A reflection by Father Mike Kerin, Glennmary missioner
“What is Glenmary’s missionary spirituality?” This question is vital to understanding what Glenmary is all about. Two visitors to my Southwest Georgia mission asked me the question some weeks back, and caused me to ponder.
I make this simple attempt to lift up a few aspects of a missionary spirituality from the perspective of only one Glenmarian. There’s nothing official here; this is my approach. And, though Glenmary is often known for its works, I start from the inside: What drives Glenmary missioners to be missioners?
One simple way to phrase it is that the Glenmary missioner is empowered by the spirit of mission (the Holy Spirit) to transform himself into Jesus the Missionary in all that he does. There are three aspects that I would like to lift up. First, it is God’s mission (Missio Dei) into which we are all called. Second, responding to this mission requires docility, that is, being led by the Holy Spirit. Third, as we live out this mission we are to become more and more like Jesus the Missionary. The mission itself transforms us.
In reality, this is the call of all Christians. The Church’s teachings are clear that this is God’s mission: that every Christian is to continue Jesus’ mission on earth, under the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. My hope is that the readers of Glenmary Challenge would recognize the same spirituality flowing from their baptism.
Once again, I’m not trying to be complete or comprehensive in this short space. I am going to rely heavily on three Church teachings. Along the way, I will point them out. They’re easily found at the Vatican website, for you to explore further. These can be a great source of prayer and reflection.
God’s Mission (Missio Dei)
Although Glenmary Missioners always work under the direction and the authority of both the Glenmary Council and the local bishop, what we are doing is ultimately God’s mission, never our mission alone. This requires the missioner (and every Christian) to be rooted in the Bible and to take on Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God.
The mission of Christians begins with Jesus, it exploded at Pentecost, and will go on until the end of time. All the baptized are called into this, God’s mission. And it’s not a mission limited to a few. Our Glenmary founder, Father William Howard Bishop, reminded us that everyone in the counties that we serve is part of our missionary effort. For us here in Southwest Georgia, that is six counties and over 35,000 people!
Docility to the Spirit
All of this requires a continual attentiveness to the promptings and the movements of the Holy Spirit—both inside the missioner and in the external activities of daily life. It requires keeping the long-range perspective and plan of God, and at the same time being sensitive to the subtle promptings of the Holy Spirit of Mission.
The missioner (and every Christian) needs to be deeply rooted in prayer. In addition to praying for those we are serving and for our missionary efforts, we need to have a spirit of discernment.
Thanks to St. Ignatius of Loyola, there is a rich theology of discernment. It is in prayer that we can be attentive to the promptings of the spirit of mission. Sometimes we are led to act; sometimes it is to wait. Sometimes we are led to do something ourselves; at other times to find others who will collaborate with us. There are numerous forms and styles of prayer. Underneath all of them is the missioner’s desire to do what God wants. Isn’t that the call of all Christians?
Becoming Like Jesus the Missionary
Jesus calls us from many different backgrounds, cultures, and nations. That includes us Glenmarians: No two of us are the same—and thank God for that. But each of us is called to let Jesus continually transform us.
It can be a slow, almost invisible process. And at other times it can be a more sudden moment of growth or insight. The daily struggles and the joys of life are tools of this transformation.
In addition to the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), the Church’s teachings call Glenmarians and all Christians to use the various spiritual gifts that we have received (charisms). A deep unconditional love (agape), apostolic zeal, and joy are frequently mentioned in the Church’s documents. Being courageous witnesses and embracing the cross are essential, as are fortitude and discernment.
There is a beautiful line in St. John Paul II’s “Mission of the Redeemer” that encourages concern, tenderness, compassion, openness, availability, and interest in people’s problems. All of this is because Jesus’ love for us is deep, and it should flow through the missionary.
None of us is a finished product, but we can be instruments used by God. That is missionary spirit at its best: to be an instrument of God, to be prayer-informed, Church-informed, growing, serving God’s Kingdom. It is deeply humbling.
Glenmary Father Mike Kerin is mission pastor in six counties in Southwest Georgia, with churches in Blakely and in Cuthbert.
This reflection first appeared in the winter 2022 edition of Glenmary Challenge magazine.