Archbishop Timothy Broglio, of the Archdiocese of Military Services, announced the news to priests in a letter on Monday:
As many of you might know, in the early hours of Sunday morning, 16 August, the Rev. Timothy Hirten, Ch. Maj., USAF, passed from this life. I ask you to offer Mass for the repose of his soul and the consolation of his family. I am certainly deeply shaken by the tragic end of his life and I am certain that all who knew him are, as well.
Many of you know that he had been experiencing difficulties for some time and was suffering from depression and was isolated from his duties at Shepherd Air Force Base. It is hard to imagine this usually exuberant, gregarious man so weighted with distress that he could not recognize the presence of light in his life and surroundings.
A local newspaper in Wichita Falls reports what happened:
Wichita Falls police detectives report a fatality Saturday night involving a train was a suicide.
Wichita Falls Police Department public information officer, Jeff Hughes said Saturday’s fatal pedestrian accident involving a train has been ruled a suicide by the detectives that worked the case.
According to officers Hughes, shortly after 9 p.m., Saturday, officers responded to a reported injury accident at North Beverly and Iowa Park Road.
The male pedestrian, Timothy Hirten, 66, was killed after he was struck by the train.
His was a remarkable and varied life that took him from Long Island to Steubenville to Rome to the Middle East — with notable stops on basketball courts around the globe.
The Brooklyn Tablet two years ago offered this account of his life, as he marked the 25th anniversary of his ordination:
Born in Mercy Hospital, Rockville Centre, he attended Holy Spirit School, New Hyde Park; Holy Name of Mary School, Valley Stream; St. Barnabas School, Bellmore; St. John the Baptist H.S., West Islip; Franciscan University, Steubenville, Pa.; North American College, Rome; and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome.
He was ordained Oct. 9, 1993 by Bishop Thomas V. Daily at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn.
Prior to entering the seminary, he was a professional basketball player, traveling the world with the Washington Generals, the opponents of the Harlem Globetrotters.
He served as an assistant at St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights, 1993-97, and Sacred Heart, Bayside, before entering the Air Force. He served in Europe and was activated following the Sept. 11 attacks on America. In 2006, he was assigned to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. He did several tours in the Mideast while assigned to bases in Oklahoma and Delaware.
He also holds a degree in social work from Fordham University, specializing in alcohol abuse prevention.
And that’s not all. As this video shows, he was also an accomplished Irish step dancer:
Long Island Catholic wrote of him in 2011:
For Father Tim Hirten, finding his vocation has been a journey — from professional basketball to ministry at home and abroad.
“I have been a happy priest and am grateful for the gift of the priesthood and the ability to see people benefit from the graces of the sacraments,” he said.
In his letter announcing Father Hirten’s death, the archbishop wrote to his priests:
I know that you are over-extended and that much is demanded from you. None of us is an island. We minister together in service to the Body of Christ and the ministry of each one of us is vital.
These weeks of seclusion, quarantine and separation from what most motivates us as priests, ministry to people, have not been easy…The unknown which continues to dominate our future weighs heavily on us. We cannot forget, as Pope Francis reminded us in that dramatic Urbi et Orbi message that Christ is in the boat with us. He guides and sustains us. We must place our trust in Him.
Please whisper up a prayer tonight for Father Hirten and all those who love him. Pray for all our clergy.
And pray in a special way for all those who are battling depression during these difficult days of loneliness, isolation and separation. (Know someone who is suffering? Help them know there is hope. Visit this link.)
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.