Missioners Have Great Desire to 'Go Forth'

Brother David Henley, vocation director

October 2015

During Pope Francis' trip to the United States, he celebrated the canonization Mass for St. Junípero Serra. I did not get a chance to attend that liturgy, but a few of Glenmary's students were present there with fellow seminarians. I did watch the Mass, and I listened to the Holy Father's homily. His words about the mission of Jesus, the mission of the Church, and St. Junípero Serra seemed to echo with the mission of Glenmary.

Father Junípero Serra, born in 1713 in Mallorca, Spain, was 36 years old when he traveled to the "New World" as a Franciscan missionary priest. And after reaching the shores of Veracruz, Mexico, he walked about 250 miles to Mexico City. (According to Google maps, that would be, at least an 80-hour walk.) In 1769, seven years before the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, 56-year-old Father Junípero set out from Mexico to establish missions in what is now Southern California. He personally established nine of the 21 California missions. He died in 1784 at the age of 70.

Pope Francis said that St. Junípero Serra "was the embodiment of ‘a Church which goes forth,' a Church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Father Junípero Serra left his native land and its way of life. He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life." I think that desire to go forth to new missions is a quality which burns inside all Glenmary missioners. It is a desire to joyfully share with others the love of Jesus Christ that we ourselves have encountered.

Just last week we buried a beloved Glenmary missioner, Father Charlie Hughes, who I think embodied that same spirit and desire to "go forth" to preach the Good News in Mission Land, USA. Father Charlie exuberantly proclaimed God's love and mercy by his actions and with the words he proclaimed and wrote. He had a great curiosity and wanted to get to know people. And he had a deep concern for the needs and hurts of all those he met.

Father Charlie was also devoted to prayer: deepening his relationship with God was his first love. To all those who met him, Father Charlie was a joyful witness of the Gospel message. I believe that he became a missioner simply because he wanted to serve others and to make certain they had a path to encounter the same loving God that Father Charlie knew.

As a missioner, Father Charlie shared how simple it was to love, to be joyful and to be hopeful in his everyday life. He will be missed by Glenmarians, his family and the people in the missions. But if you are discerning priesthood or religious life, you can help Glenmary continue joyfully proclaiming the Good News and sharing God's love. Glenmary and the Church need good and holy priests and brothers who—like Father Charlie and St. Junípero Serra—have a desire to "go forth" to places where there is currently no Catholic presence.

The people of God in Mission Land, USA, need devoted missioners like Father Charlie and St. Junípero Serra. I do believe that there are men like them who will continue to respond to that call. Respond to the urging from God to "go forth." Respond to the desire to share the same love and mercy they have felt. Respond to the call to serve the poor and downtrodden living on the peripheries. Respond with their unique gifts and talents to share with people living in the missions.

If you feel that God may be calling you, you can contact our Vocation Office to learn more about the many ways you might be able to serve as a missionary priest or brother.

Read previous columns by Brother David.