Glenmary Home Missioners is a Catholic society of priests and brothers who, along with their co-workers, are dedicated to establishing a Catholic presence in rural areas and small towns of the United States where the Catholic Church is not yet effectively present. Glenmary is the only religious community devoted exclusively to serving the spiritually and materially poor in the rural United States home missions. Today, its members staff missions and ministries throughout Appalachia and the Deep South.
Glenmary was founded by Father William Howard Bishop, a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. For more than 20 years, Father Bishop labored in a small Catholic faith community in rural Maryland, but he witnessed needs beyond his parish. He saw the thousands of poor, neglected, and forgotten people who inhabited rural America. He saw what the Catholic Church had failed to see — that there were vast areas in the United States that were starving for the Bread of Life. Armed with a vision to feed them spiritually, Father Bishop worked relentlessly. His efforts to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to rural America culminated in 1939, when he founded the Glenmary Home Missioners, headquartering the Society in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati at the invitation of Archbishop John T. McNicholas.
The first mission sites for the newly formed Society were in the rural areas of Adams County. Missioners served at these sites for over 60 years, establishing church communities, addressing social problems, and working with other churches ecumenically to further the Gospel teachings of Jesus Christ.
Glenmary missioners serve in areas where less than three percent of the population is Catholic, a significant percentage has no church affiliation, and the poverty rate is almost twice the national average. Glenmary is known for deeply respecting the many cultures encountered in the home missions – Appalachian, Native American, African American, and Latino, among others. Its missionary activity includes building Catholic communities and establishing new churches, fostering ecumenical cooperation, evangelizing the unchurched, social outreach. and working for justice.
Over the course of Glenmary’s more than 80 years of mission ministry, working in 23 different dioceses in 14 states, the Society has established and returned over 131 mission churches to their respective dioceses for continued care. Throughout the Society’s relatively short history as a religious community, many changes have taken place in both Glenmary and the Catholic Church. But one constant has been Glenmary’s dream, forward movement, and, at times, struggle to bring the fullness of the Catholic faith to the mission regions of the United States.