Founder's Day Celebrates Father Bishop's Vision for Home Missions
October 2011The Feast of Sts. Isaac Jogues and Jean de Brébeuf and companions, martyrs, is celebrated in the Church on Oct. 19. These eight Jesuit missionaries were killed between the years 1646 and 1649 and are the only canonized martyrs of the United States. Glenmary celebrates the feast day of these North American Martyrs as our Founder's Day and continues the missionary effort for which these great men sacrificed their life. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church" (Tertullian).
Glenmary celebrates its founding throughout the entire month of October, but we gather for a special day of community prayer and celebration on Oct. 19. One of the many ways during the month that we try to remember our past and rededicate ourselves to our founder's vision is by listening to readings from the early days of our community. Every day in October during our morning prayer, we gather together to hear and reflect on writings either by our founder, Father William Howard Bishop, or about him and his early struggles to found Glenmary Home Missioners.
These words from his Plan for an American Society of Catholic Home Missioners are still true today: "It is not rapid and spectacular growth that will be desired, but slow, substantial progress, building solidly on each new advance, never going into a region without the determination, with God's help, to conquer it for Christ."
In the early 20th century, at a time when the U.S. Church was more interested in sending missioners overseas, Father Bishop had a dream and was driven to make certain that the mission areas in the United States were neither forgotten nor neglected. He drew a map of "No Priest Land, USA," wrote a plan for the home missions and became an outspoken advocate for this cause. In 1936, Father Bishop wrote that it was of great importance that we evangelize "the vast sections of our own lands with their millions of unchurched families... just as legitimate a field of missionary enterprise as Africa and China.... A small but constantly increasing army of missionaries should start upon this task."
He traveled around the country meeting with anyone who would listen to him, and finally received an invitation from Archbishop McNicholas of Cincinnati to found his community in the archdiocese. Father Bishop received pontifical recognition from Pope Pius XII in 1939 for Glenmary Home Missioners as an Apostolic Society. And for past 72 years our mission society of priests, brothers and coworkers has continued to serve in the mission areas of the United States.
In the early years of Glenmary's founding, Father Bishop was asked, "What is Glenmary Home Missioners' greatest present need?" His response was, "Vocations and funds! But suppose the founder were asked to confine his primary need to one single thing. He would answer that the choice would be hard, as little can be done with either unless there is a good supply of the other. But knowing that there is a provident God looking on who will not let them down on the material side so long as men are willing to sacrifice themselves for so grand a cause, his reply is, without hesitation: VOCATIONS, VOCATIONS, and then MORE VOCATIONS—of the very best type that can be had."
Glenmary was founded more than seven decades ago, but I think that if Father Bishop were alive today, his response that vocations are the primary need would be the same. Glenmary is excited about the number of men responding to the call to be missioners, but in order to serve the vast mission areas of the United States, even more vocations are needed.
If you are discerning a call to the religious life, I invite you to pray Glenmary's Home Mission Prayer written by our founder. If you want to visit the missions, I invite you to join us in November for our annual Thanksgiving Gathering & "Come and See" Weekend with our current Glenmary students. If you are unable to make it at that time, contact our office and we can find a time to schedule another weekend mission trip. We look forward to hearing from you and to walking this path of discernment towards becoming a missioner together, like those who have gone before us.