Fr. Tim Hipskind’s enriching life journey to the priesthood
The journey to becoming a Jesuit priest takes more than 10 years to achieve—and then some. For Tim Hipskind, S.J., that journey began long before he even knew it was his destiny.
The signs were there all along. He grew up in a strong Catholic family, the oldest of six children. His parents regularly hosted meetings at their home for families within their parish. Fr. Hipskind often listened to their group discussions about faith. He believes he subconsciously tucked away the lessons that resulted from growing up in this environment.
“In those days, I resisted the religious element of the meetings, but I now know it definitely had an impact,” said Fr. Hipskind.
Fr. Hipskind attended a Jesuit high school while growing up in Indianapolis and headed off to the University of Notre Dame upon graduating. There, he earned a degree in engineering and met a woman to whom he became engaged.
Love conquered all, or so he thought. Fr. Hipskind enrolled in graduate courses at Purdue University while his fiancé returned home to Hawaii. They maintained a long distance relationship, and Fr. Hipskind eventually moved to Honolulu. He began to build a new life in Hawaii. While planning their wedding, the couple came to some deal-breaking discoveries.
“We realized that one of the things separating us was how active we would be with the Catholic Church. I wanted to be much more involved than she did,” said Fr. Hipskind.
When they couldn’t find common ground on this belief, they canceled the wedding. Fr. Hipskind remained in Honolulu to work with the diocesan vocation director while attending a Jesuit church.
“We organized programs for young adults and designed retreats. This was one of the times when I was actively discerning what God was calling me to. I also was starting to feel more like a Hoosier than a Hawaiian, so I returned home to Indianapolis,” said Fr. Hipskind.
Back on the mainland, Fr. Hipskind looked for jobs in the construction industry. Between interviews, he mapped out a career where he envisioned running his own company.
“I thought I was called to work in construction,” said Fr. Hipskind. “I thought about how I would build low-income housing. I was going to call my company Kingdom Builders.”
During one job interview, a potential boss told him that he should not come to work for his construction company, but suggested that Fr. Hipskind consider the priesthood.
The 28-year-old took the news hard. “I got angry when I heard it,” said Fr. Hipskind. “But that night I started to feel different. I knew that all of the pieces of my life were not completely in place (and that anxiety) made me feel like I better fasten my seat belt, because the answer was coming fast.”
Fr. Hipskind’s final puzzle piece fell into place during a casual conversation with a priest. While talking, it dawned
on him that he was meant to be a Jesuit priest.
“It hit me that I was meant for the Ignatian Spirituality,” said Fr. Hipskind, who explained that the Jesuits are structured to work with communities. “I like community organizing. It’s built into who I am. The Ignatian Spirit teaches you how to develop that relationship with God. You continue to find out who you are, and when both aspects are happening, your call emerges from that discovery.”
In 1988, Fr. Hipskind entered the Jesuit Novitiate located in Berkley, Mich. After two years of studying the Jesuit life, he took his perpetual vows. Making these vows indicated that Fr. Hipskind accepted that God was calling him to this lifestyle in a permanent way. The next years of formation included periods devoted to the full-time study of philosophy and theology, and other periods working full-time in the community. For Fr. Hipskind, it meant working with Christian Life Communities. In this time frame, he also participated in a 30-day retreat dedicated to prayer.
After four years of theology studies, he was ordained a priest in 2000. From 2000 until 2009, Fr. Hipskind worked as a member of the Claver Jesuit Ministry Project in Cincinnati, Ohio. During those years, he completed a Master’s in Black Catholic Studies from Xavier University in New Orleans.
“It generally takes 11 years to go through the formation process, and then it takes more years until a Jesuit takes his final vows,” explained Hipskind, who has yet to take these vows.
After 22 years as a Jesuit, Hipskind still feels quite certain that he is living the life he was always meant to live.
Fr. Tim Hipskind's role at UDM
Fr. Hipskind joined UDM this past fall as the director of Service Learning in the Institute of Leadership and Service. His primary role is to help faculty identify service opportunities for their students that enhance the learning objectives for a particular course. For example, in BUS 3190 Business and Society, the faculty member might want students to have the experience of working directly with someone in need so that they can identify some societal issues that were affecting people and determine what could be done to help those people. Fr. Hipskind tries to help the faculty member identify agencies where the students would have that direct contact. He also does presentations at the beginning of each service learning course to orient students to what they will be doing. His office helps track the students to be sure they are performing the service. His office also provides assistance to teachers so that there is a reflection component in the course, as well as ongoing assessment of the impact on students. In addition, Fr. Hipskind is part of an advisory team that oversees Campus Kitchen at UDM, a student-run operation that provides meals to underprivileged communities near campus.