BRIGHT — During his growing up years, long before The Rev. Aaron Jenkins’ spiritual journey led him to assume leadership in Greenfield, he felt God might be calling him to be a pastor.
The soon-to-be new priest of St. Michael Catholic Church remembers that, as a child growing up in Rush County, he and his family were regulars at Zion United Church of Christ in Shelbyville. Later, he became a college student at Anderson University, a Church of God-affiliated school.
He said during those years he fell away from faith. Some life experiences helped bring him back, though, and he thought long and hard about various expressions of the Christian faith and which church he should join.
During this season of consideration, he was working with a stained-glass artist who was Catholic. Jenkins talked with him and with some cousins who are also Catholic.
“I really believed this was it,” he said.
During his senior year of college, he entered the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, the series of classes for adults who choose to join the Catholic Church, at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Anderson.
After college, Jenkins became an elementary school art teacher in the Washington, D.C., area. But thoughts of being a pastor stayed with him. Eventually, he entered St. Meinrad School of Theology to further explore if the priesthood was God’s calling for him.
“I think I finally reached that moment a couple years in,” he said.
Jenkins was ordained in June 2008. Seven years later, Jenkins has come to Greenfield as the new priest of St. Michael Catholic Church, where he officially assumes his duties at noon Wednesday.
That’s the same time that his successor assumes duties at St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross in Bright, the church Jenkins has served for four years. It’s a newer congregation, less than 20 years old, that meets in a worship space not originally built to be a church. Kim Sprague, who coordinates religious education and youth ministry for the parish, remembers that one of her early conversations with Jenkins was about the best use of the building for its various ministry functions.
“His fresh perspective and ability to look at the big picture brought some new ideas,” Sprague wrote in an email. “He was open to conversation and suggestions, which I appreciated, and the final changes in how to best utilize office and meeting space were very effective for parish life, ministry and staff.”
Sprague said Jenkins is a wonderful shepherd and encouraged St. Michael parishioners to get to know him beyond Mass attendance, describing him as a person of wisdom, wit and humor.
She also described ways in which he helped deepen the spiritual lives of people in the parish at Bright, citing Bible study groups and other faith formation efforts he helped establish and other ways he challenged them to deeper devotion.
“His encouragement for everyone in the parish to live through the scriptures was truly transforming,” she wrote. “You could tell that he read and prayed the scriptures and spent a lot of time preparing his homilies, but he also reflected on them in how he lived his vocation.”
The parish in Bright said farewell to Jenkins on June 14 at a pitch-in after Masses.
“This is the longest place I’ve ever lived (since school),” he said. “There are good people here.”
Still, he said he’d had time to prepare himself for the possibility of moving. He realized after the Rev. Bill Stumpf was chosen for a job with the Indianapolis Archdiocese, creating a vacancy at St. Michael, that it was possible he would be selected for the job.
The two once worked together in the past; in 2007, when Stumpf served St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Parish in Bloomington, Jenkins ministered there during the summer.
And being from Rushville, “Greenfield is not unfamiliar to me,” he said. It places him between his parents in Rushville and his sister in Noblesville. More importantly, “I trust God is guiding me to this place,” he said.
He’s excited to serve a parish with a school. In the years right after he was ordained, he was a chaplain for Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School. Other roles he juggled at various times from 2008-11, before he went to Bright, included being an associate pastor at Holy Name of Jesus in Beech Grove, a chaplain for Indianapolis Fire Department, associate director of vocations for the Indianapolis archdiocese and sacramental minister for a handful of churches.
In addition to leading the St. Michael parish, he will serve as a chaplain coordinator at Scecina.
While art continues to be a passion of his, Jenkins also enjoys fly fishing and hunting, including dove hunting and archery hunting for deer.
“It’s just kind of nice to be out there” in nature, he said. He estimates half of these excursions are solo outings, but other times he goes with his father or with fellow priests.
“He’s a person of many interests, varied interests,” said Deacon Wayne Davis at St. Michael. “I think he’ll relate very well to our young people.
“I think there’s a lot of excitement in the parish.”
Before he assumes his duties at St. Michael, Jenkins has been on a previously planned trip to Ireland. A time to relax, see sites of interest to his faith.
“You can’t go to Ireland and it not be infused with Catholicism,” he said in an interview before the trip. He anticipated seeing the Book of Kells, a Marian shrine and other sites. At the same time, “it provides a nice little retreat in between – space and time to pray.”
After that, it’s time to “get there and get to know the community and see where it’s at,” he said.
“I just want to give people beautiful Mass and help them see God.”