During the final months of preparation for our [singlepic id=82 w=320 h=240 float=right]World Youth Day 2002 in Canada nine years ago, we received close to 500 requests from young people who were terminally ill, severely handicapped, paralyzed, etc., to meet Pope John Paul II personally. I recall vividly some of the very touching letters and requests that flooded our offices. With a team of three others, we carefully reviewed the letters and selected about 30 young people who were unable to attend the activities of World Youth Day due to their condition. We made arrangements for them to be present at the special welcoming ceremony for the Holy Father at Pearson International Airport on Tuesday July 23, 2002. Needless to tell you the tremendous joy and excitement as I personally notified each family, telling them that they and their son or daughter would meet the Pope upon his arrival in Canada!
One of the most touching stories was that of the Pippy family from Mississauga. Timothy Pippy, at the time 20 years old and severely disabled, would meet the Pope! He and his mother and father, Tom and Linda Pippy, members of St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Mississauga, were thrilled. Though Tim had difficulty walking and expressing himself verbally, his mind was crystal clear and his expressions were unmistakably radiant. I had the privilege of introducing Tim and his parents to the Pope. It was the meeting of a lifetime.
[singlepic id=81 w=320 h=240 float=left]Over the past nine years, I have kept in touch with many of those young people who were privileged to welcome Pope John Paul to Canada, and to World Youth Day 2002. But it was with Tim and his parents that I had the closest relationship. We visited frequently, shared meals in Tim’s home, and I was an eyewitness to Tim’s deep faith in Jesus Christ, his love of the church, his interest in all things Vatican, his tremendous joy. On many occasions when I celebrated mass at his parish of St. Ignatius these past years, Tim sang away as his parents and grandmother looked on with pride. Tim’s warm embrace of me after each mass revealed a young man of faith and warmth. Though burdened by mobility problems and speech difficulties, Tim communicated the language of love and devotion. In June when I celebrated my 25th Anniversary of priesthood, Tim and his parents were part of the assembly at that memorable celebration at the Newman Centre in Toronto.
Tim was one of our greatest fans and viewers of Salt and Light Television. His parents told me how he remained glued to the television set for the coverage of our major events, for the daily recitation of the rosary, and especially for anything involving the Pope. In fact last week during our wall-to-wall coverage of the Knights of Columbus Convention from Denver, Tim wouldn’t budge from the television set. When his dad suggested they watch a baseball game, Tim sternly ordered his parents not to touch the remote control! Whenever I would see him on Sundays at mass, he referred to specific television programs he had watched the previous week. He was a great friend and loyal viewer!
Over the past months, Tim’s health began to fail. As respiratory ailments increased, his heart couldn’t keep up with the body. In the early hours of Sunday morning August 7, just after the great feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, Tim Pippy died in his sleep at his family home from complications with pneumonia. He was thirty years old. He was a brave Christian soldier with a heart of gold and a faith that moved mountains. He was a gentle disciple of the Master. I know how much he moved me, and moved a Pope and an entire nation nine years ago at the beginning of World Youth Day in Canada.
On the eve of Madrid’s World Youth Day that begins today with the Days in the Dioceses of Spain and concludes next weekend, August 20-21 with Pope Benedict, Tim Pippy concluded his earthly journey. For the short time he was with us, he blessed us with his joy, his faith and his love. His parents Linda and Tom, his dear grandma Margaret and his favorite godmother Sharon will miss Tim dearly as we mourn his death.
One of the great blessings of World Youth Day 2002 for me, was having met and befriended this remarkable young man named Timothy Alan Pippy. He lit up a room with his exuberance and smile. He blessed his parish Church with his prayerful presence and devotion.
During his historic visit to New York City in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of young people with severe cognitive and physical disabilities:
“God has blessed you with life, and with differing talents and gifts. Through these you are able to serve him and society in various ways. While some people's contributions seem great and others' more modest, the witness value of our efforts is always a sign of hope for everyone.
…Sometimes it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured. Yet our faith helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does. God's unconditional love, which bathes every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life. Through his Cross, Jesus in fact draws us into his saving love and in so doing shows us the way ahead - the way of hope which transfigures us all, so that we too, become bearers of that hope and charity for others.”
Now that Timmy is home, may he join the Blessed Founder of World Youth Days at the window of the Father’s house, as they both extend their arms in blessing and loving embrace of the young people of the world who are streaming to Madrid for their unique encounter with Jesus Christ and the universal Church.
Let us pray for the consolation of Tim's family, and for the repose of Tim’s soul. I have no doubt that this young man is in heaven, in the presence of God, the angels and the saints, and especially of Blessed John Paul II, the founder and patron of World Youth Days. And let us pray that through the Cross, “Jesus will draw us into his saving love and in so doing show us the way ahead - the way of hope which transfigures us all, so that we too, become bearers of that hope and charity for others.”
Timothy Alan Pippy, you spent your time on earth giving us a foretaste of heaven. Your work here below is not done! Console your family and friends and all of us who mourn your passing. Now you can see the whole picture! Watch over us from heaven, bless the work of Salt and Light Television and pray for us!
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation