BY MELISSA SIEGLER
Growing up Catholic, the Rev. Timothy Harris never really thought about the priesthood. The first time he thought about it, was the first time he had been to confession in a long time.
He ran into Monseigneur Diaz of the St. Petersburg diocese in Florida. He had a wonderful experience that had a fundamental impact.
“Just the way he did his ministry made you feel like Christ was there with you. I just thought ‘If you could do that once in your lifetime for somebody else, your whole life would be worth it,’” said Harris.
Harris is new to Franciscan University this year. He attended The University of Buffalo and, after changing majors and schools a few times, received a BA in Criminology. After a while, he realized criminal justice wasn’t his calling. He decided that he was looking for something more meaningful and started looking into vocations.
While discerning religious life, Harris was thinking of a career change regardless. He tried teaching before, but it hadn’t worked out. Going through discernment, he was fairly certain he was going to be a Franciscan. A big part of the Franciscan ministry is teaching and as he continued down that path, opportunities began to present themselves to teach as a friar.
“I get a stage to perform on,” said Harris, jokingly, when asked about his favorite part about teaching.
“There really is a grace or a gift from God to teach,” said Harris. “Not everybody has it…I think I have that ability. … As a priest you are called to teach in a ministerial way and being able to teach in a classroom and seeing somebody grasp a concept that was presented, especially if they had started off with a look like they were just about to get taken out by an ’84 Buick Lasabre as they were crossing the road, like a deer in the headlights, it’s very satisfying.”
When asked about his favorite part about being at Franciscan, Harris said, “Well, it’s not the air quality.”
As for his real favorite, he said, “For the friars, we have a really good community. I know them all very well. … To come here and be able to be a part of that is a great benefit, it’s a good social element and it’s a good faith element. As friars we need to work on our faith life just like everybody else and we do it in our community. This is a very blessed community to be a part of.”
Father Harris hopes to start a class that he created at Saint Francis University called Restorative Justice, which is a Criminology class with a theological approach to it. For now, he teaches Christian Moral Principles.
“This isn’t just head stuff, this is heart stuff,” he said. “This is something that can help us on the road to salvation. Mathematics is a wonderful thing but it’s not necessarily going to get you into heaven. But understanding the grace of God very well could.”