Supporter Moved to Establish Annuity After Disaster Strikes

Posted: 2/23/2015

Mary MorrisonMary Morrison's long connection with Glenmary began in the 1970s, while she was serving for a year as a volunteer with Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), the domestic equivalent of the Peace Corps. She began attending Mass at a nearby Glenmary mission in Virginia that year. And she formed lasting friendships with Glenmarians, as well as a belief in Glenmary's mission and work that's grown steadily stronger over four decades.

She also became a donor in the 1970s. And in 2007, in the aftermath of losing her house to Hurricane Katrina, she was moved to establish a gift annuity with Glenmary—using some of the money she had received to help rebuild the house.

Mary, 69, was born in New Orleans, but grew up in Mississippi and has lived the majority of her life there. She has held a range of professional positions as a schoolteacher, hospital chaplain and psychiatric nurse.

But as a young Catholic woman, her encounter with Glenmary was a major turning point in her faith life. The first Glenmarian she met was Father Les Schmidt, who led an instructional session on community organizing for her and other VISTA volunteers in Bristol, Tenn.

Around that time, when she became dissatisfied with the church she was attending, some friends told her about Glenmary's ministry and recommended that she visit the society's Sacred Heart mission in nearby Big Stone Gap, Va.

"It turned out to be the mission where Father Les lived," says Mary. "On my first visit I met Father Bob Rademacher, who was extremely hospitable and made me feel very welcome. I began attending Mass there often, and I became very good friends with both of them and mission members, as well ​as getting to know other Glenmarians."

After her time in VISTA ended, she left the area but returned to Sacred Heart frequently during the 1970s and ‘80s. She witnessed its growth as a vibrant faith community that was finally returned to the care of the diocese. And during trips, she also visited other Glenmary mission parishes.

Mary has always kept in touch with missioner friends and with Glenmary. "I love the people who are part of Glenmary. I also keep close track of things through the Glenmary Challenge magazine."

For her, what's special about the missioners is "how they carry the Gospel and its values of love and justice to rural mission areas in our country; establish small Catholic missions and build them up; and reach out to all people. I've always really liked what they do. The more I understood their mission, the more I wanted to support them."

When Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, Mary's Long Beach home was destroyed, along with the homes of her mother and all six siblings. Thankfully, none of them were injured and they have rebounded from their devastating losses.

"I later received a large insurance settlement," she says. "I knew I would never have as much money again, and I felt guided by the Spirit to invest in Glenmary. My annuity is the best investment I've ever made because I wanted to give Glenmary as much as possible. And I receive annuity income regularly at times when I seem to need it most; it's been providential."

Now in later life, Mary and her sister are serving as caregivers for their 99-year-old mother. Mary is a member of St. Thomas Church in Long Beach, which was rebuilt after Katrina, and has served as a eucharistic minister. She also makes Mass offerings to Glenmary for special intentions.

"I'm very happy because I know that, every day, I'm helping Glenmary missioners carry out (their founder) Father Bishop's vision through their home mission work," she says.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2015 Planning Ahead newsletter.