Relating to Others Who Share the Call to Be Missioners

Brother David Henley, vocation director

February 2016

One of my favorite tasks as a vocation director is to talk with the young men who are discerning their call to religious life—particularly those who are discerning about missionary priesthood or brotherhood with Glenmary. One of my favorite questions to ask discerners when I meet with them is "Why Glenmary? Why not your own diocese or with another community?" Everyone has his own answer, but I have begun to recognize similarities among those who feel called to the Glenmary way of life.

Some recent answers to that question that men have shared with me include the following:

• "I feel called to serve in mission areas because that is where I see the greatest need."

• "The fact that Glenmary establishes a Catholic presence among the poor and in rural areas is what is most appealing to me."

• "I can relate to the call to reach out to the poor, as the Gospel teaches and as Pope Francis continues to remind us we need to do."

• "I like going to new places, and the idea of being the first Catholic priest to go to a county is exciting to me."


Although these answers are new to the current discerners, they have been shared by Glenmarians and discerners—with minor variations—for over 75 years. And those reasons have led them to respond to the call to become great missionary priests and brothers. As you reflect on what reasons are encouraging you to discern, I hope that you can recognize similarities between your calling and that of others. In addition, you can take a personal inventory and decide if you are feeling called to places where Glenmary serves. The young men with whom I am now in discussion about Glenmary can relate to the following three aspects of missionary life—rural areas, new places, and ministry in peripheries:

• First, those who are discerning are attracted to rural life. Glenmary's missions are located in Appalachia and the rural South. Glenmary missions are in towns of about 3,000 people or less. The rural areas are the places with greatest need because there is no Catholic presence without Glenmary. Without Glenmary's presence, there would be no converts, and the few Catholics there would fall away because they do not have parish communities.

Before joining Glenmary, I spent two years as a lay volunteer with another community in Chicago. As much as I enjoyed the ministry, I soon realized that my own calling was leading me to rural ministry.

• Second, discerners who feel the call to go out to someplace new. The Scripture passage "Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19) was important to our founder, Father Bishop. He reflected that, although Jesus seemed to be sending disciples out to distant places, the passage certainly did not mean that we could overlook our own country. It was for this reason that he founded the Home Mission Society of America.

An exciting moment for many Glenmary priests and brothers is when they are sent to new mission territories, places where they might be the first Catholic priests or brothers the majority of people in the local communities will meet.

• Third, I think Pope Francis is making an impact through his written documents and spoken words, where he has reminded us that we must go out to the "peripheries." In general, the mission areas have been overlooked and neglected for centuries. The Catholic Church in America has grown in the big cities and more recently in the large suburban parishes. The rural areas of Mission Land, USA, are the peripheries in America.

Most people have a desire to move to the bright lights and fast pace of the big cities, but for those discerning with Glenmary, the places with a slower, more personable way of life are where we are called to serve.


If you feel like your own calling to religious life shares some of these characteristics, maybe God is calling you to be a Glenmary missioner. An ideal way to discern if your calling fits in with others and the Glenmary way of life is to Come & See. Throughout the year, our Vocation Office hosts Come & See weekend trips so that men who are discerning their call can continue this discernment and meet others who share the same type of calling. Please contact us to learn more about the 2016 schedule and to reserve a spot for yourself.

Read previous columns by Brother David.