Qualities of a Glenmary Missioner

Brother David Henley, Glenmary vocation directorAugust 2013

It is now less than a week before fall classes start for the men in the Glenmary formation program, but last week we welcomed in our new students at national headquarters. We are thrilled to announce that six new men will be studying to become missioners. Out of the six, five will be preparing for the priesthood and one for the brotherhood. Two are from the United States, two from Mexico and two from Kenya—and they range in age from 18 to 32.

This week and last, the new students are participating in a Glenmary orientation program. They have an intense schedule from now until the start of classes, meeting with numerous Glenmary priests, brothers and coworkers so that they can learn about many aspects of Glenmary life. During this orientation they are also traveling to a number of Glenmary mission parishes so that they can have firsthand mission experiences before beginning school.

As vocation director, I have had the privilege to walk with each of these men during his discernment process and am excited about the fine quality of those entering the formation program this year. Each one is unique and brings his own gifts to share with the community and the missions. They are not the same group of men whom Glenmary's founder, Father Bishop, welcomed almost 75 years ago—but it is interesting to reflect on the fact that they do possess qualities he looked for in a missioner.

Recently I had a chance to reread a few articles Father Bishop wrote in 1939 regarding vocations and the qualities needed to be a Glenmary missioner. "The young man who prepares for the Home Missions will not have to learn to speak Chinese," he writes in one article. That's still true, but I don't think Father Bishop anticipated other changes that have occurred in our mission areas in the last 20 years. All of our students will be studying Spanish during their formation. The majority of this year's group is already bilingual!

Other qualities that Father Bishop wrote were needed in new missioners in 1939 are still important today:

• "He will have to study the environment, the work and the ways of many different kinds of rural people..."
• "He will know how to apply first aid and simple remedies to himself and others in case of injury or sickness where doctors cannot be reached..."
• "He will know how to help the poor and ignorant to have better crops and healthier surroundings..."
• "He will know how to cook a meal that will be fit to eat. He will know how to mend his own clothes when he has to..."

Glenmary missioners are a diverse group of men who lead simple lives and strive to serve others. They know how to take care of themselves so that their resources can be focused on the needs of the people they serve. During the formation years, students are specifically prepared to be missioners to the people in Mission Land USA. As Father Bishop wrote, "We plan to go into our home field not one bit less well equipped than our foreign mission societies go into the foreign field."

And most importantly during formation, each student's spirituality is developed and pastoral skills are enhanced—preparing him to connect with the diverse group of people and needs he will encounter when he is in the missions. As Father Bishop said, "Most of all and best of all, he will know to touch the hearts of simple people with the glorious and saving truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ..." The most precious gift we can carry with us to the missions is the love of Jesus Christ.