F ather Bill Graf, 80, has been a priest in the Diocese of Rochester (N.Y.) for 55 years, serving in a wide range of roles including pastor, educator, author, campus minister, retreat leader, counselor for married couples, and more.
But as a young man, when trying to decide how to respond to his priesthood call, he seriously considered the missionary life—with Glenmary as one option. He joined Maryknoll during his high school seminary years before finally choosing a diocesan vocation.
In explaining his financial assistance and prayers for Glenmary over the last three decades, he says, “Since I couldn’t join Glenmary and couldn’t go to the foreign missions, I chose to help Glenmary’s work through my donations instead.”
Now retired as a pastor, Father Graf is a full-time faculty member and chair of the religious studies department at Saint John Fisher College in Rochester, where he has taught for 34 years. He also still serves as a diocesan marriage tribunal consultant and director of the priestly life and ministry team, as well as sacramental minister at area parishes.
He has been a faithful Glenmary donor since the 1980s, and a “Boost-A-Month Club” member for a good part of that time. In 2005, he also became a planned giver when he included Glenmary in his will. Now, he says, he’s thinking about establishing a Glenmary annuity to increase his support.
There is more to this story than a vocation choice, though. Father Graf has had a connection to Glenmary since he entered high school seminary in 1948 as a classmate of Gus Guppenberger, a future Glenmarian. And when he attended college seminary to pursue his priesthood studies, he became friends with Bob Dalton, another future Glenmary missioner. Having known both of them, he says, “They represent Glenmary very well just by who they are.”
In later years, he taught for a semester at a New Orleans seminary, where one of his students was Glenmary Brother Jim (Jerry) Dorn, who was studying to be a priest. “We spent a lot of time talking about Glenmary and its ministry,” says Father Graf.
After Father Jerry was ordained, he invited Father Graf to come to the Glenmary Farm in Kentucky a few times to speak to discerners about religious vocations; to visit Glenmary Headquarters in Cincinnati and speak to the formation team; and many years later, to have dinner and talk about what priesthood meant to both of them.
In the process, Father Graf also met and got to know still other missioners, which confirmed for him why he wanted to support Glenmary’s work.
“What I learned about Glenmarians is that they are very down to earth and have the common touch, work closely with people in need in U.S. mission areas, and always look for opportunities to work ecumenically,” he says. “Most importantly, they model what the Gospel is all about rather than just preaching it.
“Right now, for instance, they are reaching out and ministering to the growing Latino population in the South and Appalachia. That work speaks eloquently regarding what the Church, the Gospel and Glenmary are all about.”
In supporting Glenmary and other charities, he says he’s always reminded of the truth that “the more one gives, the more one receives. And the more one receives, the more one wants to give. I get a hundredfold back. It’s life-giving to other people, but it’s also life-giving to me.”
He adds that “since I can’t be in the U.S. missions myself, I want to keep helping the Glenmarians who are there and the people they serve.”