Discernment Glenmary Style

Posted: 11/21/2017

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By Wilmar Zabala
Dioceses in the United States celebrated National Vocation Awareness Week earlier this month. This annual event in the Church reminded me that discernment to the priesthood or brotherhood is not a one-size-fit-all process. Every priest or brother takes on a different path to arrive in the same destination. I asked Glenmary priests and brothers living and ministering in the Glenmary missions about their own discernment and ministries. Although for each one it was a little different, a few common themes stood out in their responses: 

Discernment is not a solitary journey

Many Glenmarians found support during the early stages of their discernment, and I would encourage you to welcome faith-filled people to walk with you on your discernment journey. 

"The support from others helps us to hear God's call and reminds us that we are not alone on this journey," said Father Aaron Wessman, pastor of the Holy Spirit Mission in Bertie County, N.C.

Father Tom Charters, pastor at St. Michael the Archangel Mission in Unicoi County, Tenn., credited a history teacher in high school for helping him get more serious about the priesthood and Glenmary. Brother Larry Johnson, second vice-president of Glenmary, acknowledged the valuable assistance from the director of a non-profit organization who encouraged him to contact the Glenmary Group Volunteer Program as a way to put his faith in to action.

Though specific individuals were instrumental in Father Tom and Brother Larry's discernment, it was a communal effort for Father Aaron. He had good mentors guiding him and helping him discern more clearly. They had already been through formation and lived many years as priests and as members of Glenmary. He felt it was also important for him to get involved with Glenmary, because that was the community he was interested in joining.

Brother Jason Muhlenkamp, who leads a weekly ecumenical Bible study - among his many ministries - in Holy Family Mission in Early County, Ga., found support from priests as well as from other men he met on Come and See trips who were also discerning their call.

The missionary appeal of Glenmary 

Obviously through their discernment, each of those men was led to Glenmary. But I could not help but wonder why Glenmary when there are so many other religious communities to choose from.

Father Vic Subb, pastor at Holy Family Mission in Macon County, Tenn., was moved by Glenmary's ministry of caring for the needs of the people that nobody else wanted to help. Brother Jason loved the challenge of going into areas where there is little or no Catholic presence. Father Aaron mentioned similar reasons: "rural life, ecumenical work, a truly missionary charism and how Glenmary works on the margins."

The missionary appeal of Glenmary brings both joys and challenges to their ministries. Even though Father Tom finds ministering in another language to be challenging, he is filled with joy when he sees his parishioners, especially the youth, become more committed to Christ and the Church.

Brother Larry struggles with people who have different agendas and personalities, but he has learned how to bring them to a proper relationship with God and each other. He also finds fulfillment in being able to witness and share his faith with others. Father Vic's challenge is not having enough time to minister to everyone, but he loves the variety of ministries he is able to get involved in as a Glenmarian.

Finding the right balance between work and prayer is what challenges Brother Jason. But the ministry of presence - just being with others in sadness and joy - is what he loves being a Glenmary brother.

I invite you to give this missionary appeal of Glenmary thought and consideration in your discernment. There are challenges and joys, but these are the exciting adventures that await you.

In their own words: Words about discernment 

Father Aaron: "Once you jump into the pool and swim around, it is always okay to get out of the water. But until you jump in the pool, you won't really know what the water is like. So, why not swim!"

Brother Larry: "Spiritual direction and don't go at it alone."

Father Tom: "Pray, pray and pray. Develop a strong prayer life. Along with prayer, find a trusted faith-filled person who is both spiritual and wise. Another thing when discerning is to list what are the pros and cons of the vocation you're considering."

Father Vic: "To pray a lot! To listen to God speaking in your heart. To hear where you can be at peace the most."

Brother Jason: "Pray about it and attend a Come and See Mission Trip."

Discernment is not a solitary journey. We would be honored to be a part of it.

Consider attending a Come and See Mission Trip where you will meet Glenmary priests and brothers who answered the call to do mission work in rural America. You will experience that same missionary appeal that attracted them to Glenmary. Are you ready to take the next step on the journey?