With a ready smile and a laugh that often punctuates his conversations, Fr. Tim Lenchak, SVD, the eighth president in Divine Word College history, is settling into life at the Epworth campus.
"There are a lot of good things happening here," Fr. Tim said. "Basically, we want to keep moving ahead. We have to keep evaluating, assessing and trying to improve."
He succeeds Fr. Mike Hutchins, SVD, who has moved on to new duties with the Divine Word Mission Center and has been assigned to Divine Word Farms—Iowa, in Weldon, Iowa, 40 miles south of Des Moines.
A look at Fr. Tim’s life experience and service to the SVD shows that he is well suited to lead DWC. Not only is he a graduate of DWC, but over the course of his career he has done vocation work, taught at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago, traveled the world and worked within the highest levels of the Society of the Divine Word in Rome.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Fr. Tim was drawn to the life of a missionary at an early age after reading the story of Saint Damien, a priest who worked among the lepers of the island of Molokai, Hawaii. He enrolled in the SVD minor seminary at Girard, Pennsylvania, entered DWC in 1967 and graduated the same year as Fr. Mike, in 1971. After taking his final vows in 1975, he worked in the SVD vocation office at East Troy, Wisconsin and for a time here at Epworth. In the early 1980s, he studied at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, which led him into academic life, teaching in Ghana. He returned to Rome to earn his doctorate at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and returned to the United States to teach at CTU.
In 1998, he was recruited by the SVD Generalate in Rome to handle two jobs: Director of the Biblical Pastoral Center at Nemi—a retreat center for religious and laypersons outside of Rome; and as Biblical Coordinator for the Generalate. In 2002, he was able to dedicate his time to being Biblical Coordinator, which took him all over the world. In 2004, he was asked to be Rector of the SVD House in Rome, which was home to the Superior General and his staff as well as SVDs from around the world.
"You usually have a minimum of 70 and a maximum of 80 in the house at any one time," Fr. Tim said. "Traditionally, we were from 17-18 nations."
He was approached about the presidency of DWC in 2007 and agreed to the change in 2009.
After a sabbatical, he arrived here on May 12 and officially took office on June 1. As he gets a handle on his administrative duties, one thing is certain: the multicultural make-up of DWC is not foreign to him.
"I’ve been to more countries than to states in the US—at least 30 countries," he said. "I have dealt with people from all kinds of cultures."