Beliefnet
The Deacon's Bench

A reader in South Carolina sent this column along with a note: “This guy sounds like a great priest.”

He sure does:

There are people who stand by you. People who inspire you. People you imagine will always be there — because how could you live without their presence?

My priest, Tim Lijewski, was one of those.

I say was because the unthinkable has happened: Tim has been transferred to a parish in North Augusta after more than a decade with us at the USC chapel.

It seemed that the announcement was made and he vanished. Poof!

Our loss, their gain. There’s much truth in that cliche.

I first met Father Tim years ago, while I covered USC and the state’s other universities. He was in shorts and a very sweaty T-shirt, schlepping kids’ footlockers and other necessities into Preston dorm.

I had a notepad. Looking at him made me feel quite lucky that’s all I had to carry that steamy day.

I must say he was impressive for the amount of sweat that bathed him and for the redness of his face under exertion — it was almost as red as his carrot-colored hair.

Here was a priest who didn’t content himself with sermonizing. He put his back into helping the students he would serve. And many who weren’t Catholic, too: I’m sure he didn’t determine denomination before he lugged his burdens up the stairs. He probably didn’t even identify himself as a priest.

I began attending Thomas More parish at the U a year or so after that first meeting, in the final days of my first marriage.

I had been through a couple of counseling sessions with my own parish priest. When I visited him the second time about my difficulties, he said something along the lines of, “Haven’t you fixed this yet?” and I fled. I had heard Father Tim was a helpful confessor, and I needed that.

He was. I would visit with him after weekday Masses, which I ducked out of work at lunchtime to attend.

Sometimes we scheduled our confessor-penitent talks. Sometimes we just chatted informally on something that particularly plagued me, or on which I needed advice.

I know Tim’s wise counsel helped me through my divorce and the subsequent years of injury and illness. He never cut me a break, though — he toed the official line on what is considered right and wrong — but he didn’t judge me. He pushed me to do more but to always be true to myself while improving my relationship with God.

During one time I was feeling particularly down, there came a Sunday that involved sprinkling of Mass attendants with holy water. As a few drops splashed against my face, I heard his voice in my ear saying, “See? It didn’t even sizzle.”

That was so Tim.

Read the whole thing. For anyone who has ever grieved over a priest being reassigned — or wondered where all the good priests have gone — this will resonate.

A cheerful h/t to Palmetto State Thoughts for sending it along. Thanks!