Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rev. Jerry Dorn

This week we mourn the loss of Glenmary Father Jerry Dorn. Jerry died suddenly on Monday morning in Kingsport, Tennessee. His health had been declining in recent years but his heart and passion for the missions never failed nor did his love for telling a good story or singing a song. 

Jerry grew up on a farm in Minnesota, a heritage he was proud to share with anyone he met. Remaining faithful to those farmer roots, he always referred to himself as "a simple country pastor."

Fr. Jerry served in many missions during his fifty years as a Glenmary missioner and touched the lives of thousands. In Beaver Dam, Kentucky where he served as a Glenmary Brother before he was called to be ordained a priest. "Br. Jim" is how he is still affectionately remembered by most of the folks that part of Western Kentucky. On the other side of the state in Eastern, Kentucky, Br. Jim was instrumental in developing the initial phases of The Glenmary Farm program. In 1974 he wrote that his goal for The Farm was that it be a place where young people would have an experience of "mission awareness," receive "vocational counseling, provide housing for the poor" and "form a Christian Community." He believed the service with a spiritual dimension on The Farm mission experience would allow participants to deepen their faith by being confronted with the central question of what is "discipleship." 

Jerry was loved for his cooking, playing the guitar around the campfires and his attentiveness to the details in the liturgies especially at The Farm. He connected with thousands of young men and women who participated in the Glenmary Volunteer Program and he loved telling story after story about his many different experiences at The Farm until late into the night. Jerry was a story teller. While telling a story his voice became so animated that the listener could begin to experience the emotions and the surprises in his tales of the adventures and mishaps that occurred on The Farm. I am certain that most everyone who knew Jerry heard him tell the story about the the ham that was too hot to handle and came out of the oven onto the floor and flew out the side door of the Farmhouse just as the volunteers who had been out working all day returned to The Farm for supper. As I heard Jerry tell that story the first time or the 100th time I was transplanted to that place and nearly had to duck as I envisioned that ham flying out the door. 

During his fifty years as a Glenmarian, Fr. Jerry served throughout mission land USA. He served in the Vocation Office, the Formation Team and was President of the society for eight years. Jerry breathed Glenmary in his words, his life and testimony. As a missioner Jerry had to move many times from one mission to the next. But by doing so, Jerry connected with people across the country and stayed in contact with many of them without the use of Facebook but rather through phone calls or old fashioned letter writing. Just last week Jerry had been preparing for one more move, he had nearly finished packing his possessions in order to move to Glenmary Headquarters in Cincinnati. Instead Jerry was called home, he skipped the move to HQ and moved directly into heaven. I believe that Fr. Jerry has a guitar in hand, is seated around a heavenly campfire with a choir of angels and is singing "Hey, it's good to be back home again. Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend. Yes, and hey, it's good to be back home again." with his many friends waiting to greet him there.

There is a sign hanging at The Farm which expresses my sentiments for Fr. Jerry, "Adios Amigo, love is the only way."
Fr. Jerry at the Glenmary Farm
Fr. Jerry preaching during his 50th
anniversary mass as Glenmary missioner


  1. What an amazing story...thank you for sharing.

  2. I remember Fr. Jerry from my visit to the Farm as a high school sophomore in the summer of 1974. It was from him that I first heard the song "Today." I still lead that song around many campfires to this day.

  3. I'm so broken hearted. I just found out about Jerry passing around a week ago. His cell hadn't worked the past few years and I couldn't figure out a way to get ahold of him. While searching for him online, I found his obit. It crushed me. He was one of, if not my favorite person in the world. We met while I worked at Blessed John XXIII Pastoral Center in Charleston WV from 2007-2010 and became instantly close. I last spoke to him on the phone around Christmas 2013. We always planned for me to come spend a week or two with him just visiting and I never got the chance. There's so many stories I didn't get to hear. I wish he had written an autobiography, I want to know every possible thing I can about him. He touched my life in a way no other has. I'm getting tears in my eyes just writing about him.

  4. I had the unforgettable experience of joining in Glenmary's missionary efforts at the farm and of unforgettable experiences with Fr. Jerry when I took a break from college to engage in discernment in the 1980s. My interest then in the priesthood led me to Connecticut to meet with Fr. Jerry. I won't elaborate in this forum but I left my meeting with him convinced - as I remain so today - that this was a man touched by God in the way we read about saints in a hagiography. With no prompting whatsoever, Fr. Jerry saw into my soul. He recognized in detail the struggles I was experiencing, behaviours I was engaged in as I sought to find my way, and offered comfort and solace without judgement. I eventually graduated from a college-level diocesan seminary. I did not ultimately pursue the priesthood and I have fallen away from the Roman Catholic Church, but none of that changes my belief that the day I met Fr. Jerry in Connecticut I was given the chance to interact with a saint. Should there ever be an effort to pursue canonization, contact me.
    Michael Perna

    1. Thank you Michael for sharing your story about Fr. Jerry.