CS PHOTO BY JACLYLN LIPPELMANN
After serving as secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, Susan Timoney has become an associate professor of pastoral studies and associate dean of undergraduate studies in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYLN LIPPELMANN After serving as secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, Susan Timoney has become an associate professor of pastoral studies and associate dean of undergraduate studies in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
After 10 years working at the Archdiocese of Washington, Susan Timoney is leaving her role as secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns to become an associate professor of pastoral studies and associate dean of undergraduate studies in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

She will be succeeded in her role by Jeannine Marino, who previously served as the assistant director of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and is currently a candidate for a doctorate in canon law.

Timoney began working for the archdiocese in 2008, in the role of executive director of evangelization and family life. She arrived at the height of the archdiocese’s preparation for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Washington, and was told to “go help where people need help.”

She found herself helping out with the phone bank, where people were answering calls to assist with different requests related to the visit, and when the archdiocese had extra tickets for Mass with the pope, she went to Union Station at 10 p.m. the night before the event to meet people who had been on the reserve list and hand them their tickets. Recalling this experience, she noted the joy she had at “being able to make people’s day.”

“It was so great to see that the Church can still have an impact on the world,” she said. “All eyes were on the Church that week. It confirmed to me that the Church still matters and we ought not to shy away – as hard as it may be – to bring our voice to the world.”

In 2011, the archdiocese created the Secretariat for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns, and Timoney was named assistant secretary, before becoming the secretary in 2015.

At a farewell reception for Timoney at the archdiocese’s Pastoral Center, Cardinal Donald Wuerl noted “the many responsibilities you have undertaken and the ease with which you do them makes them appear not difficult.”

“It is a tribute to your love of the Lord and His Church,” the cardinal added.

Timoney said that in her time working for the Church on the New Evangelization – the call for today’s Catholics to deepen their faith and share it with others – she learned that it is “really the work of a generation,” and not something that is going to happen overnight.  

The New Evangelization requires encountering people in new ways, outside of what parishes have historically done, Timoney said, adding, this involves asking parishes to make space to do something different. She noted that with how much parishes have going on, it can take time for them to make that shift.

“It has been a long process and a lot of good things have happened along the way,” she said. “We’ve been really lucky because we’ve had a leader (Cardinal Wuerl) who not only has vision but also the structure of implementation,” both of which she said are critical to making the New Evangelization a success.

A big part of what the Secretariat for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns does to fulfill their mission of the New Evangelization is develop toolkits and resources for parishes to use, especially for programs such as the Light is On for You that promotes the sacrament of Confession during Lent and the Find the Perfect Gift campaign during Advent that encourages Catholics to draw closer to Christ in the Christmas season.

While they were working on helping parishes to implement the New Evangelization, “we couldn’t have anticipated the huge questions the culture started to ask and the speed with which secularization seemed to take hold,” she said, noting issues like same-sex marriage and assisted suicide.

In the midst of all of this development in the culture and the Church, Timoney said, “it became really important to always remember this is the work of the Holy Spirit.”

“We couldn’t judge our success on whether we won the battle, but rather on how well we preached the Gospel,” she said. “We would fail if we chose not to raise our voice and come to the table of these very important discussions.”

One of the highlights of each year for Timoney was the Rite of Election, where over the past 10 years there have been increasing numbers of people entering the Church. Timoney described the event as “a beautiful moment to say, ‘people are hearing and they are responding.’”

Timoney said she has also seen how quickly the archdiocese adopted new technologies to engage more people in new ways. She recalled how her first year on the job the archdiocese started a Twitter account and had a few volunteers to run it, but now there is a whole archdiocesan office dedicated to digital media.

Now, she believes Pope Francis is asking the Church to go a step further, moving away from programs and toward accompaniment, which involves building relationships.

Through her research at Catholic University, Timoney hopes to help discover the best ways for the Church to go about doing that. She believes a big component is the co-responsibility of clergy and lay people to carry out this work of accompaniment.

Timoney said she experienced that type of co-responsibility working alongside Father Bill Byrne, who is now the pastor of Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, while he was secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns. She said she felt having the two of them working side by side was very fruitful, and she has continued to see that model be successful through Cardinal Wuerl’s staff being a mixture of men and women, clergy and laity.

In her new role, Timoney hopes to teach the next generation of pastoral leaders to engage in that type of co-responsibility for accompaniment, and she said her excitement about doing so “speaks to my passion for parish life, now from a different perspective.”

She has gained a lot of those different perspectives over the years, as she began in ministry at the parish level as a social concerns coordinator at a parish in Fairbanks, Alaska and then as a pastoral associate at a parish in Indianapolis. After receiving her doctorate from St. Thomas Aquinas Pontifical College in Rome, Timoney worked as the vice president of the Education for Parish Service program held at Trinity Washington University, which offered a certificate in theology for adults looking to gain greater training for parish ministry.

Timoney will bring these experiences, as well as her experience with the archdiocese, with her in her new role. She said the university’s choice to hire her as dean displays how they are hoping to expand the formation of practical ministry skills for their theology majors.

“The questions people are asking are so complicated…we need leaders who understand Church teaching and the application of it,” she said, noting that her time with the archdiocese has given her lots of experience with handling specific pastoral situations.

In her role as a professor, Timoney will be teaching three courses this year, including an introductory theology course, a course titled “The Mission of the Contemporary Catholic,” and an overview of Christian spirituality. She will also be coordinating the internship placement for students in the certificate program for pastoral ministry, where her relationships with parishes in the archdiocese will be helpful, she said.

In her role as dean, she will be overseeing the course of studies for undergraduate theology students and also developing a program to attract new theology majors and minors to the school.

Even as she moves on from her role as secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns, Timoney will continue her connection to the archdiocese as a parishioner at St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill.

“It was such a privilege to work with [Cardinal Wuerl] and for the Archdiocese of Washington,” said Timoney. “ We have such gifted people and he never shied away from preaching the Gospel."