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Kidnapped Priest Sends Letter To Relatives In Joliet

March 2, 1985

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) _ A Roman Catholic priest kidnapped almost two months ago in Beirut, Lebanon, has sent relatives his first letter since his abduction, family members said Saturday.

The letter from the Rev. Lawrence Martin Jenco was postmarked Feb. 19 from Beirut, John Mihelich, a nephew of the Rev. Lawrence Martin Jenco, said in a statement.

″The letter was in his own handwriting, and it has given the family a great deal of hope that he is alive,″ said Mihelich.

The letter, addressed to the whole family, arrived Friday at the home of Jenco’s sister, Verna Mae Mihelich, John Mihelich said.

A report on Chicago radio station WBBM said family members believe the letter to be authentic, having compared its handwriting with the priest’s bank statements.

Jenco’s family notified the State Department and officials of Catholic Relief Services, whose Beirut unit Jenco headed when he was abducted by gunmen Jan. 8, WBBM reported.

Mihelich said the family would release no additional information about the letter at this time but might later.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Kathleen Lang said, ″I can confirm that they did receive a letter which they have verified as coming from him.

″We’re happy with the evidence that he’s alive,″ she added, but refused to comment further on the letter’s contents.

Jenco, 50, originally from Joliet, had been a missionary for 10 years and took the assignment as head of Catholic Relief Services in Beirut last October. He was abducted by eight gunmen who overtook his chauffeur-driven car.

He is one of four American hostages remaining in Lebanon. A fifth, journalist Jeremy Levin, escaped his captors nearly a month ago after having been held since last March.

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