Seminary Summer Experience
By Daniel Ochoa
This summer, I had the opportunity to serve in Glenmary's Holy Family and Divine Savior missions in Macon and Clay counties, Tenn, where Father Victor Subb is the pastor. Every summer, I get assigned to a different Glenmary mission, however, this assignment was special, because Fr. Vic has a unique approach to mission work. He is a very pastoral priest; he loves being with people and making them feel welcome and appreciated.
There were a number of crucial aspects of my ministry this summer, including helping the community, evangelizing and being present for the people.
Helping the community
I also served at Second Harvest food distribution program, which allowed me to get to know people in the community as well as promote the Catholic Church, which is not very well known in this heavily Protestant area. Another outreach ministry was visiting the elderly, occasionally bringing them food and helping them with small projects around their homes. I also brought communion to some of them.
For evangelization, I worked with many different groups over the summer, introducing them to and educating them about God. I started two classes on the Gospel of Luke, one in English and another in Spanish. Even though I am used to talking in public, I don't usually have the chance to lead an adult class. In addition, I helped with the summer Vacation Bible School, which was a learning experience, because I don't have the chance to work with kids at school. I also did prison ministry and met with the inmates. All of these experiences will be helpful for me later when I become a priest.
Another aspect of Glenmary mission ministry is accompanying people, which sometimes we call a ministry of presence. I saw the importance of being with and there for people in happy, sad or difficult times. According to Fr. Vic, this is one of the most important aspects of a missioner, getting to know and learning to love the people you serve.
One of Fr. Vic's rules is the "20/20 rule." Students who spend time in the mission must be at church 20 minutes before Mass starts and not leave until at least 20 minutes after it ends. Being present and visiting with people before and after Mass helped me get to know the parishioners and vice versa.
A great thing about Glenmary missions is that one can actually get to know the majority of the people in the parishes. The missions are small, and people are able to know each other, unlike in a big parish with thousands of families, where it is hard for the pastor to know everyone. During my time in Tennessee, I felt as if I were amongst family. Parishioners were welcoming and willing to work with me.
My summer mission assignment in Macon and Clay Counties Tennessee was a great learning experience. It gave me the opportunity to continue growing and learning about pastoral work, while still discerning my call to be a Glenmary Missioner.