Mission Land, USA, Is Waiting for You

Brother David Henley, Glenmary vocation director

September 2014

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest."—Lk 10:2

As vocation director for Glenmary Home Missioners, I am fortunate to be attuned to the news reports about vocations in the Catholic Church. I am referring to both informal and formal news sources. Most informal reports I receive from vocation directors in other communities indicate that, as at Glenmary, there are increases in the number of men who are discerning and responding to their call. In Glenmary's case, this trend is evidenced by the increase in men who have participated in Glenmary Come & See retreats in recent years.

But formal reports indicate that despite increases in the number of men in seminaries and formation programs, there are still not enough new vocation prospects to fill the shoes of the aging clergy and religious in the United States. Last month, a report by the U.S. Bishops Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations presented recent data on vocations and religious life in this country. The negative trends cited in this report included the following:

● "The number of priests in U.S. continues to decline by 1% annually."
● The newly ordained are "more ethnically diverse but not as diverse as general Catholic population."
● Demographic trends indicate that there is a "continued overall decline of religious brothers."

The positive trends identified were as follows:
● "Good news: 600,000 never-married Catholics (aged 14-35) have ‘seriously considered' a call to the priesthood and religious life."
● "If one person encourages a person to consider a religious vocation, he/she is TWICE as likely to do so."

Glenmary, too, has good news and bad news to report. The good news is that Glenmary has 12 men in our formation program. Three men are currently under oath and in advanced studies. Three others are currently in their novitiate year. Three new candidates moved into the Glenmary House of Studies in St. Meinrad, Ind., in August—two of whom have begun their studies at St. Meinrad Seminary and one who is preparing to do so in the near future. And the remaining three men are currently studying at Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa. Of the 12 men, two are preparing for brotherhood and the other 10 for priesthood.

However, despite the good news about the number of men in Glenmary's formation program, the bad news is that I believe we are still facing a shortage crisis in the United States and in "Mission Land, USA." In order to overcome this crisis, more men are needed to respond to the call to help Glenmary serve the vast U.S. regions where the Catholic Church is not yet effectively present.

A couple of recent communications have served as a reminder to me about how urgent the need is in Mission Land, USA.

Glenmary president Father Chet Artysiewicz informed me that he recently received a letter from a bishop in a diocese where no Glenmary priests or brothers are currently serving. The bishop wrote that he would like to "discern a possible presence of Glenmary fathers and brothers in the diocese." In his letter, he also explained the tremendous need to serve the people living in the diocese's rural areas, where the Catholic population struggles as a minority. In another diocese, a bishop recently told a Glenmary priest that he would be "open to having Glenmary serve in more counties in his diocese, and that Glenmary should consider any of a number of counties there that do not have a Catholic presence."

Sadly, despite our growing student body, Glenmary does not have any personnel to send to either of these dioceses at this time—or to any of the other places where there is a need. The requests by bishops clearly indicate that despite all the progress Glenmary has made in the 75 years since our founding, the home mission need is still very much present today.

Glenmary's founder, Father William Howard Bishop, knew that bringing a Catholic presence to "Mission Land, USA," was not a task that would be complete in the near future. In 1936 he wrote, "It is a mammoth undertaking. Generations will be required to accomplish it. But cannot the same be said of every mission enterprise?"

Glenmary Home Missioners offers many opportunities for young men to "Come & See" this enormous mission need. Now is the time to pray about your calling and discern if it is the right time for you to respond to the invitation to labor in the U.S. mission field. The need is growing and the people in Mission Land, USA, are waiting for you.

Read previous columns by Brother David.