Three things struck Glenmary student Evarist Mukama during his first week in the United States after arriving from Uganda. First, the cold weather, typical of mid-January. Second, the very few people he saw on the streets of St. Meinrad, a small community in southwest Indiana, where the Glenmary House of Formation is located.
“In Africa, you find that people are outside, moving. But here, when you go outside, the place is quiet, nobody’s moving,” Evarist said. He left his native Uganda with an average temperature above 70 degrees, and came to experience the low 30s in St. Meinrad, Indiana.
But the third aspect that impressed Evarist overcomes the other two. “It’s very good being here with Glenmary. The community is welcoming,” he says. “When we are here (at the House of Formation), the good thing is that we are all interacting like brothers.”
Evarist came to the U.S. as a Glenmary student, along with Aloysius Ssennyondo, now his classmate. They are part of a group of 14 men currently preparing to become priests or brothers.
“This is the largest group we’ve had in more than a decade,” says Father Aaron Wessman, Glenmary’s director of formation. “And it is one of the biggest in three decades.”
Glenmary began to get a consistent number of vocations in the mid 2000s, after getting very few in the 1980s and 90s, Father Aaron says. “You’d have to go back to the 1970s, I think, until you see larger groups.”
“It’s a big class!” says Father Bruce Brylinski, director of the Glenmary House of Formation at St. Meinrad. That makes him feel “excited,” because “it’s good to know that young men are interested in mission, interested in living the Glenmary way of life. I think it also creates a vitality that they’re willing to share the struggle and the hope that is needed in mission.”
Of the 15 men in formation, eight are from Kenya, three are from Uganda, one was born in Vietnam, and three are from the United States. Ten are preparing to become priests and five to become brothers.
The fact that Glenmary has reached its largest number of students in over a decade is “a grace and a blessing from God,” Father Aaron says. “It’s humbling to see God’s sending us people who are saying yes to at least look at our way of life.”
To add to this good news, Glenmary is hoping to accept at least four new students this year. Father Aaron sees this as a confirmation that the society’s decision to accept men from other countries beyond the United States is attuned with God’s will. “If you judge something by the fruit, we can see that, in fact. It seems to be working quite well,” he says.
— Omar Cabrera
This story first appeared in the Spring 2023 Glenmary Challenge magazine.