A Christmas Message to Our Glenmary Partners

 

Like many of you, I cherish memories from past Christmases—those from my childhood, yes. But since I have lived at Glenmary headquarters in Cincinnati, I reflect on Christmas in the missions, too.

I  also enjoy hearing stories from other missioners about their special memories. During his first Christmas in Blakely, Ga., Brother Jason Muhlenkamp had a touching experience. He gave the gift of his presence by assisting a woman in desperate need of help, but also just by listening to her story.

Blakely is a small, poor town in south Georgia. It is the seat of Early County and includes a large number of people with no church affiliation. In other words, when Glenmary was asked to serve Blakely’s Holy Family mission, it was a perfect fit!

This past December, Brother Jason hadn’t been living in Blakely long and he was looking forward to learning about the Christmas customs and traditions of Glenmary’s Holy Family mission. The mission pastor Father John Brown had placed a bench near the Nativity scene on the parish lawn. The bench was an unspoken invitation for people to sit a while, pray, and reflect on the miracle of Christmas.

When Brother Jason answered a knock on the door a few days before Christmas last year, he met a woman he didn’t know (I’ll call her “Anna”) who was requesting help with an overdue light bill.

Anna had three children and their dad was in prison. She told Brother Jason she felt overwhelmed with the realities of life. The light bill was one of several overdue bills, and she was also lamenting the fact that it would be a bleak Christmas for her children.

After hearing about her situation, Jason invited Anna to join him on the bench near the Nativity scene. Through tears, she shared more of her story. As they shared a prayer, they asked for strength for her family. They asked for blessings for Anna’s children. They asked for the wisdom she needed to see her way through. It was a powerful experience, one that helped Brother Jason focus on the reasons he feels blessed by his vocation as a missionary brother.

Then they went back to the parish office, where he gave her a check for her light bill as well as a few Christmas gifts for the kids.    

Since then Brother Jason has seen Anna in Blakely, but she hasn’t asked for additional assistance. That is a good sign, he said, one that tells him she has been able to manage her bills. Other than the help available at Holy Family mission, there are few places for local residents to turn.

If not for the support of our generous donors, there would be even fewer resources.

It is difficult for people like Anna and her kids to live in what we call “a land of plenty” when their own resources are so scarce. Brother Jason reflected on that fact as he listened to Anna’s story. He knew that paying her light bill and giving her a few gifts wouldn’t solve her problems. But he was happy that he was able to relieve some of Anna’s pressure for a short time, anyway. He was grateful to Glenmary donors for making it possible to share a little bit of the miracle of Christmas with a family in need.

I hope you will make a gift to Glenmary so that the next time a missioner like Brother Jason opens the door to a family in need, that missioner will be able to say, “Come in and tell me your story. I can help.”

I pray that you and your family will have a blessed Christmas, and I ask that you remember Glenmary—and especially the people we serve—in your prayers.