Vocation Efforts Aided by Prayer, Technology
Eight other men are in various stages of Glenmary formation today, and three new students are entering this fall. But what's just as promising, says Brother David, is the increasing number of men contacting Glenmary and discerning a call to be home missioners.
Several factors have contributed to Glenmary's success in keeping its vocation program moving forward. One major key is Glenmary's vocation team: The full-time team members are Brother David and associate vocation director Pat McEntee. Administrative assistant Karen Stemann devotes the majority of her time to vocation work, and vocation counselor Father Vic Subb provides part-time assistance. This group works to inform prospective students about Glenmary and to help inquirers discern the Spirit's vocation call.
"Our mission areas don't produce many vocations because there are so few Catholics," Brother David says. "So the first step in locating prospects is to get the message out about our ministry (to a wider audience)"—which takes time, money, legwork, advertising and prayer.
Since 2010, when Brother David became director, the vocation team's greatest innovation has been to maintain an active, accessible electronic presence on YouTube (BrotherDavidGHM); on social-media sites including Facebook (Glenmary Home Missioners Vocations) and Twitter (@hermanodavid and @ghmvocations); and through his blog (firstname.lastname@example.org).
"We've been successful in raising Glenmary's visibility and helping many more young people find us through these outlets," he says. "We're getting more first-time contacts from people on Facebook and Twitter than by any other means. And our YouTube videos (often shot and edited by Brother David) are another way to reach prospects." In addition, his blog provides frequent updates and insights on Glenmary's work.
Other first contacts and follow-up communications by vocation team members are through more conventional methods such as phone calls, e-mails, personal visits, conference attendance and school presentations.
Along with their other responsibilities, Pat is the first contact for most U.S. inquirers, while Karen handles most first inquiries from men in Kenya. And Brother David fields all initial contacts from Spanish-speaking inquirers.
Another essential factor is the assistance and cooperation of other Glenmarians and lay coworkers. "We couldn't do our jobs without their help," Brother David says. "In their mission ministry, in their dioceses, or through appeals, they also make vocation contacts, help men get to know Glenmary, and keep us informed about any developments."
The second step in the vocation effort is discernment—on the part of both interested men and the Glenmary community. "I handle the majority of our department's discernment conversations with men who have expressed interest," says Brother David. "Father Vic has also been a great help with these follow-ups."
And once again, the whole Glenmary family plays a critical role. "Our missioners help us counsel discerners, and they open the doors of their missions and homes to these men to help them better understand our work."
Come & See discernment retreats for young adults, now scheduled six to seven times a year, are also a proven way to connect with vocation prospects—allowing them to experience Glenmary mission life and learn from each other. Recently, a retreat for high-school-aged young men was held for the first time in many years because of the number of students who expressed interest.
"We're thankful to the Spirit for guidance," Brother David says. "Prayer is the constant for everyone involved. Our goal isn't to steer all our inquirers to Glenmary, but to walk with them on their journeys and help them find out where they are being called."
Following up with prospects takes time and lots of travel. As an example, in 2011 Brother David traveled approximately 55,000 miles by plane—to Kenya (twice), Mexico (four times), and destinations within the United States. He also drove roughly 30,000 miles. In total, he spent about 185 days of the year in the field doing vocation work.
He says he's optimistic about the future. "More and more men are learning there is a real U.S. mission need and are responding to the call. Being a joyous group of missioners is part of our appeal for them, too.
"Judging from our inquirers—good men from all over the world—an increasing number of individuals will probably join us in the future. We just need to keep sharing our Glenmary story and trusting in the Spirit."
Brother David loves working in the missions. But he says he looks at things differently in his current role as vocation director: "By working today with future Glenmarians, I'm serving the mission areas of tomorrow."
This article appears in the August 2012 Boost-a-Month Club newsletter.