Arizona native Fr. Timothy R. Davern, JCL, inveterate storyteller with legendary recall, died Aug. 30, at Tempe St. Luke Hospital. He was 60.
“His most favorite book was the encyclopedia,” said his sister, Cathy Davern Gronquist, of Santa Fe, New Mexico. “He knew all those random facts because he read the encyclopedia, and remembered everything because he had a photographic memory.”
Born in Yuma, Fr. Davern was surrounded by academia as he grew up. His father, Francis, now deceased, was a professor at universities throughout the country, including Northern Arizona.
His mother, Mary Margaret “Peggy” Meighn, is the former director of International Affairs at Western Illinois University.
“Our backyard was the university,” Gronquist said. “He always had his nose in a book, and I know it comes with his job.”
The Church of the Resurrection in Tempe was filled with people from all walks of life, that he met throughout his nearly 35 years as a priest, for the vigil service and Rosary, and Mass of Resurrection.
Bill Murphy, his college roommate from the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, choked back tears as he recalled his friendship with Fr. Davern.
“We were drawn together for the love of a good story,” Murphy said. “When he laughed, he turned on a light in a soul.”
Shannon Nolan and his wife, Anna, arrived with their four children, two of which were baptized by Fr. Davern.
Nolan first met Fr. Davern at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe in 1996 when he was fresh out of college.
“It was Fr. Tim that got me involved with the youth ministry and the church. He was just a wonderful priest,” he said.
Fr. Fred Adamson, vicar general for the Phoenix Diocese and moderator of the Curia, said Fr. Davern embraced his priesthood and loved the Sacrament of Baptism.
“I would have to wrestle him to baptize when I was a priest (at Resurrection Church). He loved to baptize the little children,” Fr. Adamson said. “We lost a bright light in our community. He was a faithful servant who kept the light of faith alive for others.”
The mood turned poignant during the homily when his friend and colleague, Fr. Charles G. Kieffer, VF, pastor of St. Theresa Parish, captured the humanness of Fr. Davern’s struggles through Sacred Scripture.
Referring to the Raising of Lazarus from the Book of John, Fr. Kieffer made the correlation of the untying of Lazarus from the burial cloths to Fr. Davern being released from his body ravaged by diabetes and alcoholism — now at rest, at peace and sanctified by Jesus.
“Slowly Tim found himself ‘tied hand and foot,’ bound up, by those multiple and spiraling health challenges,” Fr. Kieffer said. “But now…it’s Tim who comes out of the darkness and into the light. It’s Tim who hears the command given by Jesus, ‘untie him…and let him go free.’ Free to know that eternal life is the unending embrace of God’s love.”
Fr. Davern will be remembered for his brilliant mind, dry sense of humor and quick wit. Not to mention his brief homilies.
He was often heard saying, “you know, you lose them after seven minutes.”
Bishop James S. Rausch, the second bishop of Phoenix, ordained Fr. Davern a priest for the Phoenix Diocese on May 13, 1978.
He served as parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Resurrection Parish, St. Anne Parish in Gilbert and at Holy Spirit Parish. He also served as pastor at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Fr. Davern served in diocesan positions as adjunct judicial vicar, chancellor, and judicial vicar. He was also the spiritual moderator of the St. Thomas More Society and was a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, and of the Canon Law Society of America.
Fr. Davern received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, a master’s degree from St. Meinrad School of Theology and a Licentiate in canon law from Catholic University of America.
Fr. Davern is survived by his mother, Peggy Davern of Tempe, his sister, Cathy, his brother-in-law, Guy Gronquist, and nieces Elizabeth and Augusta Gronquist of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Elizabeth and Augusta Gronquist of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The visitation was Sept. 4, at Resurrection Church, followed by the funeral Mass the next morning.
Burial at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Mesa, will be announced.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to Regina Cleri Priest Retirement Fund or Seminarian Education Fund, care of the Diocese of Phoenix, 400 E. Monroe St., Phoenix, AZ, 85004, or to the charity of your choice.