Right now, there is a remarkable event happening a million miles from Earth. The James Webb Telescope (JWT) is transmitting photos of the universe that show things from billions of years ago. As one enthusiastic scientist observed, “We have specific questions we plan to try and answer, but even more exciting to me is we will learn things we haven’t even dreamed of yet.”
Ponder that: “We will learn things we haven’t even dreamed of yet.”
We’re able to look deeper into the universe, because the JWT is able to capture infrared light, invisible to the human eye.
JWT’s discoveries offer a metaphor for Glenmary’s Catholic missionary activity.
Father William Howard Bishop, Glenmary’s founder, envisioned a future of mission here in the United States through the lens of what we might call the GHM telescope. He wrote, “Our quest for the neglected and forgotten takes us out beyond the boundaries of where the Church is at present established and obliges us to enter new lands where the Church is unknown, to settle down in these new lands and to build up Catholicity from the ground.”
Think of the infrared light that JWT sees, applied to our own human experience. There is much that remains invisible to human beings, but with God’s grace we can see his creation with a new vision. We capture the infrared light or, perhaps better stated, we capture the divine light in our neighbors and in creation. In doing so, we too can learn things we haven’t even dreamed of yet.
Let me share three examples, three images that the GHM Telescope recovered during a recent visit to Glenmary’s North Carolina missions:
Care of Creation: Since arriving in Williamston in August 2022, Father Chet Artysiewicz walks daily through the streets. He gets his exercise, but he also picks up cans. So far, he reports recycling 200 pounds of cans! He jokes, “As I like to say, ‘Cleaning up Williamston, one can at a time.’”
“When I was sick you looked after me”: Each day, Brother Curt Kedley checks in on an elderly homebound parishioner whose wife recently died. The man now lives alone with no family in the area. Brother Curt often spends the night sleeping in the spare bedroom to ensure his safety.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Mt 5:4): Father Richard Toboso and Father José Carlos Miguel López reached out to a family who had recently lost their sister to liver disease. To be with others in a moment of trauma and loss is an image to remember and a work of mercy. The two missioners stood with the grieving family and said, with their words and presence, “We cannot know the pain you must be suffering now, but we are here with you.”
In our sacred encounter with our neighbor we see the face of God. We see what the naked eye often cannot see, that is, the Divine Presence. Maybe best of all in this encounter, we learn things about God that we haven’t even dreamed of yet!
This letter from Glenmary President Father Dan Dorsey first appeared in the Spring 2023 Glenmary Challenge magazine.