Father Tim Lijewski makes an impression on USC campus

COLUMBIA — As pastor of the St. Thomas More Center at the University of South Carolina since 1996, Father Tim Lijewski has become a well-loved personality on campus. With his two dogs, Molly and Rusty, he blends in with the students not only because of his youthful appearance, but because of his optimistic outlook on life.

The priest, who was born in Charleston and spent his early years in Summerville, remembers the gradual path that led him to become a priest.

“As a child I did not think about becoming a priest, but I remember I wanted to be like my pastor,” said Father Lijewski.

While working as the director of St. Paul’s youth group in Seneca and assisting Msgr. Christopher Lathem at his church in Spartanburg, Father Lijewski began to feel the tug to serve the church as a priest.

“What pushed me over the edge was a talk given by Father (Lawrence) McInerny, during a state youth convention. It was as if he gave the script of my heart, and I knew then I had a calling,” said the priest.

Since his ordination on July 10, 1993, Father Lijewski has served several churches. He was parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, and pastor of St. Augustine Church in Union and Holy Spirit Mission in Laurens. When he first arrived at the university in 1996, he ministered to the people at St. Theresa Mission in Winnsboro for a time.

Father Lijewski says that for him, the highlight of being a priest is the “privilege of celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation.”

For a person who has always wanted to help others, Father Lijewski finds this healing sacrament most special because people let him into this private part of their lives and he can witness the peace and grace Christ provides those who seek his forgiveness.

He also enjoys spiritual directing and administering the sacraments of baptism and matrimony. The university environment has also been inspirational.

“The students may not have all the answers, but they have a creativity (when it comes to helping others) and a strong faith,” said Father Lijewski.

The challenging moments are saying funeral Masses for people who have died untimely deaths. He recently had to bury a parishioner and friend, a young mother who died of breast cancer.

“Words are so inadequate at times like these,” said the priest.

Father Lijewski has been learning Spanish, and took a few courses and spent some time in Costa Rica and Spain last summer. His professor and parishioner, Lizette Laughlin, said he is “ready to say Mass in Spanish.”

Pam Scott, St. Thomas More’s office manager, has worked with Father Lijewski for seven years. “He is one of the most humble, caring, and compassionate priests I know,” Scott said.

For men who are contemplating the priesthood, Father Lijewski offers some advice: “Pray to see if it is God’s will.”

On a practical side, he encourages them to work with various ministries to make sure the priesthood is a good match with what they already like to do – which, one hopes, is serving God and others.