Friday, September 3, 2010

Appalachian Missions

The last couple of days I had my first opportunity to visit a number of former missions in the southwest Virginia. I stopped at former Glenmary missions in Big Stone Gap, Dungannon, Appalachia, and many others as well as St. Mary Hospital in Norton, VA where Fr. William Howard Bishop, founder of Glenmary, died in 1953. They are small mountain communities that are still hidden away in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. Hard to imagine how difficult it was for the first Glenmary missioners who traveled to these places fifty or sixty years ago. They were traveling there in order to found missions in places where there was no Catholic Church previously. I believe that just like many of us today, they were inspired by Christ’s love to spread the Good News in the rural areas of the United States.

After witnessing the beauty of the mountains in these areas I wished I could have been there in those early days. I now understand why many senior Glenmary members have continued to live in these areas even after retiring. The words of a Glenmarian who recently passed away “I’m just a simple country pastor” seemed very appropriate in these places.

Visiting these former missions and hearing the stories was like going back in time but I know that there are still 300 counties in the United States like these which lack a Catholic congregation or a resident pastoral minister. If you are feeling called to be a missioner there are many beautiful missions like these which need a simple county pastor or brother.

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