In May 2016, seminarian Patrick Muriithi renewed his Glenmary Oath for the second time during a special service at Our Lady of the Fields Chapel at Glenmary headquarters. In doing so, he recommitted himself to his ministry and membership in the home mission society. "My goal is still to serve the people in the home missions," he says. "This second renewal of my Oath bring me another step closer."
He had just completed his third year of theology studies for the priesthood at St. Meinrad (Ind.) Seminary.
During the summer of 2016, he has been on a mission placement at Glenmary's Blakely, Ga., mission with pastor Father John Brown, gaining additional experience and a better understanding of Glenmary's ministry and the parishioners and county residents that missioners serve. In the fall, he will return to the seminary for his fourth year of studies.
Patrick—who grew up and lived in Embu, Kenya, before coming to the United States in 2012—was raised Catholic by his mother and father, a schoolteacher and now-retired health worker. Patrick was a committed altar boy in his parish, was guided in his journey of faith by his parish catechist, felt his first call to priesthood at age 7, and became active in local Catholic youth groups.
After primary and secondary schools, he graduated with distinction from a teacher training college and then taught at a diocesan school for a year. "As a young teacher, I helped build our parish church and initiated the Catholic Teachers Association, which offered ongoing in-service courses for teachers."
His call to priesthood came again in 2003, when he entered Christ the King Major Seminary and studied there for five years. He received a summa cum laude bachelor degree in philosophy and later enrolled in theology, but only studied this subject for a year before leaving to further discern his vocation: "I still had a burning desire to be in priesthood formation, but I had always wanted to be a missionary priest."
While discerning, he also became a teacher trainer at Hermatton Teachers College and then returned to teaching at a diocesan primary school and a home for street children. In August 2011, he found Glenmary on the Internet-finally, the answer to his discernment.
"I was attracted by Glenmary's passion for missionary work in rural areas and small towns of the United States. And the ordination (in 2012) of Glenmary Fathers Crispine Adongo and Aaron Wessman also had an impact on me," he says.
In particular, the 2012 Glenmary retreat "was a major milestone in my discernment. The two Glenmarians (Brother David Henley and Father Dominic Duggins) presented a strong picture of Glenmary and moved my spirit."
Soon after, he accepted Glenmary's invitation to be part of its formation program. On Aug. 2, 2012, he took his first-ever plane flight, from Kenya to the United States. Looking back on his journey to Glenmary, Patrick recalls that it was an exciting and turbulent time.
"I was humble enough to pray and thank God for his mercy and grace," Patrick says. "There was palpable tension in my heart as I prepared to leave the country I had called home since my birth. It was hard to say goodbye. But being met and welcomed by Glenmary members at the airport was very fulfilling.
"It was only a year earlier that I discovered Glenmary online and later applied. Since that time, they have been a Godsend to me. I am comfortable with Glenmary and have no regrets."
Patrick spent two weeks in Glenmary orientation, then moved to Glenmary's House of Studies in St. Meinrad, Ind., where they lived in community with the Glenmarian director and other students during their first year of theology studies at nearby St. Meinrad Seminary, which ended in May 2013. "That year was a huge time of adjustment to the culture shift, language and pedagogical methods at the seminary," he says. "But I was impressed by the dedication and training of the professors. It was a year of building new friendships and working in groups for classes. And I worked on reducing my accent and honing my research and writing skills.
"I also grappled with ill health during the year, and I ultimately had a successful surgery to deal with a cancerous growth. I will not forget Glenmary's prayers for me anytime soon. I ended up the school year with good grades."
Early that summer, he also had a mission assignment in Georgia, working with Blakely pastor Father John Brown and Cuthbert pastoral coordinator Susan Sweet. "I very much enjoyed working there. One of my assignments was to teach Anglo adults at the Vacation Bible School and in religious education."
Patrick's yearlong, three-part novitiate program began with the first part in July and August 2014-led by novice directors Fathers Dan Dorsey and Tom Kirkendoll in Cincinnati. It included classes on spirituality, history of Glenmary and America, documents of the Church, and Father Bishop (founder of Glenmary). In his spare time, Patrick volunteered at St. Vincent de Paul. "Father Dan and Father Tom are impressive and incisive in their knowledge and experience," says Patrick. "I enjoyed their classes and the texts we used."
The second part of Patrick's novitiate-a mission placement at the Lafayette and Celina, Tenn., and Scottsville, Ky., missions-began in September and lasted through January 2014. He said at the time that "working at these missions (with Father Vic Subb, Brother Larry Johnson, the mission members and the people in the three counties) is giving me many valuable experiences that are helping me to continue my journey of discernment and to learn and grow as a future missioner. It's also been a good time for learning more about American culture."
In the third part of the novitiate, February through May 2014, Patrick returned to Cincinnati and studied Glenmary's constitution, charism and oath; did additional pastoral work; and spent time in prayer and preparation for his First Oath in June.
Then in June 2014, he became the newest member of Glenmary after taking his First Oath during a special Mass at the annual General Assembly held in Charleston, W.Va. For Patrick, it was the culmination of his 2013-14 novitiate year after overcoming multiple challenges during his early formation.
"Having the Glenmary community gathered to offer their prayers and witness my Oath had a huge impact on me," Patrick says. "It was a moment I had waited for, and I was very excited and happy to finally become a member of Glenmary and continue my discernment. To me it meant giving myself to Glenmary's way of life-putting Christ ahead of everything, and showing that to others by becoming a disciple."
In the summer of 2014, he volunteered at a food pantry and with a group that provides services to the elderly. And that fall, he returned to St. Meinrad Seminary for his second year of theology studies. During the year, he continued seeking opportunities to learn about the United States culture, too. And he made time for pastoral work by visiting weekly with residents at a nearby nursing home.
At the end of that academic year, Patrick renewed his Glenmary Oath for the first time. Then in the summer of 2015, he completed a clinical pastoral education (CPE) program at St. Mary Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va. The CPE program is part of every future missioner's preparation for pastoral ministry in the Glenmary home missions. And in the fall of 2015, he returned to the seminary for his next year of studies, leading up to his second Oath renewal in May 2016.
"I am looking forward to being a good and humble priest, missionary and servant in the missions where Glenmary assigns me to serve," he says. "I want to spread the faith of Christ Jesus in truth and charity."
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