'Brother Tour Guide'
By Brother Levis Kuwa,
This semester I have been temporarily assigned to serve in Glenmary's Vocation Office. This opportunity is allowing me to try my hand at new things, meet new vocation prospects and travel again to the Glenmary missions. Although I am not attending school full-time this semester, I have discovered that I am also learning from my new experiences and have discovered I am right where I belong.
Last month I had the opportunity to lead my first-ever mission tour with men discerning a vocation. On this trip we traveled from Glenmary's Headquarters in Cincinnati to Eastern Kentucky, where Father John Rausch is engaged in justice ministry in Appalachia—a ministry which encompasses economics, dignity of life and care of creation. While sharing a home-cooked meal that he prepared for us, Father John described his ministry as that of "empowerment."
Through his ministry he tries to restore human dignity by working for justice and empowering people in the fight against poverty, environmental degradation and unfair wages. Among the many stories about his ministry that he shared, he described how he and others were recently arrested during a protest in support of coal miners' rights to fair wages, pensions and adequate health care.
On day two of the mission tour we drove to East Tennessee (Maynardville mission) to visit with Brothers Craig Digmann and Joe Steen, who invited us to participate in a local community festival. Later that same day we traveled to Glenmary's Erwin, Tenn., mission, where we met with a number of missioners and coworkers including pastor Father Tom Charters, Brother Tom Sheehy, Glenmary Lay Missioner Kathy O'Brien and novice Paul Cottingham. We spent the night in the mission area, and the next day celebrated Mass with the mission community in the basement of the rented parish house.
While we were there, Father Tom shared with us the progress of the young mission, how his first home and base of operations was an apartment, and how advertising in the local newspaper was used to spread the word. He told us that the local community received the missioners and mission members well, and that the neighbors even allowed parking on their grass lawns during Sunday Mass. The mission community continues to grow both in numbers and in faith. The congregation has acquired land for the future church building, along with many other ongoing projects.
On Sunday afternoon we traveled to a Glenmary mission in Rutledge, Tenn. There we attended the Spanish Mass and met with pastor Father Steve Pawelk and Charles Aketch, another Glenmary novice. That night we stayed at the Glenmary Group Volunteer Program site on Joppa Mountain near Rutledge. We received a warm welcome and tour of the new volunteer site, and we spent the evening talking about all of our mission experiences with the two volunteer managers.
On Monday morning we had to pack up and head back to Glenmary Headquarters in Cincinnati. The drive provided us with more time to reflect on our journey, the places we visited, the missioners we met, and the mission members and others who shared their experiences of living in the mission counties. In giving this quick tour, I experienced a sense of joy and renewal in my own vocation journey. Seeing the wonderful, challenging work that our missioners are doing—and the needs that still exist in our mission areas—reaffirmed my vocation. And it made me long for the day when I will have completed my education and formation and be able to engage fully in this sacred mission service.
On this mission tour I saw that the gifts each of us brings are nurtured and channeled by the Glenmary community toward serving the greatest good. This approach allows us to find the best use of our talents and to find opportunities for new approaches in our ministry. In the missions our quest is always to better serve God and his people. Throughout the trip, I also noted that missioners have many and varied gifts and that their work together helps build the kingdom of God. In these missions, they use their complementary talents in order to make effective mission teams.
By explaining Glenmary's missions to the men participating in the mission trip, my own words reminded me that a lot of good is being done, but also that much more remains to be done. "The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few" means to me that in my vocation ministry the "master of the harvest" asks me to invite more men to share in our work. Talking about our missions with prospects (men discerning about becoming part of our way of life) has made me glad that new men are joining with us to help continue our mission and to keep building up God's kingdom.
By listening to my fellow missioners explain their respective ministries, I caught a glimpse of the big mission picture and felt a great sense of belonging. I am proud to call them my Glenmary brothers and sisters.
Glenmary has additional Come & See mission trips planned. Please contact us if you would like to participate in one of these trips.
You can read more about Brother Levis and his formation journey.