Jesuit Tim McCabe found his calling later in life, drawn by a passion to help less fortunate

The Rev. Tim McCabe’s path to the priesthood was far from typical.

He became a Jesuit at age 52 just two years ago, in 2015. And he has been a father for many years.

McCabe, who lives on campus in Lansing-Reilly Hall, directs the Pope Francis Center, a haven for the homeless in downtown Detroit. He also is a pastor at Saints Peter and Paul Jesuit Church.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “It’s in a city that I love, doing the work that I love and it’s a great time to be in the city. We are seeing this rebirth happening of this great American city and a lot of exciting things happening.”

But the rebirth hasn’t touched everyone, he noted.

“There is a big segment of the population – the homeless – not rising with the tide,” he said.

For McCabe, a passion to help the less fortunate, along with his connection to the city, has allowed him to excel and find comfort in his work.

His journey took time a lot of time and practice before he rose to his current positon.

It has been a journey of character and discovery, he said.

McCabe grew up in Ferndale. It was a typical blue-collar upbringing in a family with three sisters.

Ferndale wasn’t then the “hip” place to live that it has become. It was much less diverse, too.

McCabe went to Ferndale High School and then on to the University of Detroit for a political science degree. He earned a philosophy studies degree at Loyola-Chicago before achieving a degree in theology at University of California Berkeley.

Clearly a man of ambition, discipline and knowledge, McCabe has an educational history that has prepared him to be successful in positons of leadership.

Growing up Catholic, McCabe had some religious foundation.

However, it was not until he got affiliated with the Detroit Catholic Worker Community in his early 20s that he started living out his adult faith life, focused on social justice and living the beatitudes.

From there he went on to run The Jesuit Volunteer Core for 12 years, where he got to know the Jesuits on a deeper level and in a way that would impact him greatly on his path.

“Their spirituality was how I began to pray,” he said. “It was how I understood the world so it seemed like a natural move, after working with them for 12 years and getting my daughter on her own and away at college, to get ordained. And it’s been great.”

Working with the marginalized and the poor helped prepare him spiritually, physically and mentally for his latest challenges, and gave him perspective on all the things that had to happen, the ups and downs.

At the Pope Francis Center, McCabe and his volunteers open at 7 a.m. They serve two meals, breakfast at 7 a.m. and a hot meal at 9 a.m..

They offer laundry services, showers, hygiene kits and clinics.

Detroit Mercy Nursing students do foot care for the homeless, seeing about 160 to 200 people a day.

The people are what make it all worthwhile, he said.

“I love being with the people that come here. There is so much that I get from those relationships and friendships,” said McCabe. “They teach me about gratitude, they teach me about our dependency on God, they teach me about humility and how to live life on life’s terms and essentially our common humanity.”

For McCabe, these relationships taught him more than just humility, humanity, gratitude and dependency on God. They gave him direction in his spiritual journey and showed him a way to be close to God and do God’s work.

“A big part of my life was searching for God and what it meant to be a Christion following Jesus in the world,” said McCabe. “I found that relationship with God not in the seeking but the doing, and then I began to do the things that Jesus asks us to do in terms of works of mercy and caring for those who have less than we have and those in need.”

McCabe’s message to anybody who is searching for understanding – spiritually or not – is that searching can only take you so far.

Until you “do,” until you take action, you won’t truly learn and develop in the way you need to, he said.