Reflecting on Glenmary and the Back Roads of Mission Land, USA

Brother David HenleyAugust 2011

As Glenmary's vocation director, I do a lot of traveling on a regular basis. These travels include visiting prospective students and participating in promotional events, mission tours and Come and See retreats, among other things. If you are interested in learning more about Glenmary, check out the Vocation Calendar on our Web site to see if we are going to be in your area, or let us know if you would like to take a mission tour.

Often while I am traveling, I look at the map in order to decide on one of the many routes available. If I am in a hurry, I have to take the interstate and drive 70 miles an hour in order to keep up with the traffic. But when I have the time, I prefer to pull off the interstate and take a two-lane highway or small country road. The reason that I prefer the small country roads is because the pace is not as rushed: one can slow down and easily pull off to the side to take in the views. I also like these roads because, unlike the highways, each is unique and has different sights along the route.

On the interstate, the roads seem to look the same whether you are in Nebraska or Georgia—all you see are pavement, cars, chain restaurants and gas stations. On the back roads you have the opportunity to meet people, and if you want to meet Glenmarians you have to pull off the interstate and choose the back roads. That is where the mission need is in the United States—in the rural, neglected regions.

In Scripture, one reads that Jesus often traveled the back roads, and sometimes he had to take detours during his journeys. For example, Jesus was preaching to the crowds when Jairus asked him to come to his home and cure his daughter, who was dying.

Glenmarian Father Vic Subb likes to travel the back roads too, visiting people who live out in the mission areas. He is lovingly known as one of Glenmary's best tour guides. Unlike a professional guide's tours, Father Vic's plans often include detours—times to pull off routes and visit  families he knows. Other times he takes "off the beaten path" routes to visit people in prisons and hospitals. Father Vic, who is one of Glenmary's formation directors, will be mapping the course of studies for the current group of Glenmary students.

I think that the students who live with him soon learn they are not in a race to get through their studies, but are there to take the time to prepare themselves in becoming the best missioners possible. The Scripture passage 2 Timothy 4:7 reminds us it is not finishing first in the race that is most important. Instead, at the end of the race each of us should be able to say, "I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith."

Glenmarians are doing God's work along the back roads of rural America. We are not racing along the interstate but steadily building up communities of faith, sharing God's love with those we meet, and sometimes taking detours to meet new people.

Maybe you, too, are called to move off the interstate of life and serve in Mission Land, USA. The gifts that you bring as a missioner will make a difference in these areas and the lives of the people we serve. And the missions are a beautiful place to share those gifts.

As Father Bishop, the founder of Glenmary, said, "A flower is small, like the small, isolated groups that we minister to, like the little children. So small a flower is easily overlooked on the roadside. You hardly see it as you pass by. But pick it up and examine it; it becomes a thing of beauty; so, too, the country parish and the country child."