Glenmary's 16th General Chapter

Brother David Henley, vocation director

July 2015

Last month, Glenmary Home Missioners gathered in Charleston, W.Va., for our 16th General Chapter. The Glenmary Chapter is an event that happens once every four years. It is a time during which the entire Glenmary community—priests, brothers, students and lay coworkers—comes together to elect a new Glenmary Council made up of our president and two vice presidents, as well as to discuss major issues concerning Glenmary and the missions.

For the last year, Glenmary community members prepared diligently for the Chapter through prayer and reflection. At Glenmary Headquarters, our daily prayer included a reading from the biography of our founder, connecting us to his vision and dream. The entire community also reflected on the signs of the times by reading Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). We gathered in small groups for monthly days of reflection to share our thoughts on our designated reading. Thanks to Pope Francis’ insights, we were reminded that the mission has a Church and not that the Church has a mission. At that time, we also began to purposefully dialogue about the needs of the missionary community and the missions.

As we gathered for our General Chapter, we did not enter into a business model of getting right to work. Instead, we first entered into a five-day retreat, allowing us to slow down and invoke the Holy Spirit before we made any decisions or specific proposals. This retreat included further reflections on the Joy of the Gospel as well as Pope Francis’ apostolic letter To All Consecrated People on the Occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life.

After the retreat, we gathered in the chapel and began the discussion during which we named the qualities needed by the next Glenmary Council. Eventually, we invited members whom we felt possessed those qualities to discern whether they could allow their names to be considered for the offices of the president and two vice presidents. After a prayerful dialogue, Father Chet Artysiewicz was reelected as president, Father Neil Pezzulo was reelected first vice president and Brother Larry Johnson was elected as second vice president.

After the elections, we celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving and enjoyed a banquet to honor all the members who had served on the Executive Council over the years.

The following day, we entered into what we called our discernment Chapter. The spirit of dialogue and fraternity that we sustained on the retreat continued throughout the week, as we identified the issues and themes that had the most importance for this small band of missioners. Some of those issues included a deeper commitment to promoting vocations, to finding creative ways to encourage more lay mission vocations, and to preparing for the Church’s upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy.

In addition, Glenmarians drafted a statement on racism. This statement came out of our attempts to lovingly reflect on the signs of the times and out of our desire to be builders of the kingdom of God. The statement not only verbalizes our efforts to take a stand against racism in our culture, but it also calls us to self-examination and commits us to face the ongoing struggles of our own conversions. We pledged to return to our gathering next year and report back to the group what we have done, calling ouselves to personal accountability on this issue along with the other members of the Glenmary community.

The Glenmary Chapter closed with a Mass of Installation for the new Executive Council. But the Chapter issues, like our call to be missioners, do not end. We accomplished much in two short weeks together, but we have much more work ahead of us. We will continue to prayerfully address the mission needs in the United States and how Glenmary can “go forth from our own comfort zones in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, par. 20).

Read previous columns by Brother David.