'Glenmary Challenge' Stories Can Help in Discerning Missionary Call

Glenmary vocation director Brother David HenleyMarch 2012

The Spring 2012 edition of Glenmary Challenge, our quarterly magazine, has just been released. And although it is not a magazine you can find on any newsstands, you can sign up to receive it free in one of two ways: either quarterly issues by mail or a free electronic link by e-mail for each issue. Or you can view it on the Glenmary Web site.

For those discerning a call to serve as a missioner, I think the recent issue contains a great deal of pertinent information to help you in your discernment. Glenmary's founder, Father William Howard Bishop, described Glenmary Challenge nearly 75 years ago as a magazine with "no subscribers and no subscription rates"—but one whose words and images explain "the needs of His people" and illustrate "the charitable work of the missioners..." Glenmary currently distributes the Challenge to tens of thousands of readers in Catholic homes, parishes, schools, diocesan offices and other locations.

Since it was first published in 1938, its purpose has been to "keep before U.S. Catholics the home mission challenge... to bring a Catholic presence to the neglected small towns and rural areas of the United States." Today, in just the southern part of the United States, over 350 counties are still without a Catholic church community or resident Catholic minister. So the challenge is still very much before us today, as it was in Father Bishop's time.

In my opinion, the current issue's cover story, "Prayer Answered in South Georgia's Onion Fields," explains how and why Glenmarians serve in the mission areas. Mission pastor Father John Brown describes ways in which we Glenmarians attempt to reach out and care for the people in the mission areas by serving their spiritual and material needs.

Without Glenmarians, the residents and migrant workers in these areas would not have the opportunity to participate in a faith community, receive the Eucharist, or celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. A number of them might also sometimes have to go without food or places to live. As I read his article, the underlying theme that struck me was how Glenmarians are present with the people.

While you are reading this article, our missioners might be present in many ways. Glenmary priests might be celebrating Mass with farm workers. Glenmary brothers might be praying with men and women in prisons. Glenmarians might be distributing food and clothing to those in need. Glenmary priests and brothers might be sitting in hospital waiting rooms with families, praying for loved ones who are sick. They might be leading RCIA groups for those preparing to enter into the Church.

They also might be making home visits to people who have stopped coming to church for some reason or may have never been invited to the Catholic Church. They might be meeting with Protestant ministers in their areas to discuss the best ways for their areas' Christian churches to celebrate Holy Week together. They might be helping to build new homes for people in need whose former homes were destroyed by natural disasters.

The Spring 2012 Challenge describes how Glenmarians participate in active ministries with the People of God and dedicate themselves to prayer in order to sustain them in their ministries. In one of my recent talks during a Come & See weekend for those considering a vocation with Glenmary, I described the Glenmarian's commitment to being with people as one that resembles, in some ways, the wedding vows of a married couple—"in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow." Although a Glenmarian doesn't make this promise to one specific person, he commits himself to serving all the people of God living in the mission county where he serves.

At times we are present with people to celebrate joyful occasions, at times to work side by side with them, and at other times to grieve with them. I know from my own experiences in the missions of Kentucky and Arkansas that all of these occasions occur. And now, as vocation director, when I am visiting Glenmary missions with prospects, I am able to see the many ways that other Glenmarians experience this connection with the people living in their missions. In all these ways that we are present, our personal prayer sustains us and our community prayer connects us with the people we serve, while drawing us closer to our God.

If you would like to share in this experience of visiting the missions and becoming connected with the people we serve, our next Come & See opportunity will take place at the Glenmary Farm in Vanceburg, Ky., during Holy Week (April 5-8). Contact us at 513-881-7494 for more information, or you can register now. If you are unable to attend the Come & See event but are interested in learning more about Glenmary, you can at least read the new Challenge issue and learn about a number of Glenmarians who are actively serving with and among the people in Mission Land, USA.

In his article about the onion workers in South Georgia, Father John captures a feeling that all of us who serve in the missions have experienced in some way: "As I lifted the host—our Lord and our God—high into the star-filled night, I knew that my prayer to the Lord to make me a missionary priest for his people had never been more thoroughly answered than at that very moment." While some of us are called to be priests and others to be brothers, all of us have similar moments of presence that we share with the people in our missions. These moments affirm who we are and, yes, that we have been called to be missioners.