Glenmary Home Missioners dream of one day working themselves out of a job

Fr. William Howard Bishop, right, and Fr. Raphael Sourd (the first priest to join Glenmary) traveled to mission areas in the society's early years and celebrated Mass in a mobile chapel. (Courtesy of Glenmary Home Missioners)

After 75 years as a religious society, Glenmary priests and brothers have a dream for their future: to work themselves out of a job.

Glenmary Home Missioners have been operating out of the Appalachian and Southern regions of the U.S. since 1939, with the goal of establishing a Catholic presence in every county. Their mission has led them to institute more than 100 Catholic churches in communities where there had been none.

"Wouldn't it be neat if we had to go out of business because every place had a church?" Glenmary first vice president Fr. Neil Pezzulo told NCR. "That would be a great day for the church and the kingdom, wouldn't it? But I don't see that happening in my lifetime."

Glenmary was founded by Fr. William Howard Bishop, a priest who after 20 years of living a diocesan life, found a need to spread the Gospel and the Catholic faith to the poor in rural regions of America.

"For me, the sacraments empower me to go out," Pezzulo said. "I very much see the mission parishes as a launching pad into the community. I think by and large, and I don't want to speak too broadly here, the diocesan priests view the parish as a destination, and I personally don't."

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A version of this story appeared in the Sept 26-Oct 9, 2014 print issue under the headline: The society that works toward extinction .

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