Before members of the college community, visiting dignitaries and the honored presence of The Most Reverend Jerome Hanus, OSB, Archbishop of Dubuque, Fr. Tim Lenchak, SVD was inaugurated the eighth president in DWC history, on Friday, September 30, in the Main Chapel.
“It gives me great joy to be here on this occasion for the inauguration of our new president,” Archbishop Hanus said. “We feel that Divine Word College Seminary is one of the jewels of this local church—the Archdiocese of Dubuque. We’re very proud of it. “
Though his term in office technically began June 1, this ceremony officially installed Fr. Lenchak as president.
During his inaugural address, Fr. Lenchak recounted an eye-opening experience he had as a student in the college chemistry lab. He had worked fourteen hours on an experiment. Near the end, he failed to keep the chemical mixture open as it heated. Gas building up led to an explosion, wiping out all his work.
“That failed chemistry experiment of 1970 taught me a life-long lesson: it’s absolutely important to remain open to the world around me,” he said. “I believe that a good education, especially a good Catholic education, requires openness: openness to the world of ideas, openness to diversity, openness to other points of view, and openness to the challenges which others bring us.”
An Old Testament scholar, over the course of his career Fr. Lenchak has done vocation work, taught at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago, worked within in the highest levels of the SVD in Rome and traveled the world.
Born in 1948 in Cleveland, Ohio, Fr. Tim was drawn to missionary life after reading about St. Damien of Molokai. After attending a minor seminary, he enrolled in DWC in 1967 and took his final vows in 1975. He then worked in the SVD vocation office at East Troy, Wisconsin. In the early 1980s, he traveled to Rome to study at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, which led him to a teaching position in Ghana.
He would later earn his doctorate at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Then it was on to the U.S. to teach at CTU. In 1998 he went back to Italy to direct a biblical pastoral center at Nemi (25 miles from Rome) and to serve as Biblical Coordinator for the SVD Generalate, a position that would take him all over the world. In 2004, he was named Rector of the SVD House in Rome. When he finished that assignment, he came back to his alma mater as president.
“Long ago I learned the importance of openness in a chemistry experiment,” Fr. Lenchak said at the conclusion of his inaugural address. “I believe that the mission of Divine Word College today is to help our students develop an openness to intellectual challenges, to intercultural dialogue, and to the movement of the Spirit in their lives.”