Father Allan Eilen finds his vocation
The first seeds of vocation were planted when he was a young child growing up in Delano, Minn., but the growing took more than 40 years for the Rev. Allan Eilen, newly ordained priest and soon to be associate pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church.
For more than 20 years, Eilen had a career in the courier system, eventually becoming manager of the courier system for HealthEast Care System. But on May 30, his ordination cemented what his life is all about.
"A vocation is who you are," he said. "A career is what you do."
Usually, people know who they are before they decide what to do. Eilen has done it in reverse.
"Often we are defined by what we do," he said. He remembers when he was in elementary school in Delano, he and his older brother, Michael, would "play act" Mass, with Michael having the role of priest.
"We consumed a lot of grape juice and bread," Eilen said. "My brother was more reverent than me."
Ironically, his brother would attend the seminary for three years, but decide against being a priest. Today Michael Eilen is married with six children. For Allan Eilen, the growing would continue for many more years.
He attended and graduated from the University of St. Thomas, earning a bachelor's degree in biology. He considered going into the medical field, but decided to start to pay off his student loans. He took a job as a medical courier.
He traveled between different clinics and hospitals in the area, delivering lab reports, X-rays, and medical supplies. In 1985 he went to work for Henkel Corp, a chemical company. He stayed a year.
During that period, he was also a part-time driver for the courier company. He was also offered a lab position at St. John's Hospital.
In the late 1980's, six hospitals in the Twin Cities area merged to become HealthEast. Eilen became the manager of its courier system, a position he held until 2003.
In the mid 1980s, the issue of his faith began to become more focused, more part of who he was, and who he would become.
As he attended a mid-day Mass one day, the sacrament of confession and reconciliation took on a new meaning for him.
"It was like a weight was taken from my shoulders," Eilen said. "It's a beautiful sacrament and a welcoming one."
He prayed the rosary more often, attended Mass more than just on Sundays, attended different retreats. And he was asked more than once by people if he had considered being a priest. He was not ready.
In the 1990s, Eilen was listening more to his heart and what God was telling him. He became more open to the idea of entering the seminary.
But there was a complication. Eilen had met a young woman at Mass and they became close, eventually becoming engaged.
"But there was something missing in the relationship," he said. The peace he believed he should have as he considered marriage was not there. Still, he did nothing to resolve the feeling.
As Eilen now knows, God was speaking to him, but he was not ready to listen. It would take several more years, more discussions with church people.
"There was more and more realization," he said. "When you get beat up enough, all you need is Jesus Christ."
By the summer of 2003, he knew what he wanted his vocation to be.
He applied for and was accepted at the St. Paul Seminary. Six years later, he was ordained - May 30. Three days earlier, he had received his appointment to Seton Church. The appointment was a surprise, but readily accepted. Archbishop John Nienstadt had recommended Seton's current associate pastor Rev. Abraham George to be the pastor at Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in Mound.
"The Lord had put me where he wanted me," Eilen said. "He considered my gifts and matched me with this parish. We will grow together."
Seton pastor, the Rev. James Perkl, said Eilen will do the church's sacramental work, continue the work that George began, including the charity and justice, the missionary effort under way with Kitui, Africa.
"He will learn all what it is to become a priest," Perkl said. "He will live his vocation."