Two important things happened in 1971; first, I was born and secondly, Glenmary Home Missioners bought a small piece of property in Lewis County, Kentucky.
My first contact with Glenmary happened on that small piece of property in Lewis County when I attended a high school mission trip to a place called The Glenmary Farm. Prior to that trip, growing up in my small world of Columbus, Ohio, even growing up Catholic, I had no clue that there was a mission need in the USA. On that mission trip, I was surprised to learn that just 2 hours from my home, there was a place where the Catholic population was less than 1%. That there was place where 30% percent of the population was living below the poverty line. That there was a vocation in the Catholic Church called a Religious Brother?
To say that my volunteer experience was life-changing would be an understatement. I had grown up in a Catholic family, attended mass every Sunday, went to a catholic school and had even gone on numerous catholic retreats... But the Glenmary Farm experience was the first time that I was able to connect; Faith, Service & Community. Helping young people make that connection is what the Glenmary Farm has been doing for over 40 years.
Since 1971, nearly 25,000 high-school and college age volunteers have been involved at the Glenmary Farm or the “newest site,” of the Glenmary Group Volunteer Program. That new site is on Joppa Mountain, located in our mission in Grainger County, Tennessee - “Toppa Joppa” as it’s better known. Just like The Farm site, Toppa Joppa site offers a mission experience for volunteers. They are introduced to the home mission need, meet Glenmary missioners, participate in outreach, experience community and have the opportunity to pray and grow in their faith.
Because of the sheer number of volunteers, The Farm and now Toppa Joppa have made the Glenmary Group Volunteer Program nationally recognized. Anytime a Glenmarian visits another parish or speaks at a conference someone is certain to say to them, “I was at The Farm.”
The Glenmary Group Volunteer Program is often times called “Glenmary University” by the volunteers. It is called that because these volunteer sites are NOT places where young people just give a week of service but where they learn about discipleship by sharing their talents and faith they build community and make a difference. AND afterwards that they take that Glenmary mission charism with them to become missioners in their own community.
“Peace Came and Stayed” is the motto at the Glenmary Volunteer Program but PEACE has not ONLY stayed. PEACE has traveled back with the volunteers to the schools, parishes and organizations and that PEACE has made a profound impact on those places as well.