Kentucky Mission Reaches Out to County

Posted: 7/10/2009

Welcoming. Active. Involved. These are a few words Aston Franciscan Sister Colette Gerry, pastoral coordinator of Glenmary's Sts. John and Elizabeth mission in Grayson, Ky., uses to describe her mission members. "They want to do as much as they can," she says, "for the mission and our Carter County community."

The Grayson Catholic community is composed of about 45 English-speaking and 10 Spanish-speaking households—in a county whose population is less than 1 percent Catholic. A visiting Glenmary priest celebrates English and Spanish Masses every Sunday, and Sister Colette coordinates programs for sacramental preparation, religious education, RCIA and more.

"This is a poor, minimum-wage area of Eastern Kentucky with quite a few people on fixed incomes," says Sister Colette. "But our mission members are still known around here for helping other people."

The county's Good Samaritan Food Pantry, established by the mission in the 1980s, is now an ecumenical effort. But Sts. John and Elizabeth members still collect food monthly to help keep the shelves stocked. Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity are other ongoing projects for mission members. They also help with a Christmas outreach program, another community initiative started by the mission that assists needy families.

In addition, in neighboring Elliott County where there is no Catholic church, Sister Colette serves on the board of the emergency food and shelter program.

But she quickly adds that their mission and outreach work would be extremely challenging to do if the mission didn't receive support from its adopting parishes—Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Maple Shade, N.J. (since 1984); St. Monica Church in East Peoria, Ill. (since 2001); and St. Bernard Church in Springfield, Ohio (since 2006)—through Glenmary's Adopt-a-Mission program.

"The most important part of our adoption relationships is the bond of prayer," says Sister Colette. "Without that, the rest isn't as meaningful. When we pray for each other every week, we're very conscious of the other parish and their needs. We all become missionaries by prayer."

But she points out that the financial support is also very important. "Otherwise we'd be very busy just figuring out how to keep the doors open," she says. "We're very blessed to have our adopting parishes."

After a donation is received, Sister Colette sends a thank-you note and shares the latest news from the mission. "For example, the adopters helped us replace our 38-year-old furnace," she says. "They also help us buy materials for programs like Vacation Bible School.

"The sense of ownership in our mission is very strong. Our adopters are part of our family, and we help each other answer the mission call."

For information about adopting a Glenmary mission or missioner, contact Allison Barrett—abarrett@glenmary.org or 800-935-0975, ext. 7440.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of Home Mission News.