Summertime in the Missions

Brother David Henley, Glenmary vocation director

June 2014

"Specialized training will be as necessary for this work as it is for the foreign missions....We plan to go into our home mission fields not one bit less equipped than our foreign mission societies go into the foreign mission field....At home, our missioners can both observe and participate in various missionary labors in the field as part of their preparation."Father William Howard Bishop, Glenmary founder

Every summer Glenmary students are sent out into the mission field for more "specialized training." Their summer mission experiences are designed to give them ample opportunities to observe and participate in mission ministry. These experiences allow the students to learn how to put theories they have discussed in the classroom into practice in the mission field. During this summer of 2014, some Glenmary students were sent to serve in both Mississippi and Kentucky.

In addition, a number of vocation prospects—those who are just learning about Glenmary—will be visiting missions in Tennessee and Kentucky to give them a firsthand experience of the daily life and routine of Glenmary missioners. For both students and prospects, the purpose of being in the missions is to help them discern their missionary call. By living in community, working side by side and praying with the Glenmarians in these missions, the students and prospects will be able not only to see the great need but also to reflect on their own call and how it may fit that need.

As in the classroom, students will be able to ask questions, but because of the setting those questions will be more specifically about Glenmary mission ministry and the Glenmary way of life. Reflecting on the experience will undoubtedly lead to questions about their call. Questions that they will have to ask themselves during the course of the summer might include:

  • Am I called to brotherhood or priesthood?
  • Is my call to Glenmary or some other religious community?
  • Am I called to live a life of poverty, celibacy, chastity, and religious obedience?
  • Can I live in a small town in a rural community?
  • Is my call to be a missionary and an evangelizer?
  • Am I called to minister ecumenically as well as cross-culturally and multiculturally?
  • Do I have a desire to work for justice?
  • In what ways are my gifts best suited to serve mission needs?

The Glenmary priests and brothers in the missions will help students address some of these questions and the many other doubts, concerns, uncertainties and fears that arise over the course of the ministry.

During my formation I was assigned at different times to missions in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and West Virginia. I am certain that the summer experiences helped me realize I was being called to mission ministry with Glenmary. Highlights from my summer assignments included having the opportunity to talk about my call with Father Vic Subb, asking Father Bob Dalton about my doubts and concerns, being given the chance by Father Neil Pezzulo to lead youth group activities in Arkansas, being allowed to make mistakes and learn from them and, overall, being genuinely welcomed into missions by the Glenmary missioners there.

My summer mission experiences helped me learn that putting pastoral ministry skills into practice was not always as easy as preparing for a final exam in theology, but that it could be done. The mission experiences increased my dependence on God in those difficult moments, gave me the opportunity to know myself, and allowed me to deepen my relationship with community members.

I began to understand that the missioners' most crucial service is to be present with the people of God in the day-to-day messiness and struggles of life. The relationships I formed with them helped sustain my call in each ensuing school semester as I wrote another paper or crammed for another final.

Read previous columns by Brother David.