Fr. Alan Jenkins, SVD
Fr. Alan Jenkins, SVD, was born in Chicago in 1947, and raised in Palm Desert, CA. He attended the Divine Word Missionary Seminary at Riverside, and graduated from Divine Word College in Epworth, IA in 1969. After his ordination in 1973, Fr. Jenkins was sent to Mexico. He has spent 32 years in missionary service in various places there, firmly entrenched in his love of parish work and the development of small faith communities. Now back in the US at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in San Bernardino, CA, Fr. Jenkins is awaiting his next official assignment, in July of 2007.
“My English is getting better and at the same time my Spanish is a real plus to help me serve the Hispanic community,” says Fr. Alan Jenkins, SVD, newly transplanted back to California after his years in Mexico. “The parish here in San Bernardino, Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral, is ethnically mixed, about half Anglo and half Hispanic.”
“It wasn’t easy to leave Mexico City when my superiors asked me to return home this year and help with parish ministry,” says Fr. Alan. In 2005, he’d been assigned to the parish there, continuing his lifetime of work with small faith communities, which is his first love as a pastor. “The people in Mexico City received me with open arms,” he adds.
In 1974, when Fr. Alan was 27, his first assignment was as an assistant in a rural parish in the state of Hidalgo. “Fortunately,” he says, “there was a parish team that included a German pastor with a wide range of experience, and a group of Mexican sisters who helped introduce me to Mexican culture and its religion traditions.”
After five years, Fr. Alan was sent to Oaxaca in the southern part of Mexico, to an inner-city parish that was growing rapidly, with people coming from small rural villages to find work in the city. Together, he and a Philippine priest that he worked with decided to form small faith communities, which, in turn, would help to strengthen the larger parish community. Fr. Alan says, “I discovered the joy of working with poor but dedicated people who slowly began to realize that they were the Church! They became committed to forming a community of faith and service.”
After 16 years in Mexico, Fr. Alan was sent to the state of Chiapas in 1990. Here he worked in a parish comprised mainly of indigenous or Indian people. “Although very poor,” he says, “my parishioners enriched me with their culture and strong community spirit. I worked side-by-side with a Deacon who helped me with the Indian language and instructed me in the values and lifestyle of his people.” During this time, Chiapas experienced a period of social unrest, and the parish opened its doors to several groups of refugees who were forced to leave their villages because of political or religious beliefs.
Due to health reasons, Fr. Alan had to leave Chiapas in 1997, and spent some years in Guadalajara at the college seminary, where he “kept up the buildings and kept food on the table.” But he never lost his love for parish work, and while there, he helped out in two parishes on Sundays. Finally, Fr. Alan was asked to return to parish work full-time and was assigned to the parish in Mexico City, back at last among his small faith communities and pastoral work.
But the missionary life of service is also one of obedience, and now that Fr. Alan finds himself back in the US, he is using his gifts of cultural experience and language skills in the new parish, as he awaits official assignment.
What’s next for Fr. Alan? He’s not sure, but for now, he says: “The people here at Our Lady of the Rosary have really been supportive, and I feel blessed to be here and hope to be able to serve them faithfully and adequately.”