Ambrose Wanyonyi, 31, of Bungoma, Kenya, celebrated a milestone in his vocation formation on June 6, 2013, when he professed his First Oath and became a member of Glenmary.
"Making my Oath felt good," he says. "I'm no longer on the outside by am now part of the family of Glenmary as I continue my discernment to priesthood."
This past summer, he served as part of the pastoral team at missions in Union and Grainger counties in East Tennessee. Among other things, he helped coordinate an ecumenical Vacation Bible School program with the local Methodist church, and worked with high school volunteer groups taking part in the Glenmary Group Volunteer Program.
"It was an amazing summer," he says. "I especially enjoyed working with the volunteers at a day camp for children of migrant workers during the day and doing home repairs for county residents in the evenings. It felt good to offer my time and energy to help those in need and get to know the local people better." He returned to St. Meinrad Seminary in fall 2013 for his third of four years of theology classes. After four years of theology studies and three years under Oath, he'll be eligible for ordination.
In thinking about the future, he's excited by the prospect of becoming a missionary priest with Glenmary. "I look forward to continuing to work with the marginalized and bringing the Word of God to them."
He is part of Glenmary's 2010 formation class. But he completed his first year of studies during the 2010-11 academic year at the Tangaza College School of Theology in Nairobi. He arrived in America in early August 2011, and he said he was "very glad to finally be with members of my Glenmary family."
He was raised as a Catholic and attended religious education and sacramental preparation classes as a boy. And for a period of six years, "I loved being a server at the altar," he says. The priests at his parish became his friends, encouraging him to join the minor seminary in 1997 for his secondary education.
"For me the call to priesthood has been gradual. It has been a process of discernment," says Ambrose. After completing secondary school in 2000, "I decided to pursue priesthood with the aim of following Christ more closely." The next year he joined the Claretians, and he stayed with them for a period of six years until 2008. But then he entered a period of discernment with Glenmary Home Missioners.
He first heard of Glenmary, he says, from a friend who was studying in Rome. To him, being a Glenmary missioner means being called to evangelize other peoples and learn from other cultures. Ambrose says that Glenmary's charism inspires him—especially its ministry to the spiritually and materially poor in rural mission areas.
He says that Tangaza College was "a friendly environment that was very conducive to learning" and that his year there prepared him well for his future studies. At the same time, he was glad to finally reach this country to be with his formation directors, other Glenmary members and fellow students.
He left Nairobi, Kenya, on August 4, 2011, to travel to the United States for the first time. "In order to make this journey," he says, "I needed to have the courage and trust to leave behind my parents, friends and the home and environment I knew. And I had to be prepared to embrace the unknown and follow my call to Glenmary."
On Ambrose's first weekend after coming to America, Father Vic Subb, one of Glenmary's formation directors, took him to visit three Glenmary locations in eastern Kentucky: the Glenmary Group Volunteer Program (Glenmary Farm) and the Grayson and Vanceburg missions.
After an initial two-week orientation to Glenmary and American culture in mid-August, Ambrose joined other Glenmary students in fall 2011 at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and began living at Glenmary's nearby House of Studies with Glenmarian directors and fellow Glenmary students.
"The first seminary year went well," he says. "I had to adjust to the new environment, but I experienced strong support from my formation directors, teachers and other students."
Then in July 2012, he began the three-part Glenmary novitiate program, directed by Fathers Dan Dorsey and Tom Kirkendoll. "The first part in July and August was very enriching. We spent time in community and personal prayer and faith sharing. And we took classes on spirituality, prayer and discernment; meditative reading of Scripture; the documents of Vatican II; and Glenmary history. I also interviewed Glenmarians and coworkers, who shared their life and ministry experiences with me."
The second part, a mission placement at the Windsor, N.C., mission, lasted from September 2012 through January 2013. Ambrose found that being a pastoral team member was a valuable experience for him and gave him a clear picture of the Glenmary way of life. "It has also helped me discern my call to this ministry," he said at the time.
He served and assisted at Masses at the Windsor and Plymouth (N.C.) missions; on Fridays, prayed the rosary and participated in Scripture sharing with the Filipino mission members in Windsor; and in December, participated in Las Posadas with the Latino parishioners in Plymouth.
In addition, he worked with Father Mike Kerin, the pastor, to choose and submit some articles on what Catholics believe, written by a now-deceased pastor, for publication in the local newspaper. He also delivered Meals on Wheels to seniors; worked with people of other faiths to distribute food to the needy at the local food pantry; ministered to inmates at a nearby prison, which he enjoyed; and led Communion services and catechetical classes for the few Catholic inmates.
He says that along the way, he received good advice and example from all three Windsor pastoral team members—Brother Virg Siefker, his supervisor; Brother Curt Kedley, another good role model; and Father Mike, a mentor for the priesthood.
In the final part of the novitiate from February through May, he learned more about Glenmary's consitution, charism and oath; did pastoral work with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul; and spent time in prayer preparing for his First Oath this past May.
"When I first came to Glenmary I didn't have full knowledge of who they are. But now I have learned and my personal experience has shown me so much more. It's more than I could have ever imagined and I'm so grateful."
Ambrose says he still has a number of questions. "But finding the answers takes time," he says. "It's all about faith in God, trusting in his providence, and being reassured by the feeling of having the call to serve."
He says he is "eager for things to unfold in the future." He is looking forward to becoming a Glenmary priest so he can "share the love and joy of Christ through his word and sacraments and follow the charism of Glenmary."
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