Glenmary Formation Prepares Men to Be Best Missioners They Can Be

Brother David Henley, Vocation DirectorSeptember 2011

Glenmary's students recently finished their summer mission assignments and returned to school or their next placements. After I traveled to the seminary with a few of them, I was reminded of two quotes I find to be very fitting. Mark Twain once said, "I never let my school interfere with my education." And Albert Einstein said, "Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."

Hopefully, the men preparing to become Glenmary missioners realize the importance of their schooling but never forget that it is the people they meet in their mission assignments and the people they will serve after ordination or Final Oath that will teach them the most.

Glenmary Home Missioners' Constitution states that "the goal of Glenmary formation is to provide dedicated Glenmary missioners who are adequately developed as Christian persons committed to the public witness of the evangelical counsels lived in the context of the Glenmary way of life, and who have the qualified skills of priests or brothers so that they can serve effectively in the apostolate of the Society." Glenmary's formation program for men studying to be priests and brothers continues to prepare them to use their gifts in the mission areas we serve. The mission areas have tremendous needs, so a wide variety of training is available to prepare our students to grow into themselves and be the best missioners they can be.

Glenmary formation is an essential part of becoming a missioner and preparing to serve the people of God. Occasionally someone has asked me why formation takes so long. In reality, the formation process does not take too long; we are called to continually be growing in our faith and therefore being formed throughout our lives. For a man preparing for priesthood with Glenmary Home Missioners, formation may last from six to eight years, depending how much education he has prior to beginning the process. For a man preparing for brotherhood, formation generally takes about six years.

The main difference between the two is that a man studying for priesthood is required to receive a Master of Divinity degree and therefore needs a few extra years to complete his studies. On the other hand, a future brother is not required to receive a master's-level degree, but he does need a certain amount of theology and mission preparation as well as studies in his particular field of ministry. For those preparing to be either priests or brothers, the formation process allows them to learn and grow in their faith and their knowledge about Glenmary's charism and themselves.

For all Glenmary men in formation, the process begins the same way: in the candidacy and novitiate programs. Both priest candidates and brother candidates live together and have basically the same course of studies. The year of candidacy is a time to get to know more about Glenmary Home Missioners and for Glenmary to get to know the candidates. During the novitiate year, students spend more time in prayer and reflection as well as studying about Glenmary's specific charism to serve the home (United States) missions. As novice director Father Dan Dorsey says, "The novitiate is an opportunity to reflect on who we are and hopefully discover God's call."

Jason Muhlenkamp describes his time in novitiate as a gift. "Who, in this day and age," he asks, "receives a year to discern their call, to think about their vocation and how they are going to live that out?" His daily schedule while living at the novitiate house in Cincinnati has included community prayer five times a day, Mass and personal prayer time. He also has had daily classes about Glenmary's history, charism, multiculturalism and more.

Some of the classes have been led by Father Dan and Father Tom Kirkendoll. Other Glenmarians such as Father Wil Steinbacher and Father Frank Ruff have given talks and classes on specific subjects such as mission theology and ecumenism. Jason is currently living in North Carolina, where he is on a short mission assignment.

Jason says that the novitiate has already had an impact on him: he feels that he has slowed down in his ministry and that he takes more time to reflect on what he is doing and why. When he returns to the novitiate house, his prayer schedule and novitiate classes will continue, with particular time dedicated to studying each of the four promises that Glenmarians make: poverty, chastity, obedience and prayer. He will also take a 30-day retreat and then take his First Oath with Glenmary in the spring of 2012. Afterwards, he'll proceed with advanced training, just as Brother Levis Kuwa is doing now.

Brother Levis has completed his three years of formation, is continuing his studies and recently renewed his Oath, which is an annual event that occurs two or three times after First Oath. After completing a summer mission assignment, he has returned to Glenmary's Headquarters, where he will live while he is preparing to become a nurse practitioner. Levis is currently scheduled to begin his nursing studies at the University of Cincinnati. The accelerated nursing program will be challenging, but he says he feels called to this type of ministry and is willing to make the sacrifices needed to get his degree. "I know that after I am finished I will be better prepared to serve God's people," he says.

Brother Levis has had a long history of volunteering in hospitals, but it was during his mission assignments that he recognized the great medical needs in the areas where Glenmary serves. After prayer and discussions with formation directors and people in the missions, he realized that it was the Holy Spirit calling him to this specialty.

Levis hopes that as a nurse practitioner he will be able to serve the people in the mission areas in much the same way he saw being done at a free clinic in Eastern Kentucky. Three to four more years is a long time to get ready, but he says seeing people who were suffering in their homes and unable to afford medical treatment is what will motivate him to continue in his studies. "It's for them that I am studying, because it is people like them whom I'll be serving with Glenmary."

Formation and training take time. Glenmary founder Father Bishop said, "Specialized training will be as necessary for this work as it is for the foreign missions.... We plan to go into our home mission fields not one bit less equipped than our foreign mission societies go into the foreign mission fields...."

For Glenmary, the formation program cannot be rushed. The outcome is what matters, not the amount of time it takes to complete. Glenmary hopes that the formation process is one that gives the men a chance to discern their calls and prepare to be the best missioners they can be in order to serve the people in the missions.