Saint John's Magazine Winter/Spring 2014

Page 17


Tennessee MEMPHIS



ambassadors in the community during their yearlong stays. They are virtual extensions of Grosek. As a newcomer, Grosek is sensitive to Glenmary Missioners’ need not to be seen as outsiders marching in and dictating to the locals. They don’t want to be patronizing, and there’s the danger of volunteers arriving with a “messiah complex,” Grosek says. Glenmary is there to help. Providing a meal to a lonely elderly person can sometimes save the day, but this type of work isn’t about saving the world. Home repair and food pantries are just two of the ways Grosek and his crews provide aid. Grosek and the volunteers work in nursing homes and with the mentally challenged, with shut-ins and the children of migrant workers. They build real fences while breaking down invisible walls. “I’ve found in my years the best witness we can be as a volunteer program is by being a presence in people’s lives,” he says. Grosek, Fr. Steve and Fr. Aaron won’t be in this corner of Tennessee forever. The president of Glenmary assigns

Union and Grainger Counties people, but in Grainger and Union Counties they work under the bishop of Knoxville. Once a parish reaches a certain level of maturity, Glenmary works with the diocese on the transition and leaves. “We start from nothing,” Fr. Steve says, “and when it’s all built up and really fun to be here, no more financial worries and all these wonderful people doing things, we say, okay, time to go. Where do we go now where no one’s ever done anything before? Where’s the next place to take our shovel to?” Wherever that is, Grosek, Fr. Steve and Fr. Aaron will do what they’ve always done for Glenmary, what they’ve done in Union and Grainger Counties—change people’s lives through service and faith. Shawn Fury ’97 is a New York City-based writer and the author of Keeping the Faith: In the Trenches with College Football’s Worst Team.

Glenmary volunteer director Joe Grosek ’98 collects food donations from a local school for distribution to the needy. The Hands of Christ Food Pantry is a joint effort with Baptist and Methodist churches.