Father Thomas J. Tierney, SJ, died December 7, 2016, in Opelousas, Louisiana. He was 92 years old, a Jesuit for 65 years and a priest for 54 years. Visitation will be 9:30 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 17, at St. Charles College Chapel in Grand Coteau, La. The funeral Mass will follow at 10:00 a.m. Burial will be in the Jesuit Cemetery at St. Charles College immediately after the funeral.
Born in Aitkin, Minn., November 13, 1924, Thomas was one of six children of James L. and Mary Ellen McLaughlin Tierney. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, John Francis Tierney, and sisters Maureen Tierney, Ruth Vesey, Catherine Ward and Margaret Forrest.
Following high school graduation, he entered the U.S. Army to serve in the Pacific theater during World War II. After military service, he attended various colleges in California, including Loyola University in Los Angeles, before landing in 1950 at Loyola University in New Orleans. It was there that he first encountered the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province. He entered the Society on August 14, 1951 at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, La. He studied humanities in Grand Coteau and philosophy at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., earning a Bachelor of Arts in sociology (1957). His theology Master’s was from the University of San Francisco.
He was ordained to the priesthood June 13, 1962, at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood, Calif. and pronounced final vows August 15, 1965 in Shreveport, La.
Following ordination, Fr. Tierney worked for one year as a counselor at Jesuit High School in New Orleans (1962-63) and for two years as a teacher at Jesuit High in Shreveport. He then spent ten years working in parishes, including service as assistant pastor at the Gesù Church in Miami, Sacred Heart Church in Tampa, Fla. and Our Lady of Guadalupe in San Antonio, Texas. In 1977, he completed Clinical-Pastoral Training at St. Elizabeth’s, a large psychiatric hospital in Washington, DC. This proved to be a turning point in his ministry. He would spend the next 31 years (1977-2008) as a chaplain at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Hot Springs, South Dakota. When he retired from chaplaincy, he remained active as long as he could, living at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Hot Springs and assisting with pastoral ministry there. In 2013, he moved to the Jesuit senior care community in Grand Coteau.
Fr. Tierney had a special interest in working with incarcerated patients who suffered mental health problems. These patients presented unique challenges and he became adept at approaching particularly difficult cases. He showed a genuine concern for those in need along with a thoughtful and generous nature. He had a warm and compassionate heart which made him a perfect chaplain. He studied psychology so that he had a solid background to deal with the many patients who suffered from mental and emotional as well as physical problems. He constantly offered them a message of hope and God’s mercy. When his health dictated that he move to the St. Alphonsus Rodríguez Pavilion, he brought with him that same positive spirit.
We remember with gratitude all that God has done through Fr. Tierney's life of service to God and God's people.