Father Jerry Dorn
CINCINNATI (Nov. 12, 2014)—Father Jerry Dorn, 70, a native of Adrian, Minn., and a Glenmary Home Missioner for 50 years, died suddenly Nov. 10 at his residence in Kingsport, Tenn. During his long career in ministry, he served in a wide range of roles—from parish brother and mission pastor to vocation director and Glenmary president—and was also deeply connected to the Glenmary Group Volunteer Program at the Glenmary Farm. (Share your memories of Father Jerry and the Farm on the Farm's Facebook page.)
"Father Jerry was a Glenmarian to the core and was willing to serve in whatever ways needed to help," says Glenmary president Father Chet Artysiewicz. "He possessed a tremendous amount of energy, love for life, and total dedication and commitment to Glenmary. And he left a powerful, lasting impression on people."
He professed Final Oath as a brother ("Brother Jim") in 1968, then took on his first assignments as a parish brother and vocation counselor. In 1975, after feeling called to the priesthood, he began seminary studies and was ordained in 1978.
He proceeded to serve as a vocation counselor and house director at the discernment house in Fairfield, Conn.; mission pastor in Arkansas; director of Glenmary's Lay Pastoral Coordinator Program; first vice president; and codirector of the education department. He was elected to the position of Glenmary president for two terms (1995-2003), doubling as vocation director in his second term.
He then pastored the Glenmary mission in West Liberty, Ky., before becoming director of Glenmary's House of Discernment in Hartford, Ky.
In his last official assignment, he served as director of Glenmary's candidacy and postnovitiate programs in St. Meinrad, Ind. He took senior membership in 2013.
In all, Father Jerry was officially assigned to promote vocations to Glenmary for over 15 years. Under his direction, the vocation department won the John Paul II Award from the Central Religious Vocation Directors Association for "unique contribution to vocation ministry" for the volunteer program at the Glenmary Farm in Lewis County, Ky.
But he never really stopped promoting missionary priesthood and brotherhood in any of his assignments. On the other hand, says Father Chet, while Father Jerry was serving at the Farm, "He gave as much to every volunteer as he did to those he thought might have a religious vocation."
Even while in seminary, he spent summers at the Farm, working with volunteers, helping promote the volunteer program, and walking with those who were discerning a Church vocation. His zest for life and connection with young people were summed up by the father of three sons who volunteered with Glenmary: "He has an almost uncanny ability to talk to kids who are interested in researching their own values. I thank God my family has had the privilege of associating with him."
In many ways, Father Chet says, he was the face of the Glenmary Farm. "He was there for so many years, put so much energy into it, and was energized by it." Father Jerry was scheduled to celebrate Mass at the special gathering of Farm alumni and friends on Nov. 22 to mark the end of the volunteer program at the Glenmary Farm.
Father Jerry was a self-described Minnesota "farm boy," the third of eight children of parents whom he called "people of faith." He said they encouraged their kids to do what they could for other people, and in high school he discovered "the Glenmary challenge" of reaching out and contributing. It was difficult for him to imagine that there were areas of the United States without a Catholic Church presence, so he decided at 18 to join Glenmary.
Looking back on his ministry, he said he had opportunities to do things he never thought of doing as a farm boy. "I thank God for all the things I've been a part of and all the lives I've been blessed to touch in some fashion," he remarked on the occasion of his golden jubilee this year. "It's been marvelous."
When Jerry Dorn was born on January 14, 1944, at 12 noon, his grandmother said to his mother, "See, Marge, the bells of St. Adrian are ringing. This one is for the Lord."
Father Jerry is survived by his siblings Joseph (Clarice), David, Marianne (Robert) Heitkamp, Marlene (David) Heironimas, Robert, James (Cheryl), and Michael (Sue), nieces, nephews, fellow missioners, and friends.
Memorials may be made to Glenmary Home Missioners, P.O. Box 465618, Cincinnati, OH 45246.
A digital or hard-copy photo of Father Jerry Dorn is available by contacting Glenmary's communications office at 513-881-7442.