By Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer | Published February 12, 2015
Until last Saturday’s rite of ordination to the diaconate, the last time I saw John Timme it was the September 23, 2002 funeral for his father, Deacon Bill Timme. Bill was a well-respected deacon who served at Holy Cross Church in Atlanta for 15 years. He also worked in the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s Metropolitan Tribunal and served as a chaplain at Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Like myself, the Timme family is from Louisville, Ky. They moved to Atlanta in 1970 when Deacon Bill took a new job.
In the room where the men were gathered before the ordination, I was making notes so I could try to connect the faces of the 13 candidates with the names in my program. When I got to John’s name and we briefly talked, that’s when I drew the connection back to his father. I’ve seen John’s mother, Mary Ellen, off and on since the funeral, and occasionally I see his sister Judy, who is a third grade teacher at Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Atlanta. John is the fourth of six Timme children – four girls and two boys.
John said he started discerning a vocation to the diaconate at least a decade ago. He prayed and read Scripture and he felt Christ was leading him in that direction. “I approached my pastor (Father Larry Niese) some 10 years ago about it, and he said ‘no,’ because he thought my children were too young, and he was right,” said John. When he went back a few years later and asked, Father Niese responded with a yes.
So there was John at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Feb. 7, following in his father’s footsteps, 28 years after his dad was ordained, and I was wondering what was going through his mind. John said he was filled with many emotions. “I so wanted my father to be there with me and especially wanted him to vest me,” said John. “I thought all day how wonderful it would have been for us to have served together in some small way. I was sure that he was looking down, beaming ear to ear.”
Lying prostrate on the floor of the cathedral during the ordination was the most poignant time for John, in terms of reflecting on his father. “An overwhelming thought came to me that my father had done the exact same thing,” said John. He also remembered that exact moment during his father’s ordination and how he was impressed by his father’s commitment.
John’s mother was undoubtedly proud of her youngest son. “What a gift God has given to our family, not just John, but the whole family,” said Mary Ellen. In addition to her husband’s service to the Catholic Church, she had two uncles who were Franciscan priests, an aunt who was an Ursuline Sister in Louisville, a brother who was ordained a permanent deacon in the 1970s in Tacoma, Wash., and a nephew who was ordained a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Louisville in 2012. Mary Ellen said the entire day brought back all the memories of her husband’s ordination.
The following day John gave his first homily at of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Woodstock. He tied his homily to the Gospel from Mark 1:29-39, the Scripture where Jesus cures Simon’s mother-in-law and conducts other healings.
In his words John tried to convey how the congregation could apply the Gospel to their everyday lives. In doing so he tried to get people to tap into the contemporary ills they may be facing, whether it’s pornography, alcohol or drug abuse, or simply suffering from the hurt of a loved one like a parent or sibling. “Sometimes we cannot find the courage or strength to let it go,” said John. “Maybe we need to ask for forgiveness or maybe we need to forgive someone.”
John said the healing process begins with receiving the body and blood of Christ. “As we come forward to receive the Eucharist, let us ask and beg the Lord to heal us,” implored John.
At the end of Mass a woman, gripped with emotion, came up to him and stated how she hadn’t spoken to her mother in 20 years, but she was touched by his homily to the point where she was going home to call and reconcile with her mother.
“That was worth the five years of study and formation, even if nothing else happens,” responded John as he shared the story with his own mother and family.
Read more about rite of ordination to the diaconate in Nichole Golden’s story appearing in the Feb. 19 issue of The Georgia Bulletin.