“A hundred years of life — it’s a long hikoi, isn’t it?”
That was how Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe started his homily at the funeral Mass for Fr Anton Timmerman, MHM, on May 29 at St Mary’s church in Rotorua.
The priest had died on May 25 at Mercy Parklands in Auckland. His body was taken to Te Unga Waka in Epsom (Auckland), from where Te Awara people took him to Hurunga Marae in Rotorua, where vigil prayers took
place on May 28.
It was in Rotorua that Fr Timmerman had ministered for 59 years of his 73 years of priesthood.
“A pretty good effort,” Bishop Lowe remarked, and pretty much all of the congregation agreed.
It was here that the “love story” of the Mill Hill priest known as “Pa Tim” unfolded, the bishop said, adding that the priest grew in love of God and in love of God’s people. He served in three Rotorua parishes — St Michael’s,
St Mary’s and St Joseph’s on the eastern side of Lake Rotorua.
Many in the congregation were Te Arawa people. In a Te Unga Waka (Auckland) newsletter, Pa Mikaere Ryan, MHM, said “for many years
he (Pa Tim) looked after the taha wairua of Te Arawa and also the taha tinana, becoming known as Father Fix-it, who could mend your plumbing and your soul or your buildings”.
Pa Tim’s skills as “Father Fix-it” were also noted by Bishop Lowe.
The word “Timmerman” in Dutch means “carpenter”, the bishop said, which was quite appropriate in Pa Tim’s case.
The Mill Hill priest did a lot of work on classrooms in local Catholic schools and on buildings at St Joseph’s.
“He was a real worker,” Bishop Lowe said. “He was not just a builder of buildings, but a builder of the Kingdom. It was the simple way he did this. It is remembered that he never ‘got Te Reo’. But I think he had the ‘wairua’”.
“I think that is why he was so loved.”
The bishop noted how many people had come to the funeral of a person who had been 100 years old — with some estimates that 500 were present.
Pa Tim’s early life in the Netherlands was recalled. He was one of ten children and he went on to study to be a Mill Hill missionary.
However, Pa Ryan noted in his newsletter, because of World War II “Tim was not able to go to Mill Hill, but he continued his study for the priesthood in Roosendaal, Brabant in the Mill Hill College there. He was ordained on December 9, 1945. He arrived in Aotearoa” in June, 1948.
After a short posting to Waitaruke in the Far North, Pa Tim then went to Rotorua, where he ministered for so many years.
Bishop Lowe was told that, in his younger years, Pa Tim was “a tough, young Dutch missionary priest”. But he mellowed as he grew older.
Pa Tim also loved visiting parishioners and eating in their homes.
When he was parish priest at St Michael’s, Bishop Lowe noted, at one stage “his superiors in the Mill Hill Fathers told him that he was to be moved back to the North. And apparently, so I am told, he broke down and cried and Bishop Eddie [Gaines] opened St Joseph’s at Owhata. He wasn’t going to leave the love of his life (Rotorua and its people)”.
In retirement, Pa Tim moved to John Vianney House in Auckland and eventually to Mercy Parklands.
When visiting Pa Tim in Auckland, the bishop said it was always good if this was at “happy hour”, because the priest “always loved a beer”.
He very much enjoyed returning to Rotorua to celebrate the 70th jubilee of his ordination in 2015.
And it was in Rotorua where Pa Tim wanted to have his mortal remains interred. He had made it well known that he wanted to be buried next to Fr Dan McKenna, MHM, in Sala Street Cemetery.
“He wanted to come home,” Bishop Lowe said, adding that Pa Tim laid out exactly what he wanted in his funeral — and the resulting liturgy showed him to have been a humble man.
“[But] I think Pa Tim wouldn’t want us to glorify him today,” Bishop Lowe said. “He would be wanting us to pray for him. Because
none of us is perfect.
“We all have our faults and our foibles. . . . He would want us, as . . . in life, to surround him with aroha (love). We entrust him to our God.”
“We entrust his soul to God and his body to the earth of this place that he loved, surrounded by the tangata, by the people whom he loved.”
“We do so in the sure and certain hope that, as the Lord promised, we shall rise on the last day,” Bishop Lowe concluded.