Not Enough Hours in the Day

Brother David Henley Glenmary Vocation DirectorOctober 2010

On an average day in a Glenmary mission, the missioner has to constantly revise his or her schedule and make new plans based on the situation. A typical day in the missions is difficult to define, but it might include visiting someone in jail and giving someone else a ride to a doctor's appointment. Other stops during the day might be at the local food pantry or outreach center. Later in the evening is often a good time to visit a family's home—a very effective way to connect with those living in a mission area.

But what does the Glenmary missioner do when there is not enough time to complete all the tasks and visit all the people on the list for that day? How does the missioner respond to someone who calls to ask for help with an immigration crisis in one town, while driving to visit a sick person transferred to the regional hospital in another town in the opposite direction?

And what does the missioner do as he or she prepares for Sunday liturgy or religious education class and someone from the local ecumenical alliance calls to request assistance for a family stranded in town and needing gas money? Should the missioner ask the person to call back at a more convenient time?

And when the missioner has to decide where to make the last stop of the evening, should it be at the home of a family dedicated to the church and weekly Mass attendance who will offer a warm welcome and usually a hot meal—or another family in the county who may or may not offer a glass of water?

These are not just hypothetical situations but daily decisions facing all Glenmary missioners. Usually, needs call for the missioner to wake up early and stay out on the road until late into the night. Compounding the scheduling difficulty is the fact that a mission county often requires long driving distance, perahps 50 miles one way. Therefore the missioner must always try to take advantage of being in a certain place at a certain time.

As I was reflecting on these daily scheduling challenges, I realized that there are two alternatives for the future. Either we, as Glenmary missioners, need to slow down and not get so involved in the lives of the people in the missions we serve, or we just need more missioners to help serve the many needs that exist. Seeing as how the first option is not really a viable one, I believe that the second must be the answer.

Glenmary currently serves in 28 missions in nine different states, trying to meet the needs of all the people living in our mission areas. Yet we are a community of only 52 priests and brothers, 21 students and 22 lay coworkers. And in the Southern part of the United States alone, there are still over 300 counties that do not have a Catholic church or Catholic presence.

Considering that we are stretched trying to serve in the places for which we currently care, how can we even begin to imagine serving in more mission areas?

Yet that is what we at Glenmary continue to do. As our Constitution states, we are missioners, "dedicated to the apostolate of bringing the charity and the Gospel of Christ to the neglected regions of America." How do we decide which emergency situation in a mission is most urgent? How do we decide on which areas with no Catholic presence to send missioners? These are never easy decisions, but "the love of Christ impels us" (2 Cor 5:14) in all that we do, and "we attempt to respond to the spiritual needs of all people."

I always want to respond to every phone call I receive, just as Glenmary longs to send missioners to all the neglected regions. But we have learned that we cannot do it alone. We need the help of others. One Christian community reaching out to another community in a time of need is not something new; it has long been a tradition in the Catholic Church. In the Acts of the Apostles it is written that a famine in Jerusalem led to assistance being sent from as far away as Antioch (Acts 11:29).

Is God calling on you to help in this time of immense famine of faith in the United States? As a Glenmarian, I can attest that there is more than enough work to go around. Check your calendar and see if you have time to revise your plans and say "Yes."