Discerners Invited to 'Come & See' Glenmary
Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, "What are you looking for?" They said to him, "Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come, and you will see."—Jn 1:38-39
Even though the world has changed since Jesus spoke those words to John the Baptist's disciples, the need for individuals to respond to the Lord's vocation call is as important as ever. Often, a turning point comes when the person actually experiences what a vocation is about.
"That's why ‘Come & See' is our name for the weekend mission experiences for religious vocation discerners offered by Glenmary," explains Brother David Henley, Glenmary's vocation director. "These trips provide an in-person introduction to our missions, priests and brothers."
Come & See is also the title of a new Glenmary publication that gives vocation prospects an overview of the Glenmary community and answers many questions asked by discerners.
"Visiting Glenmary Headquarters in Cincinnati does not give you an idea of what Glenmary is about," Brother David says, "because our missions are in remote rural areas of Appalachia and the South. We have always encouraged discerners to experience the missions firsthand so they'll eventually be able to answer the question ‘Can I see myself in this type of ministry?'"
Today Glenmary offers Come & See experiences several times each year, led by vocation team members. During the usual three- or four-day weekend, participants visit missions; meet and talk with Glenmarians, lay coworkers, the people they serve, and fellow discerners; and join in liturgies, social gatherings, and sometimes service work-such as volunteering at a house construction site.
The experience also has a retreat component that allows for time to pray, reflect and share; to hear talks about Glenmary; and to explore themes of mission life, priesthood, brotherhood, poverty, chastity, obedience and prayer.
As Brother David points out, the weekend gives Glenmarians the chance to get to know and interview discerners, too.
The annual Thanksgiving Come & See is the year's largest, bringing together vocation prospects, all Glenmary students, and six to 10 Glenmarians. It is scheduled this year for Wednesday, Nov. 27, through Monday, Dec. 2.
The typical Come & See event is for men ages 18-46 living in the United States. But Glenmary also has periodic, separate Come & Sees for young men in grades 9-12; permission is required from parents/guardians, who are welcomed and encouraged to attend with their sons.
"In case of time conflicts, we can arrange for a Come & See experience to fit an individual's schedule," says Brother David. "Also, after an adult discerner participates in a Come & See, he is welcome to later arrange for a weeklong experience in one mission to get an even better feel for the rhythm of mission life."
When U.S. students who entered Glenmary this year look back on their Come & See mission trips, they say those experiences were pivotal in their discernment. For example, Jeremy Hagedorn, 34, says his two trips "were very important in making up my mind. I gained a better understanding of Glenmary by seeing missioners and mission members in action and talking to them. I was really impressed by their energy, enthusiasm, friendliness, and excitement about being part of their missions."
According to fellow first-year student José Alfredo Marcelo Lopez, 28, "Glenmarians love what they do and love the one they follow, Jesus. That was what I saw in their mission communities and in the missioners' faces when they told me mission stories. Their ministry is alive and I wanted to be part of it."
For men in Kenya and Uganda discerning a missionary vocation, Brother David and another missioner lead an annual Come & See retreat in Kenya, which is attended by six to eight prospects. Even though they can't physically visit missions at the time because of travel challenges, up to two of these men per year are later invited to be part of Glenmary's formation program. "We try to give the Kenya groups a meaningful retreat experience," says Brother David, "including talks we normally give in the United States."
Patrick Muriithi, 34, now a Glenmary novice, says his 2012 retreat in Kenya was "a major milestone in my discernment. The two Glenmarians presented a strong picture of Glenmary and moved my spirit."
For vocation prospects in Mexico, a Glenmary vocation team member meets with potential candidates. Some individuals are then invited to the United States for a two- to four-week mission placement and discernment. "These extended stays make their long trips worthwhile," Brother David says.
He emphasizes that Glenmary supporters, family members, pastors, teachers and fellow parishioners play a crucial role in religious vocations for young people. "I ask all those reading this article," he says, "to please encourage young men you know—ones you believe have the qualities to be Glenmary missioners—to explore their possible vocation call by attending a Come & See mission experience and reading our Come & See publication. Your prayers for vocations are also needed as much as ever."
For details on Come & See events, and for copies of the Come & See publication for your parish or school, contact Brother David at 513-881-7494.
This article appears in the October 2013 Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.