Our founder’s dream and vision is still vital today
Most people have never heard of Rutledge, Tenn., but a Glenmary missioner knows where it is located and that it is the county seat of Grainger County. Rutledge is an example of the small, out of the way places that have been neglected or overlooked by the Catholic Church.
These are the places that Pope Francis often refers to as the “peripheries.” As missioners, these peripheries are the most important places to Glenmary. Rutledge and the other missions are how we Glenmarians interpret the parable the lost sheep. We leave the ninety-nine in search of the one and we rejoice in our founding of a new mission.
We are following in the footsteps and vision of our founder, Father William Howard Bishop. In 1936 Father Bishop drew a map of the USA that he used to demonstrate to the rest of the Church that there was a mission need in the United States. A few years after publishing that map he was invited by the Archbishop of Cincinnati to start a new religious community dedicated to serve exclusively in what Father Bishop called, “No-Priest Land USA.” Places that just as easily could be called no Religious Brother or no Religious Sister Land USA.
“Our work is to go into the forgotten and neglected places, the no priest land, the no-Catholic land of America to accept as bases of operation the little border-line parishes that nobody wants and from them to build up little outposts and parishes where now no hope of them exists,” Father Bishop wrote.
Building up little outposts is what Glenmarians have been doing for more than 80 years. Still based in Archdiocese of Cincinnati, we continue to serve rural mission areas of the United States. We send our missioners to the places where the Catholic population is less than one percent and the poverty rate is more than double the national average.
As our founder stated, “The true missioner adopts all the people in his area, regardless of creed, for his own. His aim is to make all of them better people and bring them nearer to God. Whether he ever makes a convert to the Church or not, the town, the county, the lives of the people must be better because of his example, his preaching, his activities among the poor, the sick, and the sinful of all creeds and none.”
We go to these places where there is the greatest need and serve the spiritual and material needs of all the people in those areas. We establish a small Catholic mission and eventually are able to return a parish to the diocese and our missioners can move on to new mission territories.
Rural counties that most people have never heard of and are places that nobody else wants to go are the places that we love. Father Bishop’s dream was to establish a Catholic presence in every county in the United States. Even in the 21st century these mission areas of the United States still exists. Places like Smith County, Tennessee which has never had a Catholic Church in its entire history. Glenmary is preparing to send missioners to Smith County for the first time in January of 2021.
If Glenmary had more priests and brothers we could open even more mission areas. Father Bishop’s words 80 years ago still ring true today, “There was never a time when missionary activity was more needed in our beloved land than it is today.” The people living in mission areas are still waiting for the Catholic Church presence to arrive, they are longing to have the opportunity to receive the sacraments and have their own parish community. There are people who are hungering and suffering in these places waiting for someone to reach out to serve them. Mission areas are in need of courageous priests and brothers to be true witnesses of hope, joy and love.
Can you share in Father Bishop’s vision? Is God Calling you to join with us in serving the poor and the unchurched in Mission-Land USA?
Continue reading and return to the first article, Listening to God’s Voice. If you have a question about this article or would like more information, contact Brother David at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 513-881-7411.