Father Frank Timar had just finished eighth grade when he began his path to the priesthood, moving 800 miles from his family home in Pennsylvania to a seminary in Geneva, Ill.
“My mother wasn’t too happy about that,” Timar said. “She thought she’d need to supervise me.”
On Jan. 4, Timar will celebrate his 23rd anniversary with the St. Mary’s of Sycamore parish of 1,250 families, and on Jan. 10 he will retire as the parish’s priest after administering thousands of sacraments and watching hundreds of children from the church and its affiliated school grow to adulthood.
“I watched them from baptism, to first communion, to confirmation to marriage,” he said.
Timar visited with MidWeek reporter Curtis Clegg and reflected on his 23 years in Sycamore and his 54 years in the priesthood.
MidWeek: When did you announce your retirement?
Frank Timar: It was a week ago Sunday, on the 9th.
MW: Was that a difficult decision, or was it one you had been considering for a while?
FT: To tell the truth, I was as surprised as all get-out. I am turning 80 years old on Dec. 27 and most priests in this diocese retire at the age of 70. Church law, though, says you have to retire at 75. The only ones who aren’t affected by that are the Pope and the cardinals. The bishop himself suggested to my superior, the provincial in Aurora, and my boss said that the bishop told him, “Maybe it’s time he took a rest.” It’s actually 10 years longer than most stay on. I found out on Sept. 25. …You have to say yes to that – it’s what you have to do. It’s what they call the vow of obedience.
MW: What are your plans now?
FT: I will be moving to Aurora, where we have our headquarters for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, at least to start. I am just retiring from being a pastor. I hope people don’t misunderstand that retirement means we can do whatever we want – relax, go on vacation, travel, or whatever. We, the missionaries of Sacred Heart, our religious community adopted the policy that when retire – we could actually retire at 65 – what it means for us is that from that that point on you do what you can, where you can, and when you can. It depends on your ability to continue and you have many more choices and options. We don’t just sit around waiting to die.
MW: Do you know what you will be working on in Aurora?
FT: There are different things I could be doing. I could be on YouTube because we do have a website. Some of our guys are on there every week with YouTube stories talking about the Gospel. Maybe I could do some of that, you know? I love preaching.
MW: When does your retirement take effect?
FT: I retire on the 10th of January. The new pastor will take over Jan. 11. I will still stay on for a while to help out the new pastor in learning the ropes because he has never been a pastor.
MW: What does the new pastor do now?
FT: He is the superintendent and principal of Boylan Catholic High School. Before that he was at Newman High School in Sterling. …He is very much interested in schools and I think it’s important that we keep this school going just the way it is, and growing population-wise.
MW: Where are you from originally?
FT: I grew up in the same town Jesus grew up in.
FT: No, everybody says that. Jesus was born in Bethlehem but he grew up in Nazareth. He spent most of his life before his public ministry in Nazareth, Palestine. I come from Nazareth, Pa.
MW: What path took you from Nazareth to Sycamore?
FT: I left home when I was 13 ½, right after eighth grade, to go to Geneva, Ill. where we had Sacred Heart Mission Seminary. I had high school there and one year of college. From there I went to Youngstown, Ohio where we took a whole year off from our studies to prepare for our vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Once we took that a year later we became official members of the MSC (Ministry of the Sacred Heart) missionary family. After that I finished my college again in Shelby, Ohio. That was a total of eight years so far on the road to priesthood, from high school on. Then they sent me to Rome and I studied there in a Gregorian university with the Jesuits for four years. I came back and my first assignment was Geneva where I grew up in the seminary and I taught there for the next 11 years. Then I went to Youngstown, Ohio because we had a retreat house there, where the superior there was finishing his second term so they asked me, or rather told me, to go there and be the superior of the retreat house. Six years later I finished that job and I went to Rhode Island. I knew not a soul in Rhode Island, but that was my first experience of being a pastor. I had done a lot of priestly work helping other pastors almost daily, going to their place to say mass, confessions or whatever else they wanted. I was there for 13 years and then I went to Notre Dame for a sabbatical program for priests, and then they shipped me here. I had four assignments I enjoyed every one of them and I could have stayed at each of them as long as they needed me or wanted me. I would stay on here if I could.
MW: What is your role with St. Mary’s school?
FT: I guess you could say I am the head teacher. I’m what a superintendent would be, I suppose. I do have a principal over there and he runs the school but he answers to me. …I have a Mass for them every Friday, which is one of my favorite Masses. Then every month I visit every class just so they can get to know their pastor all the way from kindergarten up through eighth grade.
MW: Were there other priests in your family?
FT: My hometown parish in Nazareth was ministered to by the missionaries of Sacred Heart, which was the only kind of people I knew as priests. They sent me to Geneva, 800 miles away. My father had two sisters who were nuns, so maybe that’s part of it. Maybe it was prayers on my parents’ part – we had four boys in my family so I think they hoped one of those four would make it to the priesthood, and here I am.
MW: Have you had any young men here in your parish express an interest in the priesthood?
FT: I have been praying for a priest from this parish since I came here 23 years ago, and not one has responded.
MW: What are some highlights of your career?
FT: It’s all a highlight. There are ups and downs in every life, but for the most part my 23 years have been, like every other assignment, delightful. I have loved every place I have been.