Tears at the chapel
Sunday was a tough day at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Janesville. The Rev. Randy Timmerman announced that Bishop Robert Morlino was reassigning him to St. Dennis in Madison. ďFather Randy,Ē as most parishioners here know him, had all he could do to choke out the words. An audible gasp swept the pews. Many people shed tears.
Sometimes, Father Randy told us a couple of weeks ago, we grow the most when we hurt the most. He reminded us of that phrase Sunday.
Iím confident that most parishioners at St. John Vianney will miss Father Randy, though some thought him a little overly dramatic and long-winded. I consider him among the best preachers Iíve ever heard. On Sunday, for example, before delivering his dramatic announcement, he suggested the four key elements to building a spiritual life are forgiveness, generosity, patience and self-control. Those seem to be good words to live by.
A fellow parishioner, who got to know Timmerman better than I have, suggested that Father Randy doesnít just preach about the gospel, he LIVES it.
Father Randy did offer some good news Sunday, as well. The Rev. Donn Heiar will be returning to oversee St. John Vianney in October, after a four-month overseas deployment as chaplain with the Wisconsin Air National Guard in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
If Father Randy delivers a strong homily, Father Donn is the best orator Iíve ever heard. I remember one sermon that had me laughing before crying. Many parishioners at St. John Vianney were upset when the bishop seemingly pulled Father Donn out too quickly for a position with the Madison Diocese. The bishop and Father Donn later clashed over some issue that I canít recall, and he was reassigned to a parish before taking the Air National Guard post.
Father Randy will leave here at the end of June, and Monsignor James Uppena, whoís retiring from St. Mary Catholic Church of Milton, will fill in the gap at St. John Vianney between Father Randy and Father Donn.
I spoke with Father Randy by phone Tuesday. He seemed at peace with his pending reassignment, given more days to absorb it. He said priests know they can be reassigned by the bishop at any time and that several dozen in the diocese will be shuffling at the same time. Five retirements and three new ordinations are part of the impetus, he said. Such changes are on no regular schedule, Father Randy explained. The bishop has authority but consults an advisory council. Such changes, Father Randy suggested, are part of a priest's life.
That may be, but Iíve never quite understood the Catholic Churchís habit of making changes so regularly. I suppose if your priest isnít bringing in revenue or is boring parishioners to tears, youíre happy to know that change eventually will come. I know Iíll miss Father Randy, however, even though I look forward to Father Donnís return.
In tribute to Father Randy, Iíll strive to keep his four elements to the spiritual life in mind.
Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow him on Twitter or