school, and then continued into college and post-graduate work. By letting others know that he intended to become a priest, young Frankie Timar was saying that he was willing to move away at a young age and commit himself to something greater. The news spread fast – faster than Fr. Timar actually.
“Our neighbor had a grandson who came home earlier, and mentioned to his grandmother, ‘Frankie’s going to be a priest.’ Then she comes to my mother next door and said, ‘What’s this about your son becoming a priest?’ and she says, ‘Well Billy’s thinking about it.’ That’s my brother. He’s 18 months younger than me. ‘No, your older son.’” He imitates the shocked look his mother probably made upon hearing the news and then briefly interrupts his story when he sees a former parishioner approaching from across the room.
“Hi, Natalie!” he says with a grin and out stretched arms. “Hi, it’s good to see you,” she responds, handing him his lunch – a cheeseburger with sweet potato fries. Before she walks away, he takes her hands and says, “It’s good to see you too.” The gesture, while small, is so sincere that it fills the room with a sense of warmth. Focusing his attention back on his story, Fr. Timar talks about his mother’s initial reaction to the news that her oldest son wanted to become a priest. “When I came home, she said, ‘What’s this I hear about you?’ My first thought was, ‘Uh-oh. What did I do now, or what do people say I did?’ And she said, ‘No. No. that’s okay. I heard you told everybody that you want to be a priest. You can’t be a priest.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ She said, ‘Cause you’re too bad.’ Quote Unquote.”
On the naughtiest thing he ever did, Fr. Timar replies, “Smoked. In high school seminary, starting when you were a junior, you were allowed a half-hour of smoking after supper; that’s it, and then we went to study hall. You can’t imagine what that room looked like. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen guys smoking as much as they could in a half-hour.” He takes the opportunity to chuckle at the time before he left for the seminary, considering possible deeper concerns his mother probably had. “My mother had a hard time letting me go. I was thirteen years old. I’m in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the seminary I’m being sent to, I had no idea where, is 800 miles away.”
That seminary Fr. Timar eventually moved to was in Kane County, and he arrived before his fourteenth birthday, right out of eighth grade. “When it came time, as it got closer to when I was supposed to go, my mother sent my father up to the pastor, who’s a Missionary of the Sacred Heart like I am. And she says, ‘You go up there and tell him that Frankie cannot be a priest. He can’t go to the seminary.’”
“So my father comes home from work, and he does what his wife tells him. He goes up to the pastor, and he comes home shortly after that. And she says, ‘Well?’, and he says, ‘You’ve got to let him go. You got to let him go. He just shooed me out of the door and said it’s okay.’ So my parents talked about it, prayed about it, and, mother told me this many years later, had some sleepless nights about it as well. She finally came to this conclusion: What if I say, ‘no,’ and we continue to say, ‘no,’ and we don’t let him go, and then he marries somebody he’s not happy with. He’s going to blame us because we didn’t let him do what he wanted to do. That, I think, was the convincing thought in her mind, and maybe it was God talking to her, saying, ‘Let him go.’”
He pauses when considering the difficulty faced not only by himself, but also the difficulty faced by family and friends of those who dedicate themselves to service. “When somebody does that though, I mean they’re not thinking about what it’s going to do to the rest of the family. They just want to give of themselves totally. So you got to appreciate that, but it’s tough for a parent.” When he eventually did leave for seminary, Frank Timar, fresh out of junior high, found himself in Illinois with 32 other young men. “I started as a freshman in high school seminary in Geneva, and we had 33 kids there. Thirty-three kids thinking, ‘I want to be a priest.’” Fr. Timar explains. “Of those 33 original guys from that freshman year, only three of us made it.”
After being ordained, Fr. Timar returned to Geneva and taught other young men who believed they wanted to be priests. Between that position and his time at St. Mary’s of Sycamore, he was the pastor of a parish in Rhode Island and then spent about five months of time on sabbatical at the University of Notre Dame. “It was for priests that were in transit – going from one to job to another,” Fr. Timar says. “They need time to get updated. You don’t have a lot of time when you’re a pastor. You’re busy. So sabbaticals, I only got one – that one. That was after thirty-two years of being a priest.” Then, in 1990, Fr. Timar arrived at St. Mary’s, but not originally as a pastor. For five months, he was simply a priest, which he calls, “The best thing.” Eventually though, Fr. Timar did become the pastor of St. Mary’s, and tried to meet the needs of the local community for over two decades.
“Go beyond your individual life, your own family, your own neighborhood, or your own school. Go beyond that to other people and reach out to others.”
During that time, he worked to instill the principles of Christianity into his congregation. “I just love scripture,” he says smiling. “You take stories from the Bible and you try to apply them to ordinary life. It’s Jesus talking, or God talking to one of the prophets in the Old Testament, and how does that apply now to my life.” Fr. Timar remembers one specific occasion where a kindergartner raised a poignant question. “He asked, ‘What’s He doing up there?’ I thought he was talking about the servers, that they might have been behaving badly, so I turned around, and I didn’t see anything, and then I realize he’s pointing at the cross. Would you believe He’s up there because He wants to be?” Fr. Timar replied to the student. “Now I don’t know if he understood the whole thing, but I learned as much from those kids as they did from me. You need to let them talk to you.”
Today, Fr. Timar lives in a community of fellow priests and missionaries and continues to spend his time in service by traveling the country and filling in for other pastors when necessary—activities Fr. Timar humbly refers to as “priest stuff.” As the meal begins to wind down, fellow diners step toward the door but also take the time to come and shake hands with their old friend and former pastor. “It’s always been about how to fit into the community,” Fr. Timar says. “What we’re suppose to do in our lives as Christians is we’re supposed to image Christ. Someone should be able to look at you and see Christ in you,” he says rising from his chair while waving to more friends as they pass out the door.
Moving beyond the safety of home and family is never easy, just as letting go of those who have helped us in times of need will always leave bitter-sweet memories, but the call to help others has always been at the core of Fr. Timar’s beliefs, and before leaving the table he shares a piece of advice that epitomizes his life and aspirations.
“Go beyond your individual life, your own family, your own neighborhood, or your own school. Go beyond that to other people and reach out to others. “And be respectful. Forgiving I think is the best word of all. Be compassionate to everyone. People need you, and So we should not be selective. “Love your neighbor” means everyone, no exceptions. And that’s the way it should be.”
This article is published with permission from InVironments. It originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2015 DeKalb County Edition of InVironments magazine.