Qualities and Traits of Glenmary Missioners

Brother David Henley, Glenmary vocation directorAugust 2012

"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness."          —Rom 12:6-8

Father William Howard Bishop, Glenmary's founder, often said and wrote that vocations were the most important need for the U.S. missions. But he did not mean that just anyone would be accepted. In a 1945 letter to Glenmary members, he reminded them "to be watchful as well as prayerful for vocations of the best type."

As Glenmary's new students arrived last week, I realized that today we continue to look for vocations using these same high standards. Those taking part in this year's orientation program for new students have very good missioner qualities. The orientation is a two-week session held before fall classes to help prepare the new men for school and their formation program. Some communities refer to this kind of program as a pre-seminary; others might call it "boot camp." For the Glenmarians and students participating in the two-week orientation, it is an exciting time—a time for the men to learn a great deal about Glenmary, the missions and themselves.

As I visited the orientation classes, I could sense excitement in the air. The men were learning about Glenmary and aspects of American culture. While on a break, an older student helped new men from another country learn about U.S. currency. A student from Kenya asked the older student to verify that, although the U.S. nickel is larger than the dime, the dime is actually worth more.

I thought to myself that traveling to a new land where you have to learn the basics all over again is challenging and admirable—and also demonstrates the adaptability that we as missioners need to have. Wherever we are called to serve Glenmary, the mission areas will have some unique needs. We need to be able to adjust to meet those needs, whether we are in North Carolina or Mississippi or some other mission area.

While hanging out with the new students and listening to all their questions, I was reminded that orientation time is also a great opportunity to rethink who we are and why we do things in certain ways. In addition, it allows us time to reflect on the question of what qualities make a good missioner.

When I look around a room full of Glenmary priests and brothers, I see men who are very different from one another but somehow seem to complement each other. I sometimes wonder how we can all be in the same community. But then I remember that the 12 apostles and their early community of followers were also a diverse group that somehow came together to follow Jesus.

Glenmarians do share some common traits that we all need to possess in order to be missioners. We not only share the call but also have the passion to serve U.S. mission lands where needs are tremendous. Glenmary's missions are located in rural parts of the country, and missioners need to be open to living in this kind of environment even if they do not come from a rural area.

Glenmarians are also service-oriented. They are not interested in waiting in the parish rectory for someone to come and ask for help; instead, they are willing to go and find out where help is needed. Glenmarians are also able to live and serve in multicultural communities with missioners and students from other countries. But even more significant is that we learn in our formation and mission assignments about the unique Southern and Appalachian cultures. As missioners, we must always be prepared for cross-cultural experiences among the people we serve.

Glenmarians must serve as leaders—men who are self-starters, men who can take initiative. People living in the mission areas deserve the best possible missioners to lead them. Hopefully we possess some of these qualities before entering the Glenmary formation program, and we integrate other qualities as we prepare to become priests and brothers.

If you think you have some of these qualities and would like more information about becoming a Glenmary missioner, please let me know. "'The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest'" (Lk 10:2).