A Spring message to Our Glenmary Partners

Every week, Glenmary Father Neil Pezzulo gets behind the wheel of his compact car and drives nearly 200 miles to Hazard, Ky. Distracting himself from the more than three-hour trip, he tunes into music, an audio book or a podcast.

He stays in Hazard on Friday; drives 35 miles to Jackson, Ky., on Saturday to celebrate 5 p.m. Mass; treks 20 miles to Campton, Ky., for 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday; and then celebrates 11:30 a.m. Mass in Hazard on Sunday.

In eastern Kentucky, part of the Diocese of Lexington, the district is geographically large with few Catholics and many miles between churches. Few counties in the diocese have more than one church, and all of the areas Father Neil serves are economically challenged. There are not many jobs, and young people leave in pursuit of better opportunities.

It’s a typical Glenmary mission area, but until now, unserved by Glenmarians. Two years ago, the Franciscan priests and brothers who had served eastern Kentucky since the 1960s made a tough decision. Faced with a declining population of clergy, they no longer had enough people to staff the eastern Kentucky churches and had to leave the area.

So, Glenmary filled the void.

Thanks to donors like you, Glenmary has been active in Kentucky for many years. We have established 14 missions in Kentucky and returned them to the pastoral care of the local dioceses. Your gift will help Glenmary continue this ministry and take on new challenges in the future.

Familiar with the region, Father Neil and Father John Rausch in Stanton, Ky., knew each parish and area had unique needs as well as its own rich cultural heritage. They began meeting monthly with people from each parish to create a workable cluster model for the three parishes.

“The Holy Spirit uses the creativity of people to meet their needs,” Father John said. “A true mission spirit comes when they realize they’re part of a larger church.”

It also is possible with the support of Glenmary donors. Your generosity enables Glenmary to respond to spiritual and material needs within the missions. In the past, donor funds have helped complete construction projects, hold clothing drives, stock food pantries, offer day camps for local children and provide emergency relief for those most in need.

On a daily basis, each mission is served by lay ministers, including a lay woman in Hazard, a religious sister in Campton and a married couple in Jackson. Their vision and dedication lend vitality to the missions, providing continuity and connection between the members, the diocese and the other parishes.

In his second term as Glenmary’s first vice president, Father Neil assumed a dual role. He continues to perform his elected duties during the week and to serve as the presbyteral moderator for Mother of Good Counsel in Hazard, Holy Cross in Jackson and the Catholic Community of the Good Shepherd in Campton. He is working with the parishes to cover funerals, weddings and holy days.

“We’re smart; we’ll figure it out together,” he said.

Though attendance is still low at each Mass, the parishioners are devoted. The feeling is the same in every county. The parishioners do not know what they would have done without Glenmary, and we do not know how we could have helped without your support.

It is a powerful message, especially during spring, a season of rebirth. With your support, you have helped Glenmary plant the seeds of faith in these Appalachian counties, helping to grow and strengthen the Catholic community in Kentucky.

Thank you for your continued generosity. Enjoy the beauty of spring and please keep the ministry teams of Breathitt, Perry and Wolfe counties in your prayers. And know that you and your loved ones are in my prayers, as well.

Your brother in mission,