These days, Fr. Timothy can be seen only in the old photographs, sitting stoically with hands properly folded, draped in his black cassock. His camera-shy posture belies his daring spirit and gentle heart, which have had such a profound influence on the lives of so many.
Born Giuseppe Giaccardo on June 13th, 1896 in Cuneo, Italy, he was the eldest of five children. As a boy, the young Giuseppe had a great love for God, a devotion to the sacraments, and a Marian heart – three qualities that would define his entire life. He already knew he wanted to study for the priesthood when he met Fr. Alberione, a newly ordained priest who was helping at his parish. Fr. Alberione heard Giuseppe’s first confession, and was immediately struck by his sincere devotion. Learning that Giuseppe desired earnestly to become a priest, Fr. Alberione helped him get into the seminary. At the age of 12, young Giuseppe took his first bold move in trust, leaving his family’s farm to join the seminary in Alba.
Not long after, the young Fr. Alberione began to lay the groundwork for a congregation that God was inspiring him to found, to spread the Gospel to all men and women through the Good Press. Giuseppe, still a young seminarian, decided to make the risky move of transferring out of the diocesan seminary to continue his formation under Fr. Alberione’s budding order – risky because if the foundation of this new order were to fall through, so would Giuseppe’s dreams of ordination. But his trust was so firm that God was guiding this new family that he forged ahead. His trust was not misplaced. Taking the religious name Timothy, he made his vows in the Society of St. Paul, and was ordained as the very first Pauline priest on October 19, 1919.
From the very beginning, Fr. Timothy played a vital role in the Pauline family. He helped form the first Pauline boys in the Typographical School as a teacher; served the community as a priest; established the first house of the Society in Rome; mediated matters between Fr. Alberione and the Pope for the approval of the Congregation; served as vice-superior general and treasurer of the Society of St. Paul and director of the Motherhouse at Alba; kept the community steady and calm during the bombings and raids of WWII; and was a constant and faithful friend and father to all.
With both the Society of St. Paul and the Daughters of St. Paul thriving, Fr. Alberione decided to found a new congregation – the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master. Fr. Timothy was put in charge of gaining the order official Pontifical approval. But as he worked toward this, he began to feel ill. Numerous doctors were consulted, until finally he was diagnosed with leukemia. And by that point, there was nothing the doctors could do.
Fr. Timothy did not slow down his earnest efforts to gain approval for the Pious Disciples for as long as his health allowed. With his strength waning, Fr. Timothy celebrated his last mass the morning of January 12, 1948, offering his life for the approval of the new Congregation of sisters. That very same morning, news arrived from the Vatican that Pius XII had indeed approved the Sister Disciples.
The last 10 days of his life, Fr. Timothy seemed too weak to do or focus on much, but he confided to Fr. Alberione: “I continue to pray in my heart.”
Fr. Timothy passed away January 24, 1948 on the eve of the Conversion of St. Paul. Fr. Alberione, who had lost a great friend and spiritual son, said at his funeral mass: “Fr Timothy was called and truly was the Signor Maestro. He represented the Lord well: at the altar, in the confessional, on the pulpit, in conversations, at recreation, in relationships, in all the many offices he discharged and in his private life, he always represented the Lord well; he was another Christ...” (CISP 393)
Fr. Timothy Giaccardo was beatified by Pope John Paul II after a confirmed miracle in Japan – one of his own beloved Pious Disciples sisters, who was working as a missionary in Japan, was hospitalized with serious lung problems for which there were no good treatments at that time. Her sisters entreated the intercession of their beloved old advocate, Fr. Timothy. Sr. Luciana was cured overnight, a cure so inexplicable that it led not only to Fr. Timothy’s beatification, but also to the conversion of her doctor. Even from heaven, Fr. Timothy continues his mission to share Christ with all men and women.