1939-2014: 75 Years of Home Mission Ministry

Brother David Henley, vocation directorJanuary 2014

In 1938, Father William Howard Bishop, the founder of Glenmary Home Missioners, published a "No Priest Land, USA" map (first map below) to show the vast mission need that existed in this country. At that time, more than 1,000 counties in the United States did not have a Catholic presence.

For 75 years, Glenmary has been dedicated to bringing a Catholic presence to those mission areas with the most need—establishing more than 150 missions in over 100 U.S. counties in that short time. The majority of these missions have been located in Appalachia and the Deep South. Although we have accomplished a great deal in our 75 years of existence, our mission task is not completed.

The Glenmary Vocation Office recently printed a new mission map (second map below) that reflects Catholic data collected from the 2010 U.S. Religious Census: Religious Congregations and Membership Study. This map highlights the U.S. counties whose populations are less than 3 percent Catholic. The percentage indicated for each county is based on the total number of reported Catholic adherents compared to the 2010 U.S. Census of the general population. The new map also shows the counties where there is no Catholic presence as of that year. But since that time, Glenmary Home Missioners has established missions in multiple U.S. counties.

1938 mapLow Catholic percentages and no Catholic presence are only two of the factors that Glenmary assesses when establishing new mission territory. Glenmary also considers a new mission area's proximity to other mission areas in order to establish regional communities among Glenmarians. Poverty is also a factor: in most of our mission counties, the poverty level is twice the national average and the unemployment rate could be three times the national average. In addition, Glenmary studies the percentage of people in each potential mission county who are unchurched—that is, the number of residents who don't belong to any church congregation. A review of all these numbers clearly shows that there is still a great mission need in the United States.

2013 mapAre you being called to be the first missionary priest or brother to serve in one of the mission counties with no Catholic presence? Are you up to the challenge?

In his blog, Father Steve Pawelk shares a number of his experiences as the first mission pastor in Union and Grainger counties in Tennessee.

But better than reading about his experiences is gaining firsthand experience of these mission areas yourself. If you would like to join us on a future Come & See mission tour, contact our Vocation Office to find out when upcoming mission trips are scheduled.

If you would like to receive a copy of our new mission map (above), or if you would like more information about Glenmary Home Missioners or would like to speak with someone about following your call to be a missioner, you can call 513-881-7494, or contact us via our Web site, or send an e-mail, or get in touch through Facebook.

You can also read previous columns by Brother David on the Glenmary Web site.