(1) Just some peripheral facts about Father Tim’s life:
Tim told me lots of stories in the seminary way back in the 1980s, which he entered after a stint at Franciscan University in Steubenville. He had been of help to his family with a number of food and drink establishments, which he missed terribly, being very much a people-person. And before entering the seminary, despite being an FBI (foreign born Irish), he won three world championships for the ol’ Irish dance. Here’s a sample:
He also played basketball in Europe for three years, another in the Philippines, and then for ten years with the Washington Generals over against the Harlem Globetrotters, covering Curley Neal, the Trotters’ ace dribbler. Super talented guy.
After ordination, Father Tim was in two parishes, one of which sported thirteen Masses on a weekend, all in different languages. There were plenty of priests assigned to that parish. I visited him there when he was just newly ordained. He himself had learned to speak seven languages fluently and many more just less than perfectly fluently.
After those parishes he became an Air Force chaplain, attaining the rank of Major. I’m guessing this picture was taken back in 2018:
Father Tim had been assigned to bases all over the world. Let’s see: Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and closer to home at Dover and Sheppard, not to mention Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma and at Joint Base McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. He loved ministering to the young military families.
(2) What my experience was of seminarian Tim and young Father Tim:
We exchanged lots of enthusiasm about the faith, that is, real belief, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This was way back in the early-mid 1980s and then early-mid 1990s. With the help of his bishop at the time, he ditched the North American College in Rome for another seminary where I was at for the same reason. The NAC at the time time was a cesspool of heresy, anti-Catholic in every way, doctrinally, morally. Those not like that were smashed down, you know, with all sorts of excuses. For instance, he recounted many times, the “policy” of the NAC at the time was to get rid of those seminarians who were held to be rigid and superstitious because they wanted to go to daily Mass. Really. Truly. I have a thousand stories like this. He told me how he would surreptitiously exit the seminary early in the morning so as to attend Mass at one of the zillion churches in Rome or at Saint Peter’s Basilica a stone’s throw away before classes at the Pontifical Universities. And then the seminary where we were at went bad. Somehow, the Lord got us both ordained and only a year apart. So many war stories. So many. The seminarian Tim and then the Father Tim I remember was all about honor and integrity in the midst of so much dishonor and lack of integrity. His one desire was to lead people to Christ Jesus all the more despite all that hell going on back in the day and today.
(3) The suicide?
I only found out about this just now, at the end of May 2021, just yesterday, as it hit me strongly that I should look him up. I haven’t done that since the early-mid 1990s. Googling his name, suicide was the news that greeted me. His death occurred in mid-August, 2020, as a pedestrian outside of Sheppard Air Force Base, at a railroad crossing. The police ruled it a suicide. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Neither were they. In NYC it’s become a way too frequent thing to throw people in front of moving subway trains. Just saying.
But even if it was a suicide – which, objectively speaking, is a mortal sin that, objectively speaking, will send one to hell – is there not hope for salvation, you know, subjectively speaking? Those who commit suicide are most often in a swirling vortex of confusion and depression. It doesn’t mean that they’ve turned their back on God, just that they were in a terrible swirl of confusion and depression such that they did not have proper use of their faculties. That’s why the Church allows funeral rites for those who have committed suicide, all things being equal.
Mind you, this was in the midst of the most terrible Covid-lockdowns, whereby he was entirely cut off by the military from all ministry. I have not had that experience being where I am, far from such draconian measures coming from whatever direction. Just to say, there are many who took their own lives while suffering horrific lockdowns, from the most diverse backgrounds. We are all fragile. It can happen to anyone. It happened to my friend. And he was a priest, and a good man. And that’s not the first priest friend that has done this. Sigh.
(4) The saint we call Padre Pio:
A woman once ran up to Padre Pio distressed, to say the least, because her husband had just thrown himself off a bridge and was killed. His answer was that she should not worry about his eternal salvation, saying that he turned to the Lord on his way down. I have told this story umpteen times to those in similar distress, saying that we must always have hope, and pray for the repose of the souls of the faithful departed.
Last night I got a call from a good friend who, not knowing any of this, just felt inspired to call me just to talk about Padre Pio. I was thunderstruck. I then told this friend about Father Tim. We recited a Hail Mary for the repose of Father Tim’s soul. Might you join us?
(5) Just to say:
It makes zero sense to be so scared of anything whatsoever that priests are ordered from on high to forbid absolutions to be given, to forbid Last Rites to the dying, to cancel the Sacrifice of the Mass. This may end up “cancelling” lives and eternal life. It needs to stop. Really. We’re back to normal here in the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C. The Diocese here was simply careful. We’ve been back to normal in my parish soon after Easter 2020.
Meanwhile, in the midst of grief, I’m still very happy to be a priest, in fact, all the more after this latest news of Father Tim. Jesus stepped into all the hell of this world to grab us and bring us to heaven. And Padre Pio is a favorite. And I have hope that some of us, even some of us priests may be saved.
14 responses to “Fr Tim Hirten’s suicide? Is there hope for my friend? We were seminarians together.”
Of course there is hope, hope in the Lord. And I too will add Fr. Hirt’s name to my litany of souls remembered, with the 5 Mystery of the Rosary daily.
Prayers for Fr Hirten. I will put him on my daily list.
Condolences on the loss of your friend, Fr. George.
Also adding Fr Tim Hirten to my Rosary intentions.
I will put his name online at Knock Shrine in Ireland to be prayed for at masses there. God bless him.
May God have mercy on his soul and welcome this good and faithful servant into paradise.
eternal rest grant unto fr tim…our Lord is always merciful and many prayers for you fr george to soothe your heart
Of course I’ll pray for Father Tim! But I’m with Padre Pio – the infinite mercy of God is not to be doubted.
How very sad, and I pray for the repose of his soul and the consolation of his family. The Byzantine Prayer for the Deceased, from the Compendium of the Catechism:
God of the spirits and of all flesh, who have trampled death and annihilated the devil and given life to your world, may you yourself, O Lord, grant to the soul of your deceased servant Timothy rest in a place of light, a verdant place, a place of freshness, from where suffering, pain and cries are far removed. Do You, O good and compassionate God forgive every fault committed by him in word, work or thought because there is no man who lives and does not sin. You alone are without sin and your justice is justice throughout the ages and your word is truth. Since you, O Christ our God, are the resurrection, the life and the repose of your deceased servant Timothy, we give you glory together with your un-begotten Father and your most holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and always and forever and ever.
God isn’t going to punish him for the disease of depression. Being isolated and unable to meet the spiritual needs of his flock would have been very difficult. I will remember Fr Tim in my prayers and will light a candle for him on Sunday, in front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The catechism response taught when we were children, that “God made us to know, love and serve Him here on earth and be happy with Him forever in Heaven”, gives hope and comfort in so much sadness because Father Hirten knew, loved and served God on this earth. And so I pray, after all his suffering in this vale of tears (the war zone that is this world) that he may have the joy of hearing Our Lord say to Him, “take possession of the kingdom which has been prepared for you since the foundation of the world”.
We are at war with evil and given Father Hirten’s Irish roots, I thought some might find the following Celtic hymn (link below) appropriately helpful, as I do, when praying for him and for ourselves, and especially for our priests labouring on to the end.
I am a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Bayside New York and I remember Fr Hirten very well. My two boys served Mass for him. When I first heard the news about him I was stunned in disbelief because he always was upbeat and positive and seemingly happy. Yesterday at Mass he invaded my Consciousness and so here I am Googling him all over again and I stumbled upon your posting. Tragic and unfortunate, rest in peace Tim.