Timothy Shea Valentine was born on 30 June 1959 in Amityville, New York. He was the middle of seven children of Joseph Valentine, a high school math teacher, and Theresa, a nurse. After high school, he attended Cathedral College Seminary, and afterwards, the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY. He was ordained in 1985 for the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, and served as a curate at Corpus Christi Church in Mineola for three years. He entered the novitiate for the New York Province of the Society of Jesus in 1988; after vows, he studied music at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City. His regency was spent at Canisius College in Buffalo, where he served as campus minister and teacher of religious studies, and then studied for the STL at Weston School of the Theology in Cambridge, MA. He then returned to Columbia University, where he received a Ph.D. from the philosophy faculty in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He taught philosophy of education at Fordham University for the next three years. After the events of 9/11, he entered the U.S. Army and served for the next eleven years as a priest chaplain.