Homily given by Rev Fr Paul Marshall at the Funeral Mass for Rev Fr Tim Crowley, St Bernadette’s Parish, Lalor Park, Friday 17 February 2017.
You could say that Tim was always dressed for action and had his lamps lit. In the seven years I had with Tim at Toongabbie, he would always arise at 5.30am, pray, go for a 2km walk, celebrate 7.30am Mass at Campion College chapel, and return for breakfast with the Daily Telegraph under his arm.
He prayed constantly and spent days preparing his Sunday homilies, reading books and meditating on the Scripture texts. I feel that Tim spent every day in readiness to meet his maker. And on Saturday morning he studied the form guide for the horses.
Pictures of horses decorated the house. Tim had a love of horses, a love of the Australian bush-writers and poets such as Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson and the Catholic writer Patrick Hartigan (John O’Brien). He loved a crime thriller novel, and was well read in world history and Church history.
Tim could always spin a good yarn and would love to share stories about the seminary at Springwood and how he left the seminary to find out more about the world. The dean of the seminary, Charlie Dunne, said to Tim when he left, “If you ever want to come back just contact me.”
Of course, Tim did come back. Late at night, after a glass or two of shiraz, he and I would share the pain and wonder of leaving girlfriends to become priests and what our lives would have been like if we had decided to get married.
But we both concluded that the Lord had called and the Lord had backed these two ecclesial jockeys even though they had come out of the saddle a few times along the way! Tim was ordained on 18 July 1959.
Tim recalled when he was first ordained that he was very conservative in his outlook on life. But what I most admired about him was his ability to face into a life situation and be changed by it.
He said he used to know a lovely, beautiful young nurse who was on staff at Camperdown Hospital when he was chaplain there. One night the nurse and her boyfriend were involved in a serious car accident in which her beautiful face was terribly disfigured.
The accident left her asking God, “Why me?” Yet somewhere she turned the question around, asking instead, “Why not me?” As she told Tim, “Father, whatever gifts I have are given to me by God. He can take them away too.”
Tim said he walked away from her bedside with tears in his eyes and that this woman’s faith and courage had changed his outlook on life forever. Tim said that whenever he questioned his own ability or the circumstances of his life and felt he should query God, he would play back the question of the young nurse, “Why NOT me?”
Tim had a heart for the sick and suffering. There was a young man in hospital with AIDS. It was early days when there was no cure and all who contracted it died. Tim would regularly visit this young 19-year-old man, comfort him, console him.
When the end was near the young man called out to Tim after a visit, “Father, I am too young to die!” Tim, with that cry that went to his heart, turned back and held that young man.
These incidents lodged deep in Tim’s mind and heart but he brought the courage and face of Christ to them. He walked dark paths and he lit those paths with faith and hope and love.
Tim’s other parish postings were Clovelly, Lalor Park, Darlinghurst (including chaplaincy at St Vincent’s Hospital), Meadowbank, Pymble with Fr Charlie Davis, Kingsgrove and Moorebank. In 1976, he was appointed Parish Priest of Mt Druitt South.
In 1979, he was installed as Parish Priest here at Lalor Park where he pastored this parish for the next 23 years. (I think Fr Andrew Robinson is runner-up in time spent at Lalor Park. He took Fr Tim’s place and has given generously 16 years here.)
Tim was an ardent visitor of people in their homes. In 2009, Tim celebrated his golden jubilee of ordination to the priesthood here at Lalor Park. It was a momentous occasion and brought in many people whose lives Tim had been part of along the way as well as many of his family members.
He had the attitude of ‘never say die’ and he had the will to see things through. St Bernadette’s Church is a tribute to Tim’s fortitude in sourcing the right people for seeing a task through. Tim didn’t follow the protocol of engaging the same old architects the Diocese was accustomed to using. No. He went out and found his own and he scored the best deal and completed a building that has endured well to this day.
Tim spoke of his opportunities to go overseas on long service leave and how he spent time as a priest serving in Colorado in the US, the UK and Scotland and how those experiences had broadened his horizons. He met Bill Garrett, and American Indian, of no religion, married to an Australian wife in Denver, Colorado. They became firm friends for life.
Tim recounted the story of how Bill and he had climbed up a big range of mountains in the Rockies and had camped in a tent overnight on the range. They woke up the next morning to a blanket of cloud stretched out below them on all sides: below their waists they were in cloud; and from their waists up they were basking in brilliant sunshine. Tim said it was one of the soul-inspiring moments of his life.
The other was meeting Jack Swigert, one of the three astronauts from the near-disastrous Apollo 13 mission. Jack was a parishioner at the parish in Denver where Tim was resident in 1974. Nursing the crippled Command and Service module, the Apollo 13 crew turned to the Lunar module to fire its working rocket, to bring the crew around the back of the moon and back to earth.
Faced with the prospect of death in space Jack Swigert told Tim that the earth looked so precious from space: “I’m one of a privileged few who have had the opportunity of looking back at the world from space.” He described to Tim “the browns and whites and blue oceans of our world hanging as an orb in the darkness of space. You cannot describe the beauty; there are no words for it. And if that’s how beautiful the world is,” Jack Swigert said, “how much more beautiful must be the Mind of the Creator.”
In his retirement at Girraween he was a great companion. I would sometimes share my pastoral conundrums and he would bring his pastoral wisdom to those situations. He didn’t try to judge – he offered his informed suggestions, quick wit, and good humour to make light of those situations which tackled alone would have seemed insurmountable.
There were times when Tim would open up the world atlas and trace his missionary journeys across the southern US, the UK and his beloved Scotland and the Scottish people and landscape. He loved watching the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and he enjoyed “a dram”. He often expressed his wish to go back to Scotland one last time. It was not to be.
Tim thank you for your adventurous approach to life. You made a difference through your faith and perseverance. We can say about Tim, “We should love God in our hearts and praise God through our lives.” Tim truly honoured the tough choices for the Lord, he was a man for all seasons.
Tim, I’m sure, would enjoy Henry Lawson’s reflection on our wanderings as a pilgrim people in search of truth:
“Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways,
And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low;
I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not.
And restless and lost on a road that I know.”
(Henry Lawson, Aust. Poet)
Henry Lawson prophetically names our human condition … I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not … and restless and lost on a road that I know. Tim knew the many roads of life. He shepherded many along some dark and dusty roads but he knew which way he was going by the Southern Cross. For all his shortcomings, and there weren’t too many, he knew to keep the cross always before him.