Past Glenmary President Leads Formation

Posted: 8/2/2013

Novice directors Fathers Dan Dorsey (right) and Tom Kirkendoll with novices Patrick Muriithi and William Obiero during the first week of the 2013-14 novitiate program.As Glenmary president, Father Dan Dorsey led the society from 2003 to 2011. But after completing the maximum two terms in this role, he immediately began a new ministry at Cincinnati headquarters as Glenmary's formation director—as well as its novitiate director alongside Father Tom Kirkendoll. From his unique perspective as a former president and current formation director, he's optimistic about Glenmary's future.

"My reason for optimism is that our ministry and future are in God's hands," he says, "and God loves Glenmary even more than we do."

He emphasizes that, as a Glenmarian, "I want to be where God wants me to be." That approach has served him well through 12 years in two missions (nine as a pastor), 12 years on Executive Council (eight as president, four as vice president), and nine years of service in the formation program. His current ministry is one he finds enjoyable and challenging—and for which he has specialized training and experience. His earlier stint as novitiate director was from 1983 to 1990.

As formation director, he leads the program that helps Catholic men further discern their vocational call and prepare to serve as missionary priests and brothers.

The ultimate hope is that those who enter the formation program—which includes aspirancy, prenovitiate, novitiate and advanced formation—will complete it by professing a Final Oath to Glenmary's missionary apostolate.

"But there will always be some attrition," he says. "Our acceptance criteria and screening are stricter and better than ever, and the formation process takes several years. There is a real wisdom in time. Men who belong eventually know they belong." The vitality of the vocation and formation programs is evidenced by the fact that two new Glenmary priests and two new brothers have professed Final Oath since 2006 and are now serving in the missions.

Father Dan adds that today's Glenmary students are a little older, more experienced, and more mature than those in past decades. "Seven men are now in various stages of formation," he says. "And we have another very good group entering Glenmary this summer."

That group includes two aspirants pursuing priesthood: José Alfredo Marcelo Lopez, 28, originally from Colcula, Jalisco, Mexico, and currently living in Tulsa, Okla., and Anh Tuan Thomas Nguyen, 18, born in Vietnam and now living in Garland, Texas. As aspirants, they'll first need to complete appropriate undergraduate degrees at Divine Word College in Iowa.

Four prenovices round out the group. They include priesthood candidates Charles Osewe Aketch, 33, from Kisumu, Kenya; Jeremy Hagedorn, 34, from Tell City, Indiana; and Richard Andati Toboso, 25, from Kakamega, Kenya—as well as brotherhood candidate Gilberto Escalier Sandoval, 25, from Durango, Mexico.

The prenovices' first year with the Formation Department will take place under the guidance of the prenovitiate director, Father Bruce Brylinski, at Glenmary's House of Studies in St. Meinrad, Ind. This year provides students with an introduction to Glenmary in an environment of study, discernment and community living. Charles, Jeremy and Richard will pursue theology studies for priesthood, while Gilberto will begin studies for brotherhood.

After the prenovitiate, students become novices. During the one-year novitiate in Cincinnati directed by Fathers Dan and Tom, students spend the first two and last five months in community and personal prayer; discernment and faith sharing; study of spiritual theology and Glenmary's history, charism and Oath; pastoral work; and preparation for First Oath. The remaining five months are spent in an extended mission placement.

In addition, students work at Glenmary missions during open periods throughout their formation, says Father Dan. "These mission experiences are extremely important because they help the men understand the realities of mission life and decide whether it's right for them."

Glenmary's unique charism is to establish a Catholic presence where there has never been one before—in rural U.S. counties where Catholics are fewer than 3 percent of the population and the poverty rate is more than twice the national average. "One Bible story that has great meaning for Glenmarians is Jesus' parable of the lost sheep," he says. "The shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to go after the one that's lost."

The small percentage of Catholics in mission areas means success often has to be measured in ways besides numbers. "We always tell the guys in formation that they'll need very strong faith and prayer lives," says Father Dan, "because the way a Glenmarian ultimately measures success is in his relationship with Christ. They have to be able to see that they're going to be the ones to sow the seeds, but not necessarily the ones to reap the harvest. However, if God has called them to this life, they're going to be happier than they've ever been."

Father Dan says he feels happy and blessed. "God has used me in ways I thought he might, and in other ways I never even imagined."

This article first appeared in the August 2013 Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.