Glenmary Department Is Missions' Go-To Resource

Posted: 6/6/2011

Lorraine Vancamp and Liz Dudas, who make up the Department of Pastoral Ministers and Pastoral Services, with recently retired pastoral coordinator Sister Kate ReganWhen Glenmary missioners and missions need knowledgeable, experienced help with a wide range of ministry needs, Glenmary's two-person Department of Pastoral Ministers and Pastoral Services (DPMPS) is their trusted go-to resource—for effective evangelization techniques, spiritual development and parish leadership training. The department also helps provide educational materials for missioners' use.

"Our role is to respond to requests for assistance in the best ways possible. And we build on our experience," says department director Lorraine Vancamp about her collaboration with Liz Dudas, consultant for ministry development. Lorraine has been with the department since 1990, and Liz, since 1994.

Lorraine emphasizes their services are, for the most part, ones that dioceses have difficulty providing to rural missions due to lack of personnel, funding and proximity. For instance, each woman makes 40-50 or more mission visits in an average year, trips that would be difficult for diocesan resource persons. From their Nashville office, Lorraine and Liz are within a day's travel of the Glenmary missions they serve.

They've observed how the missions and their needs have changed over the years. "Missions are more complex now," says Lorraine, with the majority being multicultural. Both women have had to change with the times and have learned new skills to serve the missions' diverse needs-ministerial and spiritual.

All the resources they provide to a Glenmary mission are designed to help mission members take on more responsibilities and to strengthen the mission community as a whole. "Our real success," Lorraine says, "comes when a mission is strong enough to return to the diocese."

Two of the many Glenmary missions that have benefited from Lorraine and Liz's efforts—and are very grateful for their help—are Sts. John and Elizabeth in Grayson, Ky., led by pastoral coordinator Sister Colette Gerry, and Holy Family in Lafayette, Tenn., pastored by Glenmary Father Dennis Holly.

In the area of Catholic evangelization, for instance, DPMPS's assistance in Grayson is a prime example. The department strives to help mission communities find better ways to share the Good News and gifts of the Catholic Church with other county residents. The objective isn't just to make converts but also to work with other Christians in building up the Body of Christ.

When Sister Colette asked for evangelization advice for the Grayson mission, Liz and Glenmary's Commission on Evangelization organized a workshop with a panel of Glenmarians to share their expertise and suggestions. "It really fired up the parishioners," says Sister Colette. "The ideas worked so well that we're still using them two years later. Lorraine and Liz really understand the rural parish and its needs."

The spiritual development of pastoral leaders, staff and parishioners is another DPMPS focus. Lorraine and Liz are frequently called on to assist mission leaders by offering retreats and parish missions. Father Dennis says Liz has led several very well-received Scripture-sharing retreats at the Lafayette mission.

For DPMPS, assistance in the area of parish leadership means helping with parish pastoral planning; providing resources and workshops for training of liturgical ministers, catechists and other parish leaders, in both English and Spanish; recruiting and supporting pastoral coordinators, pastoral associates and multicultural workers; and helping with parish, pastor and staff transitions.

In Grayson, the mission receives assistance with its annual parish planning. "Liz always leads a great discussion," says Sister Colette. "And we agree on reachable goals. She helps our parish function in a very good way."

And in Lafayette, DPMPS helped train catechists and set up the religious education program. Father Dennis adds that Liz, a certified English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor, "has also trained some parishioners as teachers for our new mission-based ESL program."

Lorraine, who is fluent in Spanish, has been serving as a parish leadership resource in Lafayette in yet another way-assisting Father Dennis with marriage preparation for Spanish-speaking couples, since he is not fluent and there's no one else on staff.

Over the next few years, DPMPS's main priority and challenge will be assisting Glenmary missions being returned to the care of local dioceses as a result of Glenmary's new mission plan. As part of that plan, new mission areas will also be opened. Lorraine and Liz will help with staffing and many other tasks associated with starting these new missions—beginning this summer in three East Tennessee counties.

Educational resources available to missioners from DPMPS include audiovisual and printed materials. For instance, Sister Colette comments that she's received recommendations, DVDs and workbooks from Lorraine that have proven very valuable for catechist training.

"One of the main things that keeps us going is the direct contact with our missions," Lorraine says. "That's where the life of the Church is. I admire all of Glenmary's parish leaders and coworkers." And Liz agrees: "They're so dedicated and committed. And working with the mission communities is life-giving and affirming."

This article first appeared in the June 2011 Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.