Fr. Timothy J. Shepard, SJ, died at 4:00 p.m. (EST) on Friday, January 25, 2019, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was two days short of 73 years old.
Father Shepard was born on January 27, 1946, in Cleveland. He entered the Society of Jesus as a brother on March 5, 1966, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. In the late 1970s, Father Shepard changed grades and was ordained on June 19, 1982, at Gesu Church in Detroit. He took final vows on May 1, 1986, at Loyola House Jesuit Novitiate in Berkley, Michigan. Father Shepard earned bachelor’s degrees in history and English from the University of Detroit (1971) and in sacred theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Chicago (1981). He earned a master’s degree in library science from Case Western University (1974), a master’s of divinity from Loyola University Chicago (1981), and a master’s of theological studies from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley (1985).
After his time at the novitiate, Father Shepard taught social studies and English at Walsh Jesuit High School (1971-1973) before spending a year in special studies in library science at Case West Reserve. He then worked as a librarian at Loyola University New Orleans (1974-1976), before moving back to Ohio to be an assistant librarian (1976-1977) and the librarian (1977-1979) at John Carroll University. In 1979, Father Shepard decided to change grades and study theology in preparation for ordination.
After ordination, Father Shepard transitioned into (and never left) internal governance in the Society. He was the assistant novice director for experiments (1982-1983) before becoming superior of Loyola House Jesuit Novitiate in Berkley, Michigan (1983-1986). While Father Shepard was superior of Loyola House, he also did retreat ministry at Colombiere Center. In 1986, Father Shepard became the rector of the St. Ignatius High School Jesuit Community in Cleveland and was a student counselor in the high school (1986-1991). Father Shepard’s cura personalis skills were then needed in Clarkston, Michigan, where he was director of Colombiere Center and rector of the Jesuit community (1991-1993).
In 1993, Father Shepard’s gifts of organization, care for others, and a wry sense of humor were put to use in the Detroit Province office. He was a valuable socius and assistant to the provincial, Joseph Daoust, (1993-1995) before taking on the responsibilities of being the provincial’s pastoral assistant (1995-1996) and Formation Director (1995-1999). Because of Father Shepard’s generosity and openness to being missioned, (while he was the province formation director) he was also the director of novices at Loyola House, the Chicago and Detroit provinces’ novitiate (1996-2002).
After a well-earned sabbatical, Father Shepard moved to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, where he was a spiritual director for parents and alumni of Walsh Jesuit High School (2003-2010). Because of his extensive leadership experience, Father Shepard was asked to be the rector of the Walsh Jesuit Community (2004-2009) in addition to his other duties.
In 2009, Father Shepard returned to Clarkston, Michigan, for a health sabbatical, to offer spiritual direction to Jesuits and many other people, and to become the librarian of Colombiere Center.
Father Shepard was incredibly generous, giving, and willing to go where ever the need was the greatest. He was a gifted spiritual director, and many people sought out his wisdom and advice. Father Shepard’s wry sense of humor—often accompanied by a slight smile—caught many people off guard, thus allowing his wise sayings and thoughts to be more easily accepted. He was a dedicated priest with innate pastoral sensibilities and tendencies. Father Shepard’s homilies often were very short (sometimes only a sentence/question or two) and fostered deep rumination and reflection. When talking with Father Shepard, people experienced his care and concern for them.
In his constant joyful presence and generous availability for mission, Father Shepard seldom showed the difficulties he suffered from his life-long illness, diabetes. Finally, in addition to his ever-present good humor and cura personalis, many people will remember Father Shepard did not like to capitalize any written word.