God's Grace Guides Development Ministry

Posted: 7/1/2013

Father Don Tranel of Glenmary's Development Office talks about home mission needs with Glenmary supportersFather Don Tranel devoted the first 24 years of his missionary priesthood, from 1988 to 2012, to pastoring Glenmary missions in five different states. Father John Rausch observed in a 2005 Glenmary Challenge article that "few missioners of Father Don's generation have ministered in as many diverse cultural settings...as he has."

But in August 2012, Father Don faced a new challenge. He began a new ministry as a member of Glenmary's Development Office staff at Cincinnati headquarters. In this position, he's responsible for connecting with Glenmary supporters and, in his words, "helping ensure that our missioners will continue to have adequate resources to carry out Glenmary's unique, crucial mission."

In preparing for the transition to his new role, Father Don says he once again reminded himself of his own words printed on his 1988 ordination card: "The will of God will never lead us where the grace of God won't care for us."

Like other Glenmarians, he has a great passion for being a missioner in the field. But many years ago, he and his fellow novices were told by then-novitiate director Father Dan Dorsey that every missioner has to take his turn on Glenmary's small support staff, or else there wouldn't be any priests or brothers working in these essential departments.

"I knew I had a lot of gifts that matched the needs of my work in the missions," he says. "But what I've realized since last August is that God also gave me gifts that meet the needs of my new development ministry.

"I have a rich collection of stories from my mission years that I share with our benefactors to give them a better understanding of the difference Glenmary makes in people's lives. And I know firsthand how great the need is." The back of his business card reads, "Sharing the best gift we have—the gift of our Catholic faith."

In his new ministry, he visits, calls and writes existing and prospective Glenmary supporters. And he periodically gives appeal presentations and other talks at parishes around the country. In addition, he has played a key part in connecting some diocesan parishes to Glenmary missions through the Adopt-a-Mission program.

One of his main goals is to express Glenmary's deep gratitude to donors. Another is to talk to people about why their help is so important—using a Glenmary map as a reference in talking about the large number of U.S. counties where there is still no Catholic presence and about the continuing need for Glenmary missions.

No one likes to ask for money, he says, but he understands the necessity of fundraising for the future of Glenmary. And he adds that he's routinely humbled by the generosity of donors.

"I make two promises to people based on my and other missioners' experiences," he says. "The first promise is that Glenmary embraces sweat equity. I tell them that ‘these hands were made for chalices, holding the precious blood of Jesus, but these hands were also made for calluses.'"

When he served as pastor of the Booneville, Ark., mission, he says, the mission survived financially because of mission members' volunteer work in religious education, bookkeeping, property maintenance, and more. And he was part of that effort. The mission never paid for any labor unless it was beyond their capabilities.

His second promise is that Glenmary will be the best possible stewards of people's donations. Booneville mission members affectionately nicknamed Father Don "the utility police" because he was always turning down the heat and air conditioning in the church and parish hall to cut costs. And he published the rectory utility bills in the mission's bulletin because he wanted congregation members to know how little he was spending. "I took that nickname as a badge of honor," he says.

Father Don points out that, while Glenmary has made great strides, there is still a long way to go in carrying out Glenmary founder Father Bishop's dream of establishing the Catholic Church in every U.S. county. "In Georgia alone, for example, there are still more than 50 counties without a Catholic church," he says.

But he also cites this testimonial from now-retired Bishop J. Kevin Boland of the Diocese of Savannah, Ga.: "Glenmary has the charism of serving people in areas where there are very few Catholics. And we are a Church that is obliged...to serve God's people no matter where they are. Glenmary does that very well. We've had them for years in our diocese, and they continue to do great work."

In his new ministry, Father Don says he believes in cultivating and nurturing relationships with donors over the long haul. "When we ask for people's support, we're actually inviting them to be Glenmary's partners in mission—which offers them the chance to respond to their baptismal call to mission.

"As author Henri Nouwen once said, asking people for this kind of assistance is giving them ‘the opportunity to put their resources at the disposal of the Kingdom.'"

You, too, can be part of the home mission education process by viewing, ordering or sharing one of our many free Glenmary maps. To view or order the “Major Religious Families” U.S. map or any of the maps illustrating 2010 Catholic data, please visit our Web site or contact the Glenmary Research Center at 800-935-0975.