Death of Fr Tim Crowley, retired priest of Diocese of Parramatta

Fr Tim Crowley was Emeritus Parish Priest of St Bernadette's Parish, Lalor Park.
In retirement, Fr Tim enjoyed the mental exercise that a daily crossword offers. Image: Diocese of Parramatta/ Will Luckman.

Fr Tim Crowley, a much-loved priest of the Diocese of Parramatta, has died in retirement in Victoria. Fr Tim’s funeral is expected to be at St Bernadette’s Parish in Lalor Park with details to be advised.

A priest for more than 57 years, Fr Tim celebrated his Golden Jubilee of Ordination to the Priesthood in July 2009 and shared his memories in an interview with Catholic Outlook.

Fr Tim Crowley, Emeritus Parish Priest of St Bernadette’s Parish, Lalor Park. Image: Diocese of Parramatta/Dan McAloon.

Looking back on his ministry, Fr Tim said he had become convinced of his vocation only after initially abandoning it. “As a devout 13-year-old I left the Christian Brothers, Lewisham, and entered St Columba’s junior seminary at Springwood, intending to become a priest. But it didn’t work out that way,” he said.

Instead, at 17, without having completed his Leaving Certificate he left the seminary, ­but without any bitterness. “The Dean, Monsignor Charlie Dunne, was a man I held in great admiration and he left the door open. ‘If you ever want to come back,’ he said, ‘just contact me’.”

For six years, young Tim worked for a customs, transport and shipping agency. ”For my mature development and world view it was all good for me. I learned so much about human relations and acceptance in others and tolerance of other beliefs.”

Born in 1929, the second of six children in a Catholic family residing in North Leichhardt, Fr Tim had fond memories of the close-knit Catholic community, which endured the worst of the Great Depression and World War II.

“My father, on arriving home at the end of the working day, would always kneel in prayer before he had his dinner – this always made a strong impression on me.

“Our parish priest was Fr Bill Geer, a convert from Anglicanism, and a wonderful man. His assistant was the remarkable Fr Charlie Murphy, who would ride round the suburb on a pushbike and in his later years leant on a walking stick. No Catholic in North Leichhardt died without Charlie being there.”

Fr Tim said the call to priesthood returned unexpectedly when his sister Margaret Patricia’s husband, Tom Mallon, aged 23, died suddenly of peritonitis.

His brother-in-law’s death affected him deeply, Fr Tim said. “It made me think on how short life can be and what’s the best way to use your life. I prayed it all through. It was an event that confirmed in me that I had a vocation.”

After completing his training at St Patrick’s Seminary at Manly he was ordained by Cardinal Gilroy at St Mary’s Cathedral on 18 July 1959. His first parish was Clovelly, then Camperdown, where he was a chaplain at nearby Prince Alfred Hospital.

Of the many sick people he ministered to, he still draws inspiration from the fortitude of a young nurse who had been in a car accident that had left her face disfigured.

“The accident left her asking God, ’Why me?’ Yet somewhere she turned this question around, asking instead, ‘Why not me?’ As she told me, ‘Father, whatever gifts I have are given to me by God. They are His to take away too’. The way she’d accepted what had happened really knocked the guts out of me.”

Later, his chaplaincy often felt a heavy load because he thought he didn’t have the education, personality or temperament to be an effective hospital chaplain. However, recalling what had happened to that young nurse would affirm him and he would ask, “Why not me be a chaplain?”

Fr Tim’s other parish postings were Lalor Park, Darlinghurst (including chaplaincy at St Vincent’s Hospital), Meadowbank, Pymble, Kingsgrove and Moorebank.

In 1976, he was appointed Parish Priest at Mt Druitt South. Three years later he was installed as Parish Priest at Lalor Park, where he would stay until his retirement 23 years later.

During his time at Lalor Park, the rural surroundings were transformed out of recognition and the new suburb of Kings Langley sprang up. “I would visit every house personally, and that was the beginning of moulding what would become very good relationships with the people,” he said.

However, by the time the new suburb of Glenwood was established, families pressured to bring in two wages meant that his day visitations “would find whole streets where no one was at home”.

When asked for his favourite quote, Fr Tim nominated The Pillar of the Cloud by Cardinal John Henry Newman.

Lead, Kindly Light, amidst the encircling gloom

Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home –

Lead Thou me on!

Please pray for the Repose of the Soul of Fr Tim and remember his family in your prayers.

Source: Catholic Outlook, August 2009, with Dan McAloon.

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