He joined Glenmary in 1964, aged 22, and within a few years Brother Curt Kedley was studying social work at Xavier University. That set the course for his life of service, fighting poverty and helping people in Appalachia and the Deep South. Along the way he started a workshop for adults with developmental disabilities, assisted in home repairs, even worked as a baker in “the fruitcake capital of the world” (Claxton, Ga.). And that’s just a sampling.
Q: You’re known for living a simple lifestyle. How did that start?
A: Early in my career. another missioner and I lived in a small, simple home. We paid $35 per month for a little house in Ashe County, N.C., and we developed the idea that listening is a strong asset and ministry. I spent a lot of time listening to people. Many programs came out of that.
Q: All these years later, you’re still busy with Brother Virgil Siefker helping hungry families in eastern North Carolina, but you’re spending a bit more time in quiet, these days?
A: Over the years my different work has taught me the virtue of patience, I hope. But I’ve noticed in the past year or two that I’ve become impatient! I don’t understand that—76 years old and I’m going backwards? (laughs) It probably happens to others, too! I pray to be patient.
I’m a firm believer and I’ve heard more than one Glenmarian say over the years, discernment is a lifelong commitment.
It keeps me humble. I’m still growing.
Q: How do you pray?
A: I usually get up early. I’m a morning person, I’m up at 5:30 a.m. I have my cup of coffee (maybe three cups!). I look at email, then I shut it down for the day. Then I go in my living room and when it’s warm outside, which is most of the time (here in North Carolina), I’ll go out and sit on the front porch. That’s my prayer space. I’ll have my candle lit. I’ll read a chapter from the Bible, pray the breviary, do some spiritual reading, then centering prayer.
Often I’ll take a meditative walk downtown and when I walk, I remember all 65 Glenmarians who’ve died, starting with Father William Howard Bishop and working through the alphabet. I call it the communion of saints. I think I am embedded with them.
Life continues after death, you know. Life is life. I’ve been doing this for decades now. It’s just a pattern I do.
Eventually each day, I’m out with Brother Virgil, stocking our interfaith food pantry or driving meals to local elderly, or whatever else needs doing.
Q: It sounds as if your life is full of action and contemplation. Do you think one is better than the other?
A: I think they feed on each other. Without contemplation, without prayer, ministry is a zilch. Something’s gotta’ make me tick. Something’s got to drive me. Something’s got to get me up in the morning. I have to wake up, express gratitude for who I am and who God’s calling me to be.
For all of us, it’s not only the prayer but, What do I do? We are embedded with the divine spark. We are to take that spark, light it up and create a fire!
This Wise Missioner interview first appeared in the Summer 202o edition of Glenmary Challenge magazine.