The makings of a good father

Editor’s note:  Six seminarians will be ordained for the Diocese of Charleston on July 27. This is the second profile in a series The Catholic Miscellany will run on each deacon in the upcoming weeks.

CHARLESTON — If the recommendations of his adult children are any indication of his future as a priest, Deacon Timothy Gahan will excel.

Gahan, 62, a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer, will be ordained with five other men in July.

“He was a great father and will be a great father,” said his son.

Terence, 34, and his sister, Kathleen Gahan Smith, 31, were effusive in their praise for their dad’s abilities as a parent, leader and devout Catholic.

“It’s an unusual experience to have your father go through the process of seminary and becoming a priest, but I can’t think of anyone better suited to do it,” Kathleen said. “His relationship with God is something everyone can aspire to, it’s incredible. He has a good understanding of people having been in the military and working in different areas. He can relate to people of all different backgrounds.”

The soon-to-be priest, who currently lives in Columbia, was born in Medford, Mass. He traveled the country and the world as a colonel in the Marine Corps and as one of nine children of a U.S. Army family. He graduated from the University of North Texas and has master’s degrees from Chapman University and the Naval War College.

He served in the Corps from 1965 to 1994 and retired as vice president of Marine Corps University while living at Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia.

After retiring, he went to work as the business manager for the North American district of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Elmhurst, Pa. He moved to Columbia and spent two years as the business administrator for J.E. Wilson Advisors until he entered Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts in 2003.

With a distinguished career behind him, Gahan takes from the Marines a sense of order, discipline and obedience.

“The template is not all that much different than the priesthood,” he said.

He feels confident that he will be able to handle the many challenges of clerical life.

“People are people,” he said. “In the Marine Corps, I was dealing with all kinds of people in all walks of life. You get a cross section, a representation of the American public and the church is made up of all sorts of different people at different places in their lives … and you work with that.”

Gahan was married to the late Mary Patricia Gahan for 14-and-a-half precious years. She died in 1985. Terence lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and three children, and Kathleen lives in New York and also is married with a son.

“My mother died when I was 9,” Kathleen said. “Now that I am a parent I don’t know how he did everything for us. He was an incredible father. I hope that I can be as committed to my son and any other children I may have. Keeping God and church involved in everything you do. It’s not just about going to church on Sunday; God is always there and is always listening.”

God was always there for Gahan. When asked about his discernment process, he was modest.

“I don’t think it is honestly any different from how anybody else might be called to the priesthood,” he said in a telephone interview with The Miscellany. “It was just over time, it was something that you would think about and pray about. I asked the Blessed Mother to help me to discern but there was no particular sign and place.”

He was quiet about the process with his children.

“It was Christmas of 2002 and we were all together at the beach opening presents,” he said. “I said that since Christmas is a time of surprises I have a surprise for you all.”

And that was how he told his family.

“At the time we were surprised, but then said it makes sense,” Kathleen said. “It was not a complete shock when you think about it. He has always been the same person but had a period of contemplation working at the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter being around so many priests and developing strong relationships with religious life.”

Like his sister, Terence is enthusiastic and admiring of his father and his vocation. He believes Gahan’s skills as a single parent, a leader in the Marines and as a loyal Catholic translate well into the priesthood.

“I certainly tried my father and I appreciate him because he was able to gently guide us with a strong hand,” Terence said. “He encouraged us to do the right thing. He is pastoral because he was able to take care of his children and able to take care of his battalion. The faith was always important to him. He was an excellent leader of men and now a fisher of men. It will be an easy step for him.”