Senior Member a Valued Part of Mission Team
As Glenmary Father Ed Gorny approached age 70 in 2002, he decided to take senior member status as many Glenmarians do at this age. And like many others, he chose to keep serving people in the missions.
"I could have just relocated and stopped doing the work," he says. "But I wanted to stay involved in the missions and keep sharing the Lord with others, without being responsible for the administrative side."
Father Ed was completing his last Glenmary assignment as a pastor at the Sylvania and Millen, Ga., missions, which were being turned back to the Diocese of Savannah. But he knew he was needed elsewhere if he wanted to go—about 50 miles down the road to Claxton.
A young Glenmary priest in a nearby Georgia county was pastoring three missions in Claxton, Pembroke and Sandhill—the equivalent of five congregations, two English-speaking and three Spanish-speaking. "I told him I'd like to help since his hands were full, and he was very grateful," says Father Ed. "So I moved to the Claxton area and I've been here ever since."
Today, after almost 50 years with Glenmary, 78-year-old Father Ed is still a busy, vital member of the mission team that serves the three missions. The team now consists of Father Bob Poandl, pastor since 2007; pastoral associate Sister Janet Fischer; parish worker Socorro DeLoach; and Father Ed. "Whatever I can do to carry some of the load for Father Bob and the others," he says, "I'm glad to do it."
Father Bob calls him an inspiration. "Father Ed is a very caring, dedicated priest and an important part of the ministry in our missions (here in south Georgia)."
Father Ed isn't fluent in Spanish, so he serves the English-speaking communities in Pembroke and Claxton. One of his roles is sacramental minister, which for him means celebrating four or more English Masses a week and administering sacraments. But he also contributes in many other ways.
For instance, he makes visits to parishioners in hospitals, to the homebound, and to nursing home residents—bringing the Eucharist and anointing people as needed.
In addition, he conducts special services, such as Stations of the Cross during Lent, and participates in occasional ecumenical services. And in Claxton he moderates a weekly gathering to reflect on upcoming Sunday Scripture readings.
His primary focus, though, is the Pembroke mission. He launched an RCIA program and is now preparing two men for full membership in the Church. He also initiated a quarterly Family Parish Day consisting of a social gathering, classes for all ages on the day's theme, and a prayer service—"to help build up the community and share an opportunity to grow in the faith." He has been involved in Pembroke's ecumenical ministerial association. And, along with Father Bob, he even attends monthly parish council meetings.
Father Bob says that Father Ed has made a real difference in the lives of the people he serves. "He keeps himself fit and working, and he's always reaching out and helping others."
Father Ed's work as a senior member is the latest stage in his life as a dedicated Glenmarian, one who calls himself a "belated vocation." As a young man, the Detroit native served four years in the Navy; was employed as a Chrysler assembly line worker among other jobs; attended the University of Detroit on the GI bill, earning a degree in accounting; and worked in the accounting field.
One day during college, while reading a Paulist magazine, he came across a Glenmarian's article that changed his life. "I was overwhelmed to find out that in parts of our country, people had to drive 40 or 50 miles to find a Catholic church. I learned about Glenmary and its mission for the first time. It really got my attention."
He began considering a call to Glenmary priesthood, but decided to finish college first. During a retreat after graduation, he reflected and prayed about his future. Then he contacted Glenmary and joined in his late 20s.
Father Ed served about 30 years as a mission pastor in Appalachia, the South and the Southwest. He also spent four years as Glenmary's treasurer—and wore both hats at once for three years. He's always thought that "the experiences I had before Glenmary made me a better priest and missioner."
As a pastor, he says he did his best to meet the challenges of "nurturing Catholics to grow into a strong community; building relationships with other churches; cooperating with them to lift up Christian values and help community members in need; and making Christ known to people who didn't know him or had fallen away."
Now, as a senior member, Father Ed is drawing on his lifetime of experience. He says he feels more strongly than ever that he's blessed every day to maintain his commitment to Jesus. And he plans to keep going "until the Lord says, ‘I'm calling you home now.'"
This article first appeared in the May 2011 Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.