Glenmary Home Missioners

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Glenmary Home Missioners, (also known as The Home Missioners of America Inc.) is a Roman Catholic religious institute of priests, brothers, and sisters founded as a society of apostolic life, and is the only Catholic missionary organization working exclusively in the rural United States.


Glenmary Home Missioners was founded in 1939 by Father William Howard Bishop, a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. At that time, he noted that more than one-third of the counties of the United States, mostly in Appalachia and the South, had no resident priest.[1] Glenmary's name comes from combining the name of the place where the Society was founded, Glendale, Ohio, with the name of Mary, the society's patroness.

Throughout the 1940s and until his death in 1953, Father Bishop's mission theology broadened. In February 1952, he wrote, “I am convinced that side by side with the great convert-making purpose, there is another lift up and improve the moral lives of the people around us, regardless of their beliefs or lack of beliefs; regardless, even whether they will ever accept the Faith or not.”[2]

Father Bishop also founded the Home Mission Sisters of America (a.k.a. Glenmary Sisters) in 1941, two years after the founding of the order of priests and brothers.[3] Both the men's and women's communities were founded in Glendale, which is near Cincinnati, Ohio, and both have devotion to Mary under her title 'Our Lady of the Fields.'


Glenmary priests, brothers and co-workers are Catholic missionaries who serve in over 40 Catholic missions and ministries in 13 different dioceses in the United States. Glenmary serves the spiritual and material needs of the Catholic minority, the unchurched and the poor by establishing the Catholic Church in small-town and rural America.[1] At various times Glenmary has served rural areas in dioceses north to Pennsylvania and Ohio, south to Georgia and Alabama, and west to Texas and Oklahoma. However, more recently, Glenmary finds itself concentrated in Appalachia and the South.[2] As of 2015, Glenmary Missioners staffs sixty-four missions in Appalachia, the rural South and Southwest.[4]

Of 3,141 counties in the United States, 176 still lack an organized Catholic presence: no Catholic community, no weekly Mass, no Catholic priest or lay minister.[2]


The charism of the Glenmary Home Missioners is to bring the Catholic Church to areas of the United States where it is not yet fully present, especially in rural areas and small towns in Appalachia, the South and Southwest. Glenmary's criteria for establishing a Catholic mission are that the county must be less than 3% Catholic and the poverty level must be at least twice the national average. Glenmary's plan of action is to establish a mission church in a particular county, and nurture it until it reaches a level that it can be close to self-sustaining, at which time it will be turned over to the local diocese as a regular (non-mission) parish. Glenmary has established more than 100 mission churches that have been turned over to local dioceses.[1]

As "Congregation of the Apostolic Life", the group seeks to balance its specific apostolic charism of missionary outreach with a life lived in community which provides necessary mutual friendship, prayer and support. As with all Congregations of Apostolic Life, the apostolic work takes priority. Frequently decisions that help serve the people of the missions may inhibit the possibility of the missioners sharing a common life, especially under a common roof. Members can sometimes be beloved by those they serve, while having infrequent communication with the co-members to whom they have committed their support and prayer.


The Glenmary Research Center (GRC) provides applied research to Glenmary leadership, individual missioners, Church leaders and the wider society. The GRC supplies maps, religious demographic, religious congregation and religious census information.

For more than 35 years, Glenmary has operated The Farm, located in rural Lewis County, Kentucky, to offer a retreat-like immersion service experience for college students. Some high school and parish groups attend as well. Each group typically works at the Farm for several days to a week, assisting local residents with projects around their property, or visiting elderly or remote residents, in an environment of simple living.

The Home Missioners' ministry is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the unchurched and to build up the Kingdom of God. The five main areas of their ministry include: Nurturing Catholics, fostering ecumenism, evangelizing the unchurched, engaging in social outreach, working for justice and making connections to the universal Church. The order is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Every four years a "Chapter" is held. The chapter is made up of all the members who wish to attend, a "chapter of the whole." During the week or more that the chapter is in session, this is the highest ruling body within the society. It will elect a new "Council," of a "President," "First Vice President" and "Second Vice President." The chapter reviews, and accepts or rejects various reports on the financial budget and audit, on common life as members and on missionary outreach. It may change the "Directory," and amend the "Glenmary Constitution." Directory changes take place at whatever date is selected during the chapter. Constitutional changes must first be approved by Rome. The Chapter may give mandates of action to the new Council.

When the chapter ends, the newly elected Council becomes the principal governing body of the society. Power is focused in the person of the President, but before making a decision, he usually must consult with his two fellow members, and sometimes get at least one of them to agree with him in matters which the Constitution describes as "deliberative." A General Assembly usually meets once a year in person, and once a year electronically, to advise the council, and to make a few deliberative decisions.

On a geographical level, members are grouped into "Districts," for mutual support and decision making. When other co-workers are included, these local groups are called "Clusters."

Glenmary Sisters[edit]

The Glenmary Sisters were founded in 1941 by Father William Howard Bishop and canonically approved in 1952. Since 1941, the Sisters have established missions in the impoverished and rural areas of the South and Appalachia, where they help people become self-supportive, break the reins of poverty. As of 2015 they have Sisters missioned in western and eastern Kentucky, southeast Georgia and southern Missouri. The central office is in Owensboro, Kentucky.[3]

Among other ministries, the Sisters run a food bank in rural Missouri, and tutor persons preparing for their GED.[5]

The Glenmary Home Missioners and Glenmary Sisters are part of the consortium of Roman Catholic mission organizations that have worked together to launch, a website that provides information and resources about the missionary work of the Church both overseas and here at home: volunteer service, immersion experiences, adopt-a-mission programs, evangelization, inculturation, human rights, prayer and contemplation.[6]

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