Retired Marine Colonel Now Supports Missions and Glenmary

Posted: 5/23/2014

Retired Col. Joh (Jack) GraceFor retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. John (Jack) Grace, 85, "missions" during his career were often operations with military-related objectives. But in retirement he's been dedicated to other kinds of missions—assisting the Church's mission efforts to serve people in need and share the Good News. In the process, he has learned about Glenmary's work and has become a financial supporter of its home mission ministry.

Jack, his wife Marie, and their six children moved to Virginia in 1976, two years before he retired, and joined St. Agnes Church in Arlington. They also soon became aware of the parish's unique mission support program.

In 1962, then-pastor Father J. Bernard Moore led the parish in a very successful tithing effort for its church-building campaign. And in 1965, he introduced the idea of weekly parish tithing for the missions, an idea that Jack says "later changed my life."

The pastor's message to parishioners was that "we should share our blessings with those not as fortunate" and that, with their support, 10 percent of each weekly collection in the future would be sent "to some mission in the world that is in great want."

After the parish endorsed the plan, a second weekly bulletin was created to profile each week's mission beneficiary. In addition, that mission was included in the week's Prayer of the Faithful, and the tithe was sent to the diocesan Propagation of the Faith office for the chosen mission.

As pastors changed, this tithing program has risen and faded, and the percentage of tithing has varied—but it has remained the parish's primary outreach effort during the last 49 years.

After the Grace family arrived in 1976, Jack became enthusiastic about the parish's mission support. He says it was "the beginning of my mission education." Then in 1985, when the pastor asked him to start helping review mission nominations as well as researching and writing the weekly mission bulletin, he gladly took on the job for the next 10 years. "I was inspired by the whole effort and especially the mission stories," says Jack. "And the more I learned about the missions, the more I wanted to help."

He helped produce about 500 mission bulletins, and he has served as a tithing-program adviser since 1995. "This work has been very rewarding and worthwhile," he says.

One missionary group he discovered along the way was Glenmary, which has been one of St. Agnes' many beneficiaries. "I remember reading about their U.S. missions," he says, "and being aware of their progress in bringing the Catholic Church to counties where it hadn't been before and assisting the people there. They were meeting real needs in our country."

In 1998, based on what Jack had learned, the Graces added Glenmary to the list of mission groups they personally supported through charitable donations. And in 2013, Jack took the extra step of establishing a gift annuity with Glenmary, which he says was "another way to help them while providing us with an extra source of income."

The couple are now the grandparents of nine. Marie was active in the parish choir until recently. And Jack has been serving as a eucharistic minister for children's Masses. For the last 20 years, he's also been a member of the Arimatheans—a group of veterans who assist at Catholic military funeral Masses and burial services at Arlington National Cemetery.

Jack says becoming involved in mission work "changed my whole outlook on things." And he's happy to be able to continue this assistance in a number of ways, including support for Glenmary.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2014 Planning Ahead newsletter.