Wisconsin Parish Cluster Adopts New Glenmary Mission in Georgia

Posted: 10/9/2013

Glenmary Father John Brown (right) with Father Jim Bartelme of WisconsinSince becoming a priest in 1982, Father Jim Bartelme of the Superior (Wis.) diocese says he has dreamt that "my parish would build a relationship with a mission that needed help." In 2013, that dream became a reality when—as sacramental minister of a parish cluster—he guided the four parishes in "adopting" a new Glenmary mission through the Adopt-A-Mission Program. These small congregations include St. Peter in Cameron, St. Boniface in Chetek, St. Joseph in Barron, and Assumption in Strickland.

Father Jim, a Glenmary donor for 31 years, had read about and admired the society's adoption program. It pairs a willing, able parish with an economically challenged Glenmary mission in a relationship that involves mutual prayer; financial assistance; regular communication and encouragement; and often an exchange of visits.

Last fall, Father Jim contacted Father Don Tranel of Glenmary's Development Office about a possible adoption. "I told him I wanted our parishes to have a wider vision of the Church," says Father Jim, "and to have an active connection with a U.S. mission—with visits to one another so we could help and grow with them."

The Wisconsin cluster's administrator, and then the parishioners, responded very positively when Father Jim brought up his idea. He says they are generous people with good hearts. "Poverty is a reality in our area, too; it's just not as widespread as in Glenmary missions. Our members faithfully support and volunteer at the food pantries and thrift store here."

In October 2012, Father Don accepted Father Jim's invitation to speak at five Masses about Glenmary's ministry. The Wisconsin priest then told Father Don in January 2013 that the parishes were eager to adopt. Father Don identified the Holy Family mission in Blakely, Ga., as the most likely match.

Father John Brown, the mission's new pastor, talked by phone with Father Jim in early February about the prospective adoption. "I told him later our mission members were overwhelmingly in favor of the idea," Father John says.

With the adoption finalized, Fathers Jim and John visited each other's parishes in July. Father Jim rode 1,300 miles on his motorcycle to Blakely, concelebrated Mass, and helped at the mission's Vacation Bible School. "I told them how happy I was to be there, that they're in our prayers, and that we want to build our relationship," says Father Jim. "They were wonderful."

Three weeks later, Father John spoke at the Wisconsin parishes and attended a Vacation Bible School and festival. "I really enjoyed being with the people," he says. "I expressed our deep gratitude, told them more about our mission, and let them know we're praying for them. Having sister parishes reminds us we're not alone in the world."

Before Christmas, the Wisconsin parishioners plan to collect and send baby clothing to the mission for county residents. Also, the cluster's religious education director hopes to go to Blakely in the future with parish youth and chaperones, possibly to run a Vacation Bible School. Father Jim is considering other service trips by his parishioners. And Father John has talked about the possibility of a Blakely group traveling to Wisconsin.

"I want our parishes and mission community to see each other as partners," says Father Jim.

For more information on Glenmary's Adopt-A-Mission and Adopt-A-Missioner programs, please contact Jodi Mott, Mission Education and Ministry Office coordinator, at 800-935-9075. 

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2013 Home Mission News newsletter.