Erika Barron
Advertising Account Executive
September 1, 2022 // Diocese

Called by Christ and a Pope to 40-year Priesthood

Erika Barron
Advertising Account Executive

Father Eloy Jimenez

Father Eloy Jiménez’s call to the priesthood did not begin in a dramatic and life-altering way like his spiritual hero St. Paul. It began at his home in Mexico, surrounded by family who had a deep love of serving their parish and fostering the desire in him to do the same. With a routine of daily prayers in school, the rosary, and altar serving, he began to hear the call to priesthood, and is celebrating 40 years in that vocation this year.

By age 11, Father Jiménez began studying theology and philosophy at the minor seminary in the Diocese of Tacámbaro. After his second year in the major seminary, he decided it was time for a year of discernment, as he was not completely sure if the journey toward priesthood was the route he wanted to take. He worked for the diocesan newspaper in Tacámbaro, where in 1979 he was sent to report on Pope John Paul II’s first visit to Mexico in Guadalajara. Here his direction would be revealed to him. In a meeting with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II said to Father Jiménez, “You are being called by Christ to become a priest.” 

This became one of the most important moments of his life. Father Jiménez knew he had to return to the seminary to finish his studies. This would not be last time Pope John Paul II and Father Jiménez would cross paths. In May of 1982, Father Jiménez was ordained as a priest in Rome by the same pope who called him to his vocation. “When he laid his hands on my head, I felt the weight; they felt so heavy, and in that moment, I said, ‘God I give my life completely to You,’” he recalled with great emotion. 

For a time, God called him to serve at several parishes in his diocese, but he would soon be sent to work with the indigenous tribes of the Chihuahua region. During this time, he baptized and initiated around 800 adults into the Catholic faith. While living among the native people, he shared in their customs and traditions. Finding food was one important task, for the people of this region were very poor and food was hard to come by, sometimes resulting in a six-hour drive to the nearest city where food could be purchased for the people. 

“I saw God in them; I was very happy there,” he recalled. Soon after, he was sent to study at Columbia University in New York for two years. He returned to his diocese where he was named Business Manager for both the major and minor seminaries. Father Jiménez reflected on his time there. “At the time, there were 120 seminarians. It was a very interesting experience.” 

Later, he would return to parish life, sparking the joy that can only come from the love of the community. In Mexico, priests are an integral part of the community’s daily lives, not merely someone seen only on Sunday. On top of their normal priestly duties, they help to provide for the daily needs of their flock. Father Jiménez began working amongst his parishioners, building houses and repairing roads. In small communities without a larger church, he built eight chapels. Father Jiménez greatly enjoyed working with his hands and helping to provide for his community. 

Moved by the growing number of Mexican people immigrating to America to seek a new life, Father Jiménez reached out to Bishop John M. D’Arcy to ask if he could come serve those within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and was welcomed with open arms. “I came here thinking about the experience of the people who move to America, leaving everything to seek a better life,” he said, and even after some discouraging words from his friends, he knew this is where God was leading him.

“They warned me I would be treated like a number, not as a person, but at least three times going through immigration, the officers have told me, ‘Thank you Father, thank you for coming to America and for being a priest,’” he recollects. 

His first assignment was at St. Patrick Parish in Fort Wayne, followed by seven years at St. Michael Parish in Plymouth, three years in Goshen at St. John the Evangelist, and currently serves at St. Vincent de Paul in Elkhart. His heart is always moved by his parishioners and their gratitude for his and his fellow priests’ work. Father Jiménez especially enjoys hearing confessions at the parish – “seeing the human being in all of their faults and appealing to the mercy of God, knowing He will make them whole again.” 

The bishop greets the students and adults attending Mass at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Elkhart on the feast day of its patron, Sept. 27, in 2019. From left are pastor Father Matthew Coonan, Bishop Rhoades and parochial vicar Father Eloy Jimenez. — Photos by Denise Fedorow

Known also for his inspiring homilies, Father Jiménez is often approached by parishioners thanking him for his words, which have helped them amend their lives. Father Jiménez reflects, “It doesn’t matter which parish I go to; they welcome me, appreciate, and pray for me.”   

After 40 years of a vocation centered around love of Christ, Father Jiménez has a multitude of advice for young men discerning the priesthood. “Be generous with God, with the Church, and with yourself. Participate in the sacraments and listen closely for the call of the Holy Spirit.” 

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