Resources

Calling All Catholics to Be Missionary

Father Ruff and Archbishop Bernardin  
Glenmary Father Frank Ruff (left) and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago field media questions at a 1989 Glenmary-sponsored mission symposium. Cardinal Bernardin delivered one of six papers on the theme "The Future of the Catholic Church in the South." These papers were published in Mission 2009, a book available from the Glenmary Research Center catalog.  

Glenmary missioners and coworkers educate the "people in the pews"—as well as the larger Church—about the home missions in order to further the home mission effort.

Whether it's giving presentations, sponsoring workshops, publishing printed and electronic communications, sponsoring essay contests, spearheading research projects at the Glenmary Research Center or serving on national boards, Glenmarians and coworkers continue to fulfill one of Father Bishop's goals in founding Glenmary Home Missioners: to educate all Catholics about the needs of the home missions.

Mission appeal presentations in various dioceses are an annual way Glenmary priests, brothers and coworkers bring the home missions to life for members of parishes throughout the United States. While fundraising is an important part of mission appeals, the educational aspect is key. Often these presentations are the first time folks become aware that the Catholic Church is not accessible to everyone living in the United States.

Glenmary, as the only religious society dedicated solely to establishing the Catholic Church in the U.S. missions, is also a national leader in promoting home mission ministry opportunities and home mission education, for both adults and children.

For example, the Educate and Inspire series, developed by Glenmary for use in Catholic schools and parish religious education programs, was developed to raise awareness of mission needs among young people and hopefully to inspire them to become involved as volunteers or in some other ways. Volunteer opportunities for adults and teens are available through Glenmary Group Volunteer Program based at Joppa Mountain in Grainger County, Tenn.

As Glenmary's point person for home mission leadership, Father Wil Steinbacher coordinated a national symposium in 2004, in cooperation with the United States Catholic Mission Association. The symposium, "God's Missionary People: A New Way of Being Church," challenged almost 300 attendees to focus more on mission and less on "Church business.''

A certain amount of education takes place in mission areas served by Glenmary. Often, those living in mission counties aren't familiar with Catholicism or they have a very narrow understanding of the Church and Catholics in general.

Glenmary's Department of Pastoral Ministers and Pastoral Services helps orient new coworkers—and often diocesan priests new to mission areas—to life in mission counties and the cultural challenges they may face.

One of the results of mission education, especially from the perspective of the Glenmary Commission on Justice, is to create a desire among those who receive the message to become more active, to find other ways of supporting the missions beyond prayer and financial contributions.

"All Catholics are called to be missionary through baptism and we most definitely want them to embrace that vocation," Father Wil says.

What if, Father Wil asks, a nurse is inspired to move to a mission county to use her medical training to give presentations on wellness? What if a doctor retires and moves to a county to open a clinic for those without health insurance? What if a retired lawyer moves to a mission area and uses his skills to represent members of the local Hispanic community?

"People won't know about the opportunities to help unless those of us who are working in the missions share our stories and create ways to spread those stories," Father Wil says.

"We all are called to be a missionary people, and there are many ways to answer the call in the home missions."