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After suffering a fall, Arbutus priest gets uplifting support from his congregation

The Rev. Conan Timoney, leader of Patronage of the Mother of God Church in Arbutus, uses a wheelchair after suffering a spine injury. He expects to make a full recovery.
The Rev. Conan Timoney, leader of Patronage of the Mother of God Church in Arbutus, uses a wheelchair after suffering a spine injury. He expects to make a full recovery. (Staff photo by Jon Bleiweis)

When the Rev. Conan Timoney had an elevator installed at Patronage of the Mother of God Church in Arbutus 24 years ago, he wasn't thinking about using it himself.

"Far from it," he said. "When you're young, you're invincible."

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Fast forward to 2017, months after suffering a spinal cord injury after a September fall, Timoney, 78, who is in a wheelchair, relies on the lift to make his way from the building's basement entrance to its sanctuary to perform weekly services.

To get to that elevator, parishioners push him from his home on Stevens Avenue, around the corner and along Highview Road to the church and help him go up one step to the altar, where he leads services.

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The parishioners had a motorized lift installed at his home to take him from his front porch to his driveway.

He resumed delivering Sunday morning liturgies in January, after three months of rehabilitation.

Many churches in southwest Baltimore County are finding ways to strike a balance between older and younger members in attempts to keep the churches viable into the future.

The parish, a Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic church, started in 1966 and moved to its current location in 1973. It was renovated in 1993, when an elevator was added.

The acts of kindness are just a few that his followers, which has about 180 families, have done to help him since the fall.

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Among them is Linda Russell, a 62-year-old Hanover resident who has attended the church for 30 years.

She made a visitation schedule so familiar faces would see him three times a day daily while he was in rehabilitation.

"There's very much a sense of community and family and a lot of that is definitely due to him and the person he is," she said. "A family supports each other, so that's what we've been doing."

The parishioners also took the lead for organizing the church's Slavic Food Festivals, a more than 40-year tradition at the church that features ethnic foods such as stuffed cabbage and pierogies.

The twice-a-year festival is the church's biggest outreach endeavor and raises about $12,000 a year for maintenance, he said.

Timoney would drive to Pennsylvania to pick up food and prepare the kitchen and hall for the event.

Now, it's in the hands of his supporters. This is the second festival that has taken place since the fall — the other one happens around Thanksgiving, he said.

"It's putting faith and service into action," he said. "Everybody just took over the whole thing. I don't have any worries."

Once Timoney regains his strength, he looks forward to doing the tasks, himself, again.

A full recovery is expected, he said, as he continues to undergo physical therapy to regain strength in his arms and hands, and learn how to walk again.

Therapists suggested he get a motorized wheelchair during his recovery, but Timoney refused, insisting he get a manual one. He said he needs the exercise and activity to better his health.

"We're getting there," he said. "Little by little."



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