Chicago — Relatives of the Roman Catholic missionary who was abducted today in Beirut, Lebanon, say the priest has regularly risked his life during his 10 years overseas and he accepted the chance he would be killed.
“He knew what he was getting into and that it wasn’t an easy assignment,” the brother of the Rev. Lawrence Martin Jenco said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning from Joliet.
The interview came only hours after the priest, head of Catholic Relief Services in west Beirut, was abducted by eight unidentified assailants as he was on his way to work.
“When he first went there (to Beirut) in October of last year, he was living in a bunker, because the place where he was supposed to have stayed had already been bombed,’’ said the brother, John F. Jenco, 51, a retired railroad computer supervisor.
“He always said that if he were to die, he’d like to die as a missionary,” the brother added. ‘I hope that isn’t the truth, but if that’s the way it’s to be, I guess God knows best.”
The priest has worked for Catholic Relief Services in “trouble spots around the world,” said the brother. His first post as a missionary was in Madras, India, in 1975, and since then he has been to Thailand and North Yemen.
“His life was in jeopardy most of the time there (in Yemen)’ the brother said. ‘‘He would say when he was home between stints that he could look out his window and see the rockets’ red glare between the two sides’ bombing each other.”
Also, in Yemen, Mass had to be celebrated in secret, according to the priest’s nephew, John M. Jenco, 26, of Chicago. The nephew said he last saw his uncle when the priest returned to his hometown of Joliet in August to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his priesthood.
“Most family members did express a great deal of concern as far as his going to Beirut,” the nephew said in a telephone interview.
“But that was the nature of his lifestyle,” the nephew said. “I only pray to God that he comes out of this alive. I don’t know who’s responsible. I just hope they see fit to spare his life.”
The priest’s brother said Catholic Relief Services provides food and helps find housing for the poor, as well as establishes and rebuilds hospitals.
Article extracted from this publication >> January 18, 1985