Glenmary Home Missioners recently buried two of our brothers—Brother Terry O’Rourke, 82, and Brother Bob Hoffman, 89.
Their deaths have allowed me to reflect a little on Glenmary brothers and brotherhood. As Glenmary president Father Chet Artysiewicz likes to ask the young men serving Mass with him, “Are you the one who is going to replace me?” I too offer the question, “Who is going to replace Brother Terry or Brother Bob?”
Currently in the U.S. church, there are only about 4,000 religious brothers. By comparison, there are close to 40,000 Catholic priests. Ten times as many priests as brothers are serving, and we continually hear that there is a shortage of priests. Parishes are combining. Priests are serving as sacramental ministers in parish clusters. Certainly, we need more priests, and if the numbers tell us anything, we really need more brothers, too.
Oftentimes, young men I speak with do not know the vocation of Religious Brothers in the church. Perhaps because they are so few in number, they have not had the opportunity to meet a brother and see his invaluable role in the Church. Too often, I hear from young men who are discerning a brother vocation that they are asked, “Why not go all the way to priesthood?” Perhaps the vocation of humbly working behind the scenes is not visible enough to attract new young vocations.
I do believe that there is something exciting happening in the Church and that we are seeing an increase in vocations in general. I am excited that more young men who are discerning a call as a brother have been in communication with our vocation office. We currently have two men among our 12 students who are preparing for brotherhood.
Glenmary brothers are required to study two years of theology and then another course of studies to prepare them for the ministry they might encounter in the missions. Glenmary brothers are needed for a wide range of ministries. Recent brothers have studied pastoral ministry, social work, nursing and Spanish. In the past, brothers like Brother Terry and Brother Bob have studied carpentry and other courses. I think that one exciting aspect about Glenmary brothers’ ministries is the wide array of ways they can use their gifts and talents in the missions.
Brother Terry and Brother Bob spent many years as part of the Glenmary building crew; they constructed mission churches, built homes for low-income families, among other projects. They even had a hand in building Glenmary’s current headquarters in Fairfield, Ohio.
Brother Terry listened to the needs of the people in the missions he served in Mississippi he realized that hunger was a major concern for the people of the community so he helped to establish the Loaves and Fishes food bank in Aberdeen, Miss.
Brother Terry discovered he had a passion for training service dogs to help the disabled. He would raise the dogs, and later give them to others so that they could enhance another person’s life, giving them greater independence.
Brother Terry also served Glenmary as second vice president of the community for eight years and served nine years in the formation program, teaching the Glenmary students.
Brother Bob professed his first oath in Glenmary in 1952, giving him nearly 65 years of service as a Glenmary brother. Traveling through former Glenmary mission areas like Lewis County, Ky., the homes that Brother Bob built are scattered along the hillsides and up the hollows. Brother Bob helped to construct many of our mission churches in counties where there had never been a Catholic presence.
Brother Bob also served with the Glenmary Volunteer Program and was on the vocation team. Brother Bob was so impressed by the young men joining Glenmary from overseas that he even traveled to Kenya and helped to design and build two churches in dioceses where some of our students had come from.
Are you being called to replace Brother Terry and Brother Bob?
This spring, the Religious Brothers across the country celebrate Religious Brothers Day on May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the worker. A group of brothers wrote a prayer for this day, and I invite you to pray it with us (see below). Pray with us that we see an increase of vocations to Glenmary Brothers.
More brothers are needed to replace the good and holy men like Brother Terry and Brother Bob, men who can preach the values of the Gospel by sharing their talents in Mission Land, USA. If you feel you area called to the special vocation of Religious Brotherhood and to share with us in our promises of chastity, poverty, obedience and prayer, contact us and we can take you on a mission tour and give you the opportunity to meet some of our Glenmary brothers.
We are waiting for you to be the one to replace Brother Terry and Brother Bob.
Prayer for Religious Brothers Day
God of mercy and compassion, thank you for the extraordinary life, witness, and ministry of Religious Brothers in our Church.
In your wisdom, you have called these ordinary men to generously serve, pray, and share your healing love with others.
As we prepare for our annual Religious Brothers Day, deepen our appreciation for the vocation of Religious Brothers, their congregational charisms, and their commitment to vowed community life.
Strengthened by our baptismal call to holiness, inspire us to invite men to consider religious life as a Religious Brother.
Grant all Religious Brothers the grace and perseverance they need to proclaim your Holy Word for the life of our Church and our world.