BRIDGEPORT—When asked what he plans to do in retirement, Michael Tintrup, who formally stepped down as Chief Operating Officer of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County on February 15, says, “I just don’t know, maybe take some time to breathe and discover the next part of my journey.” It’s an interesting thought from a man who has spent 40 years counseling others, helping them to make good decisions, and often guiding them through the darkest and most difficult passages in their lives.
As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Tintrup, 74, has been on hand to help lead Catholic Charities’ response to major traumatic events in the life of the diocese, including the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Hurricane Sandy, the sexual abuse crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.
In his many roles at Catholic Charities, Tintrup has been a compassionate, thoughtful and steady presence in the life of the diocese. He has brought a deep spirituality and desire to serve others to his work as a behavioral health counselor and administrator.
“Michael’s unique calming presence, grounded in his faith, has been a pillar for the Diocese of Bridgeport for almost 40 years.”
“I recently took a look at my resume, and I think I counted eight different positions in the agency which I have held over the past 39.5 years, and I realized that they’ve all been opportunities for me to provide service to and to accompany and encounter people in need and in pain,” he said. “When I came to Catholic Charities, I could not have selected a better environment, which would allow me to do the things I love to do—to be of service to others through my chosen profession as a clinical counselor and social worker.”
Catholic Charities’ executive director Mike Donoghue says that Tintrup’s experience and guidance have been invaluable to him since he took over the agency three years ago. “Michael has been the heart, soul, and conscience of Catholic Charities for nearly 40 years,” Donoghue said. “His calm demeanor, sound judgement, and steadfast focus on the agency’s mission have provided an outstanding example for all of our employees for nearly four decades. His steady hand, his focus on our clients as well as on the safety of our employees allowed us to keep all of our programs and services open during the unprecedented COVID pandemic and other crises.” Donoghue says it is impossible to count how many lives have been impacted positively by Michael Tintrup over the years.
“In Michael’s role as Director of Behavioral Health services, he has counseled many of our most vulnerable neighbors,” he said. “In addition, he has guided and supervised a whole generation of Catholic Charities social workers, clinicians, and case managers to improve the lives of so many. His impact on our community is immeasurable.”
Diocesan Chief Legal Counsel and Real Estate Officer Anne McCrory, who serves as president of the Catholic Charities board, said Tintrup has been a constant voice of compassion and discernment. “Michael’s unique calming presence, grounded in his faith, has been a pillar for the Diocese of Bridgeport for almost 40 years,” she said. “The extraordinary depth of his skills and talents, buoyed by his dedication and compassion, will certainly leave a legacy that will endure.”
McCrory noted that among his many roles, Tintrup has served as the diocesan clergy counselor, “helping our priests navigate some of the most sensitive and difficult issues in their ministry. The diocese owes Michael a tremendous debt for this challenging but critical work.” She also recalls that he “has been there time and time again for our students and school staff in the wake of difficulties and tragedies. In particular, I remember Michael’s constant presence at St. Rose of Lima after the Sandy Hook murders. He spent days simply being there for the students and their families as they faced the unimaginable in their midst.”
Tintrup recalls standing in front of St. Rose of Lima Parish, where hundreds had gathered to seek healing and answers. Many came forward to place flowers and stuffed animals on the make-shift memorial, and they just had a need to talk. “A number of times people asked to step back into the church to continue the discussion,” he said. “I let them speak their pain. There was no simple ‘fixing’ all the horror and uncertainty. The core meaning of therapy is ‘help.’ My goal was simply to be present, to let people engage with their own distress and to feel respected and to hear what they had to say.”
“When I came to Catholic Charities, I could not have selected a better environment, which would allow me to do the things I love to do—to be of service to others through my chosen profession as a clinical counselor and social worker.”
Tintrup, who was born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and grew up in New Rochelle and Mamaroneck, credits his mother’s deep faith for helping to form his spirituality and leading him to a life of service. He earned his master’s in social work from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service in 1974, He joined Catholic Charities of Fairfield County in 1983.
One of his first assignments was to serve as a Medical Social Worker to the homebound and elderly in association with the Visiting Nurse Services. It changed his life.
“Over the course of the four and a half years in that position, I had the opportunity to be involved in the hospice program for the terminally ill,” Tintrup said. “It was very humbling and changed me in a number of ways. It taught me patience and respect. I was a young man then, but I realize that some of the patients then were the age I am now. It was a transformative experience to walk with them at the end of their life’s journey, to listen to their narratives about their joys or regrets and choices that shaped their lives, and, if possible, to bring them some measure of peace and companionship.”
When the clergy sexual abuse crisis broke in the diocese in 2001, Tintrup was called on to lead an emergency response team that went out to parishes where a priest had been removed pending an investigation. “It was a very difficult experience, challenging to us on the team as we ushered in these difficult topics,” he said. “It was chaotic and painful for all concerned, but I was grateful to be part of that healing effort during one of our darkest moments.”
He says that his experience working with survivors of sexual abuse as a counselor and member of the Healing Committee has been a gift to him because of the generosity and compassion of group members and survivors, who have courageously shared their own stories and worked to support awareness and prevention programs.
Among his many achievements, Tintrup is proud to have on-boarded the agency’s first supported housing program, serving HIV/AIDS-involved families, and he’s grateful that Bishop Egan and Bishop Lori fully supported the effort. He’s also pleased to have played a key role in designing the agency’s Performance and Quality Improvement matrix, and the development of its behavioral health services platforms.
Looking back over the traumatic events in Sandy Hook, the acts of terror that took so many lives on September 11, and the homelessness caused by Hurricane Sandy, he is amazed by the resiliency of so many who suffer sudden and profound loss.
“How do you make sense of life again, or even get up the next morning?” he said. “I know people are forever changed by these tragedies, but I’ve discovered that many have a wellspring of faith and strength which often can help them begin to claw their way back to life again.
Tintrup says he’s not sure that he made a dramatic difference in anyone’s life, but he feels blessed to have had the opportunity to play some part in the healing process.
“It was an opportunity to encounter people at the time of their greatest vulnerability and pain and then to witness my Christian faith and Christ’s love in a quiet way,” he said. “I wanted them to know there were people who cared and wanted to be available to them—a resource at a time when they felt most lost or alone.”
He’s also grateful for his early mentors: Brian Cronin, Ed Laskowski, and the late John Mahoney, along with the recently retired Al Barber who led Catholic Charities until 2020, and Donoghue who has brought great servant leadership, vision, and faith to the post. “And I would be remiss not to express my deep appreciation to my dear bride, Jan, whose steadfast love, support and guidance have helped me navigate life’s roughest waters.”
A self-described “pack rat,” Tintrup has been “taking a trip down memory lane” as he clears out his office of mementos and recollections of the profound and ordinary moments of his 40 years at Catholic Charities. It leaves him with a deep sense of gratitude.
“I have been blessed to get up in the morning feeling good about going into work and to be in a place that supported and honored my desire to give service and gave me a living working with people who shared that commitment. I feel graced and blessed for the opportunity,” Tintrup, who was presented the St. Augustine Medal of Service by Bishop Caggiano in October 2022, said. “As much as I have given over these four decades, I assure you I have received tenfold in return.”
Catholic Charities provides food, housing, mental health, adoption immigration and family support services to individuals and families of all faiths throughout Fairfield County. To make an online gift in Michael Tintrup’s honor, visit www.ccfairfield.org/donate
(For more information on Catholic Charities, call 203-416-1503)
MICHAEL TINTRUP (center), was congratulated by Catholic Charites Executive Director Mike Donghue and Bishop Caggiano when he received the St. Augustine Medal of Service in October, 2022.