May 24, 2019

Seeing others as Christ

Priestly formation takes transitional deacon from ‘kid’ to ‘man that’s rooted in the Gospel’

Transitional Deacon Timothy DeCrane preaches a homily during a Mass on Nov. 13, 2018, in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. A member of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove, Deacon DeCrane will be ordained a priest on June 1 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

Transitional Deacon Timothy DeCrane preaches a homily during a Mass on Nov. 13, 2018, in the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad. A member of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove, Deacon DeCrane will be ordained a priest on June 1 in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

By Sean Gallagher

Transitional Deacon Timothy DeCrane admits he “was a kid” when he became an archdiocesan seminarian nine years ago as a freshman at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and Marian University, both in Indianapolis.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” said Deacon DeCrane, a member of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove.

But the grace of God shaped that kid into a man over the course of four years of priestly formation at Bishop Bruté, four more at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, and during a year spent in a pastoral internship at St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus.

“I really had the chance to grow up in college seminary,” Deacon DeCrane said. “And at Saint Meinrad, I really grew into a man that’s rooted in the Gospel. It really brought out the integrity of the person that I am today.”

The formation Deacon DeCrane experienced at Bishop Bruté, Saint Meinrad and in parishes throughout the archdiocese helped him arrive at the point where he fully embraces his call to give of himself in service to the Church as a priest when he is ordained at 10 a.m on June 1 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

“It’s been a nine-year journey and now that it’s at an end, it’s setting in and I’ve owned the fact that God is calling me to this,” Deacon DeCrane said recently in an interview with The Criterion. “Knowing that, in less than a month, I’m going to be doing what I was created to do is powerful. I’m grateful to think about it.”

Priestly formation starts at home

Deacon DeCrane’s preparation for the priesthood, however, began long before he enrolled at Bishop Bruté.

The faith was planted deeply in him through the family life he shared growing up as the youngest of the six children of his parents, James and Catherine DeCrane.

“We took our faith seriously and celebrated the sacraments as a family,” said Deacon DeCrane. “We went to Mass as a family. The sacrament of reconciliation was always important to us.”

He also saw from a young age how self-giving for the good of others is lived out concretely in everyday life.

“We never went without,” Deacon DeCrane recalled. “But, looking back, I realize that mom or dad went without something so that us children could have gone on a trip or something like that. The idea of sacrifice was really reinforced for me.”

The “wacky sense of humor” of Deacon DeCrane’s father also taught the future priest to value the lighter side of life.

“If he’s with us kids and we’re hanging out at dinner, he’ll make his corny dad jokes or be playful,” Deacon DeCrane said, noting that this example showed him that “you can have fun, too. You can enjoy yourself and not take everything too seriously.”

At the same time, his father also instilled a strong work ethic in his youngest child, encouraging him to strive for more.

“Growing up, he always pushed me to be better,” Deacon DeCrane said. “He always helped me up to meet that standard and definitely encouraged and supported me. He always wanted me to give my best at what I wanted to do.”

Greater expectations

The encouragement Deacon DeCrane received from his father continued through the seminary formation staff at Bishop Bruté and Saint Meinrad who “saw the goodness in me, even in the times in which I didn’t see it in myself.”

“They encouraged me to do what I needed to do and be rooted in the Gospel,” he said. “That’s so important.”

Deacon DeCrane admitted that the formation staff at Bishop Bruté and Saint Meinrad at times “were pushing me a bit harder,” but only because “they expected greater things” from him.

He said he was able to accept such challenges because the seminaries’ formation staff allowed him to get to see them for who they really are.

“There was no false bravado, nothing false about them,” he said. “They were just seeking God and trying to live out the Gospel.”

The growth Deacon DeCrane experienced at Bishop Bruté and Saint Meinrad also took place in archdiocesan parishes.

Lori Hamilton was his ministry supervisor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany during the 2017-18 academic year. During that time, Deacon DeCrane came to the faith community on Wednesday evenings to assist with its catechetical program for children and adults.

He told Hamilton at the start of the year that he had little experience working with young children, so she had him lead classes for all the grade levels in the program at different points during the year.

Hamilton, the parish’s director of faith formation at the time, also helped Deacon DeCrane be ready for anything in ministry, sometimes letting him know what she needed him to do only right before the program started on an evening.

“He had to be flexible,” said Hamilton, who is now retired. “I always told him that the extra beatitude was, ‘Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape.’ That’s a huge part of ministry. You’ve got to be flexible, because it never goes exactly how we think it’s going to go.

“He grew and learned. It was a hard thing to not know and be told, ‘This is what you’re going to do tonight.’ He definitely grew.”

Hamilton also observed the easy way Deacon DeCrane related with parishioners.

“He laughs easily and laughs at himself,” she said. “He likes to tease in a good way. At the same time, he’s very grounded in his formation and doesn’t use humor as a crutch. I think people will be comfortable around him.”

Hamilton thinks that Deacon DeCrane’s relatability will help the people he’ll serve as a priest see that holiness is “something that is attainable for us.”

“We don’t have to be holier than thou in order to grow in our faith,” she said. “We can grow in our faith in our day-to-day life with our gifts and our flaws.”

‘Focused on the person’

The easy give-and-take between Deacon DeCrane and the New Albany parishioners Hamilton observed took shape in many respects in the previous year during a pastoral internship at St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus.

When he arrived there in the summer of 2016, Father Clement Davis said Deacon DeCrane was “somewhat shy and a little awkward.”

Over the course of that year, though, Deacon DeCrane came to know several families and young adults at St. Bartholomew.

“That all gave him a real balance,” said Father Davis, St. Bartholomew’s pastor. “He felt comfortable. And the more comfortable he felt, the more effective he was.”

Deacon DeCrane’s experience at St. Bartholomew and his continued priestly formation afterward led the Seymour Deanery faith community’s members to be surprised when the future priest returned after being ordained a deacon in the spring of 2018 to preach during a Sunday Mass.

“I could literally see people with their hands over their mouths and their eyes wide open,” Father Davis recalled. “This was our Tim. He had such a sense of self-assurance and absolute comfort, just standing there talking to them, sort of eye-to-eye with people.

“I was really taken aback. It was all positive. He was just speaking from the heart and from his conviction and sharing that with people he believed would be receptive. And they certainly were.”

It’s in this personal interaction, which can even happen in the midst of preaching, where Deacon DeCrane sees the presence of Christ in others and hopes to show it to those that he will serve as a priest.

“Even if it’s just like after Mass, if someone is talking to me, I’ll just be focused on the person that’s in front of me and not feel pressure about other things that I have to do,” Deacon DeCrane said. “I really want to see them as Christ and be present in moments, taking the time to know what’s going on.”
 

(For more information about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit www.HearGodsCall.com.) †


More About Deacon Timothy DeCrane

  • Age: 26
  • Parents: James and Catherine DeCrane
  • Home parish: Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove
  • Education: Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary and Marian University, both in Indianapolis, and Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad
  • Favorite Scripture passage: Romans 12: 9-13
  • Favorite saint: St. Catherine of Siena (“Her love for the Church and governance of the Church lead her to be firm yet kind with Church leaders, including the pope!”)
  • Favorite book: The Robe by Lloyd Douglas
  • Favorite prayer or devotion: the Jesus Prayer (“Because it’s simple, yet practical.”)
  • Hobbies: Reading, writing, running, bike riding, photography, making rosaries and spending time with friends

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