Glenmary Team Serves New Mission Families
When Glenmary Father Vic Subb contemplated becoming the pastor of three missions this year after a long time away from serving as a pastor, he was very happy—and a little nervous. "But it's been a great experience and smooth transition," he says. "The people here have been extremely hospitable and gracious. And God has been with us." For the preceding seven years, he worked as a Glenmary formation program director and vocation counselor.
On Sep. 1, Father Vic, associate pastor Father Crispine Adongo and Brother Larry Johnson became the new pastoral team serving two existing Glenmary missions in Lafayette, Tenn. (Macon County), and Scottsville, Ky. (Allen County), as well as the newest mission in Celina, Tenn. (Clay County).
With the arrival of December, Father Vic has also been reflecting on the Christmas-related theme of welcoming the stranger. "Like us, most of our mission members are from other places. I tell them they're part of our family and we're part of theirs. It will be very special to celebrate with them during December this year."
So where does a new pastor start? "One of my biggest jobs is to listen," he says. "I and the other pastoral team members have to understand each mission's story and how we can best serve mission members and county residents. The main progress we've made is in building relationships with people."
Their territory has great mission need: fewer than 1 percent of the mission counties' residents are Catholic, and the Celina and Lafayette missions both draw some members from nearby counties without Catholic churches. In addition, a substantial percentage of the mission counties' people live below the national poverty level.
Recently ordained Father Crispine is celebrating two of the four weekend Masses and one of the three weekday Masses at the missions. He's also visiting the hospitalized, homebound and others; celebrating weekly Mass with local jail inmates; and planning to work with mission youth. Brother Larry will be involved with various social outreach ministries such as serving the counties' young people.
If the three missions have one overriding need, says Father Vic, it's to keep building themselves up as strong faith communities that also reach out to others. He's excited about the potential for growth!
In Celina, Divine Savior mission was established in 1982. There is already a church building, but before Glenmary came this year, mission members were visited only once a week by a missionary for liturgy. About 25 Anglos (mostly retirees) and 10 Latinos now attend Saturday English Mass.
"We want to give them more attention and help them strengthen their community," Father Vic says. The mission has few children and no religious education program, but he plans to hold sacramental preparation classes in a family home. He's offering weekly RCIA at the local Mexican restaurant for three employees. And he'd like to start religious education for adults.
"Celina mission members help with some local charitable efforts," he says. "I'm hoping we can partner more on outreach projects with the Methodist church."
He's also planning to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Celina this December for the first time. It's an effort to serve and get to know more local Latinos, possibly welcome new members, and later on possibly offer Spanish Mass.
In Lafayette, local Catholics began gathering in the 1980s in a small basement church, served by visiting diocesan priests. Lay leaders helped the Holy Family community develop, and Glenmary missioners arrived in 2003.
Today, construction of a new church for this growing congregation of 130 Anglos and 100 Latinos is their most urgent need. Father Vic says a unified effort will be the key to success. "With a new, larger church building, the mission will grow more quickly than ever."
The Lafayette religious education program held after Sunday-morning English Mass serves 30 children, and RCIA includes seven adults. Making classes more accessible for families attending Sunday-evening Spanish Mass is an important priority.
The local ministerial association has been very welcoming. And Lafayette mission members participate in several ecumenical efforts for the poor. Macon County also attracts hundreds of migrant tobacco workers each year. Although they are very spread out, Father Vic wants to explore ways to serve them.
In Scottsville, Glenmary established Christ the King mission in 1964. Today, 130 Anglos and 20 Latinos celebrate Sunday English Mass in their new church dedicated in 2008.
The religious education program includes 25 children and the RCIA class numbers five. The close-knit Scottsville mission is also consistently involved in community outreach and is part of a very inclusive local ministerial association, says Father Vic.
For the same reasons as in Celina, this congregation will celebrate the Our Lady of Guadalupe feast this year for the second time.
He says the Scottsville mission community just needs to keep building on its strengths.
As December unfolds, Father Vic, his fellow Glenmarians, and their mission members will be celebrating "why we come together in our mission communities, why we care for others in need, and why we welcome the stranger," he says. "We need to remember all these things as we look towards the future."
This article appears in the December 2012 Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.