Sometimes in life we get lucky. We are in the right place at the right time. During those times the Lord brings special people into our lives. On June 17, 2020 we lost one of those people. At approximately 9:00am my priest and pastor Father Robert Tamminga passed on to his eternal reward. As you can already tell, this post is different from others I have written on this platform. This is a tribute to a great man of God who was the epitome of a holy priest.
Image used by permission courtesy of the Diocese of Tucson
Father Tamminga was pastor of St. Francis De Sales in Tucson, Arizona since 1984. My wife and I began attending the parish consistently in 2009. From the onset one can easily see the joy that Father had. He truly loved being a priest, loved his parishioners, and loved the Lord Jesus Christ. His smile was infectious and he was so quick witted that you could not help but laugh at one of his jokes.
At this point my wife and I had only been in Tucson a short while and had attended a couple different parishes, but something was missing. It just didn’t feel quite like home to us. That feeling immediately changed the first day we attended St. Francis De Sales and met Father Tamminga. He was warm, welcoming, challenged us with his homilies, and always let everyone know how genuinely happy he was that they were there.
A Couple Stories
Father loved history and politics. He studied them and when he taught us in small group sessions he would bring examples from those two arenas. It brought things into a different perspective and through those stories one could understand something in a deeper way.
One way Father did this was in describing the role of the Magisterium. He made a comparison to the Supreme Court and their role in determining what is constitutional and what is not. Like the Supreme court, the Magisterium has the role of determining what the Bible means and what it does not if there were some dispute.
Our parish youth group regularly has swap meets to raise money. On Sunday it is time for cleanup, and coincidentally Sundays are when I spend a great deal of time at the parish. After one of these events Father Tamminga came up to me and said “Bill. The swap meet is over. I know you love books so if you find any you want feel free to take them. Consider it wages for all you do”.
Another story that is deeply touching to me involves my now seven year old son. A couple years ago my son and I were outside the parish hall playing and waiting for the children’s choir to finish rehearsal. We were tossing around paper airplanes and Father came by and joined in. He and my son had a contest on who could throw the plane farther. It was just a touching moment. The greatness of this moment is magnified because at the time of this event my son was being treated for delayed speech. He and Father Tamminga did this contest without words, but yet there was so much being said. He cared very deeply for his parishioners.
Words Of Tribute From Some Parishioners
At this juncture I would like to include some words of tribute from parishioners whose names will not be listed. The first four are from my children.
“I miss Father Tamminga.”
“He was the best priest ever.”
“Father Tamminga helped understand the Mass more, and how much Jesus loves me.”
“Father Tamminga always made me laugh”.
“To say he will be missed is an understatement. No offense to any other priest who has said Mass at St. Francis de Sales, but it was truly a blessing when you got to experience Fr. Tamminga’s wit, wisdom, and his heart”.
“He will be greatly missed. Rest in peace to one of the finest people that I have had the pleasure to ever meet”.
“He is a good friend and a wonderful priest”.
The Ten Word Sermon
Once a year Father would give a short sermon. It was shocking and insightful as it caused one to ponder what is important. Once a year he would say, “Life is short, death is certain, Heaven and Hell are forever”. When I thought of this tribute, many said this must be included.
Saint Quotes About Great Priests
“The end for which God has instituted the priesthood has been to appoint on earth public persons to watch over the honor of his divine majesty, and to procure the salvation of souls.” – St. Alphonsus Liguori
“O my child, bethink you that just as the bee, having gathered heaven’s dew and earth’s sweetest juices from amid the flowers, carries it to her hive; so the Priest, having taken the Saviour, God’s Own Son, Who came down from Heaven, the Son of Mary, Who sprang up as earth’s choicest flower, from the Altar, feeds you with that Bread of Sweetness and of all delight.” – St. Francis de Sales
“If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place”. – St. John Vianney
“I am often asked, especially by young people, why I became a priest… I must begin by saying that it is impossible to explain entirely. For it remains a mystery, even to myself. How does one explain the ways of God? Yet, I know that, at a certain point in my life, I became convinced that Christ was saying to me what he had said to thousands before me: ‘Come, follow me!’ There was a clear sense that what I heard in my heart was no human voice, nor was it just an idea of my own. Christ was calling me to serve him as a priest”. – St. John Paul II
Rest in peace Father. Thank you for everything.