This is the third in a series of profiles of HNP friars commemorating anniversaries of Franciscan profession in 2011. The last issue of HNP Today featured Michael Carnevale, OFM.
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Timothy Dauenhauer, OFM, of St. Patrick Friary is a brother in every sense of the word.
The 78-year-old affable friar, who is a brother, has spent the preponderance of his 50-year-ministry being a brother and a friend through the Big Brothers of America and Boys Club programs. He founded a teen center and had a building constructed next to the friary when he first came to minister in Buffalo 27 years ago.
“I’ve been working with underprivileged kids and fatherless children since 1970,” he said. He originally joined the Big Brothers program in New Jersey when he was stationed in Lafayette. “I’ve been with them over 40 years.”
Timothy has been in the program so long that he’s now a Big Brother to the children of parents, now in their 30s and 40s, who were in the program when they were young. He estimates having worked with more than 600 kids over the course of his ministry, and he welcomes visits from many of them. A blind man now with four children of his own visits Timothy every week, which the friar finds particularly rewarding.
Timothy, who is celebrating his golden jubilee as a friar in June, says the kids have kept him young at heart.
Over the years, he has dug into his own pocket to help disenfranchised teens get their driver’s licenses, save for college, go to trucking school and study for other vocations. One boy with whom he worked is now employed with the FBI. But for every success story, he said, there were heartbreaks, especially watching as some boys committed crimes and went to prison. “You can’t save them all,” he said.
Leading by Example
Although he has seen some very sad stories over the years — one family with six kids that had no food, only beer — he never pushed God or religion, but rather, led by example. “I tried to show them the example they should live by in the future,” he said. Some turned to God, some turned away.
Right now he said that he is “sort of retired,” but still enjoys taking the children and their families out to dinner at diners or fast-food restaurants. As founder and director of the Big Brothers center, he is on site every day and is thankful that it’s only a short walk across the parking lot from the friary. “I’m trying to get the friars to build a tunnel, so I don’t have to go outside,” he joked.
He continues to collect toys during the year to distribute at Christmas and through the friary food program. Taking advantage of sales and receiving donations from churches, Timothy estimates that he gathers roughly 3,000 new toys a year. “We have a mammoth room of them at the friary.” He buys mainly traditional toys and games.
Timothy is also a good fundraiser. He collects toys and money to buy gifts and raised funds to construct the Big Brothers building in addition to receiving assistance from the Province. “We ran ads in the newspaper and looked for donations … we raised the money.”
Perhaps working at St. Anthony’s Guild, the Province’s fundraising partner, from 1982 to 1984 helped give him the skills to ask for donations.
Hearing the Call
As Timothy looks back on his life, he remembers wanting to be a brother because he enjoyed working with people, especially kids and families. “I was not very good at preaching,” he said with a smile. The jubilarian said he felt called at the age of 25 to join the Order. “God called me for some reason,” he said, “and I’ve been here for 50 years.”
Although he didn’t immediately embrace religious life, he does remember a priest telling him when he was a young teenager to consider becoming a priest. “I didn’t think about it again until I was 25 years old.” When he returned from serving in the Navy during the Korean War and was studying under the GI Bill for the stationary engineering field, he felt called to the Church.
Because of having grown up in another Upstate New York city — Syracuse — Tim is accustomed to the cold and snowy winters in Buffalo. He said he was raised in a “good Catholic family,” going to Catholic grammar and high schools. The son of German immigrants, his parents John and Matilda took him to church and confession.
While working with kids is largely the same throughout his ministry, kids today, he said, have more pressures. “The main problem is the many things that kids see on TV. They see these things and think they can live like this. Hollywood does a lot of damage to these kids.”
Technology and high-tech toys and gadgets also influence kids today, he said. “There are so many things that they can get now that we couldn’t get as kids. They love this expensive technology. I don’t buy toys like that. They don’t get them from me.”
Lately, his ministry has focused on senior citizens, who come to the center every week for programs and socializing.
Grateful for his Ministry
Tim is most grateful for his ministry, and especially the Province, which he said, “got stuck with me and stuck by me.”
What friars were particularly inspirational or helpful over his career? “All the friars. Especially the friars that I’m stationed with who have always helped me out.”
He is skilled in the woodworking shop, making life-sized wooden cartoon characters that hang in the center and in the friary garden. He is also making a Christmas manger for the front porch of the friary.
Although fundraising is still important, he said it is becoming more difficult now since some of the old-time donors are passing away. In his heyday, he recalls having approximately 1,000 donors.
Whether he’s making a life-sized rooster, Foghorn Leghorn, from the Looney Tunes cartoon to decorate the Boys Club, or counseling a teen about life choices, Timothy continues to lead by example.
The photos accompanying this article originally appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of The Anthonian.
— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.