The Rev. Tim Power didn’t lecture or teach. He didn’t quite preach. Instead, he told stories, expertly weaving them through the thousands of homilies he gave over his 24 years at Pax Christi Catholic Community in Eden Prairie.
Power told them inside and outside the church’s walls, with and often without his clerical collar. His stories were warm, wise and often self-deprecating.
“He was a storyteller,” said Patricia Baumer, a Pax Christi parishioner since 1989. “He helped people — and this is the highest praise I can give — he helped people encounter God in their own story.”
As the church’s founding pastor, Power also encouraged others to preach, bringing lay people to the front of the sanctuary. He was “more like an orchestra conductor,” Baumer said, “who drew out the best gifts of the baptized.”
Father Tim, as his thousands of parishioners knew him, died Sept. 21. He was 76.
Born in Faribault, Minn., in 1939, Power took speech therapy classes as a kid. His teachers thought he had a strange accent and told him he wouldn’t make a good preacher.
With support from family, including an uncle who was a priest, he entered Nazareth Hall Preparatory Seminary at age 13. After studying at St. Paul Seminary, then Catholic University in Washington, D.C., he was ordained in 1966.
He became a priest just after Vatican II, which opened the church to more involvement of laypeople, among other things. “I think that was certainly instrumental in how he thought and knew a church could be,” said Jane Schmitz, Pax Christi’s parish director.
Pax Christi embodied that same spirit. The church, started in 1981 by a handful of social-justice activists, at first didn’t have a permanent home, holding masses in a school, a hotel and a warehouse.
“We called it a movable feast,” Power said in a 2016 video. “Somebody gave us an old station wagon and a sound system and an altar and banners.”
Laypeople, whose goals included ordination of women and married men, played a big role in the church. It was the birthplace of Partners in Preaching, a nonprofit dedicated to training laypeople for preaching. Baumer, now 70, is that group’s executive director.
“The people of Pax Christi are in charge,” Power said in 2002. “That’s a matter of necessity because of our size, but it’s also a matter of justice, because all of us — not just me — are the church.”
Power led a movement to start a local chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a grass-roots group born in the outrage over the scandal of sexual abuse by priests. He was among more than 100 active and retired priests who signed a letter imploring the Vatican to make celibacy optional for priests.
In 2012, as the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis fought for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Power was among dozens of retired priests who signed a letter opposing the ban.
“Tim stood within the church,” said the Rev. John Bauer, pastor at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, “but was always willing to challenge issues and people that were of concern for him.”
Power retired as the church’s pastor in 2004, after 24 years and 5,750 masses.
He also served as chaplain for the Eden Prairie Fire and Police departments, often arriving “before the call had gone out requesting a chaplain,” Police Chief James DeMann said in a memorial.
“His calming presence, compassion and discretion made him an invaluable member of our team,” DeMann said. “We considered him one of us.”
In retirement, Power took a 500-mile religious pilgrimage through France and Spain. He kept up with his movie, book and biking clubs. He also helped on weekends at the Basilica of St. Mary, where he told a few more stories.
Power’s survivors include two nieces, Kathleen and Sandy. Services have been held.