Illinois Parish 'Adopts' New Mission, Plans Visit to Talk About Future
Father Mike Pakula, pastor of St. Malachy Church in Geneseo, Ill., says his congregation has a long history of hands-on involvement, both within the parish and in social outreach activities. So in 2009, when a young St. Malachy parishioner in the Peace Corps in Ecuador contacted his home parish about possibly becoming a "sister parish" to the mission church he was attending, the social justice committee seriously considered the idea. But after much discussion, they decided on a more interactive "adoption" of a Glenmary mission in the United States.
"The committee thought it would be best to have a relationship with a U.S. mission somewhat near us," says Father Mike. "That way, we not only could support them financially and in prayer, but we also could have a personal connection."
At that point he identified the best available options, as well as arranging for a Glenmary priest to visit and talk about the society's ministry and Adopt-A-Mission program. This program invites willing, able parishes to partner with struggling missions through mutual prayer, encouragement and sharing, as well as financial and other assistance.
Father Mike says he also shared with parishioners his knowledge of Glenmary, including his early volunteer experiences with the society. "I believe their ministry of establishing a Catholic presence in poor, rural U.S. counties is very important. And I really appreciate their ecumenical efforts and openness to minorities."
Committee member Rosemary Meade related how she and 19 family members recently went on a one-week, retreat-like service trip to the Glenmary Farm and Glenmary mission in Vanceburg, Ky., which she says was a "rich, meaningful and unforgettable experience."
Father Mike says that "when our parish recognized our priorities matched Glenmary's, we decided it was the right choice." Glenmary later suggested its new Blessed Teresa of Calcutta mission in Maynardville, Tenn., as a potential mission for adoption. After Father Mike spoke to Glenmary mission pastor Father Steve Pawelk, and the social justice committee talked about the prospects, the 2,200-member parish adopted this small mission in an impoverished Appalachian county.
On April 20 St. Malachy's primary adoption facilitators, Pat Drewelow and Rich McClimon, accompanied by their wives, will visit the Maynardville mission for a few days to meet Father Steve and mission members. Pat and Rich say their group will take along needed gifts, attend Mass at the mission, and brainstorm with Father Steve about how their parish can help and what the relationship between the two congregations—from children to adults—can be.
"Afterwards," says Rich, "we can tell Father Mike what we learned and ask where we go from there." Possibilities include mutual visits by pastors and groups of parishioners, as well as service trips to the mission.
Pat, another former Glenmary volunteer, says he and Rich also feel the relationship can have great value for both church communities. Father Steve agrees. He says the desire for interaction creates great potential for a spiritual partnership: "Together we'll figure out what the Lord desires."
Father Steve thinks St. Malachy parishioners can gain a better understanding of the broader Church and what it takes to get a Glenmary mission church started "by helping and praying for us. And our folks will know they aren't alone in this effort, that there are people who care about them—people they can pray for.
"Hopefully, by teaming together, we'll give witness to the glory of Christ. We are very grateful and are looking forward to a true friendship."
This article appears in the Spring 2012 Home Mission News.