Local News Archive
Print Issue: September 7, 1995
Gwinnett Parishioner Joins Pioneer Program
By Susan Stevenot Sullivan
ATLANTA-The former business manager of St. Lawrence Parish in Lawrenceville will be one of the first lay women to participate in a new ministry of the Glenmary Sisters.
Susan McGhee, a St. Lawrence parishioner for 19 years, is one of three women selected to pioneer the Lay Missioner Program.
The ministry involves working with the poor to help break the cycle of poverty in areas that are less than one percent Catholic, according to program co-coordinator Barbara ONan. Evangelization is a component of the program as is ecumenical networking to pool resources for the poor.
Ms. McGhee was on the parish staff for 10 years and has served in a variety of areas including Stephen Ministry, liturgy planning, music and St. Vincent de Paul. She has also worked overnight as a volunteer at the Missionaries of Charity AIDS hospice in Atlanta.
She said it was hard to leave the parish. At the same time I relish and cherish the opportunity to be at a place to make a choice about the direction of my life, she said Aug. 18, as the younger of her two children left for another year of college. This is awesome. I did lots of thinking and a lot of praying and discerning with my closest friends and confidants, she said. I knew I was ready for a change in ministry, but I didnt know what.
Ms. McGhee saw a small advertisement the sisters ran in the National Catholic Reporter and knew that was it. After a meeting with the co-coordinators she said she was certain. Extensive interviews and discussions with the Glenmary team confirmed the decision. I have absolutely no doubt this is what I want to do, she said. Ive always had an affinity for those who seem to suffer, who are downtrodden and not reverenced as Gods people. Ive found that people who dont have a whole lot give from their heart and soul.
Ms. McGhee characterized the Glenmary Sisters as very committed to their ministry to the poor. They are just wonderful women, women of faith, she said.
Part of the excitement, she added, is to be in on the ground floor--to be a pioneer of some sort.
The Glenmary Sisters Lay Missioner Program officially began July 1, according to Mrs. ONan. This is a program for lay women, married or single, dependents or not, she said. Its an opportunity for women who arent called to a religious vocation to work in the missions. The minimum commitment of three years is renewable.
Mrs. ONan said the lay missioners receive a salary and benefits and help in finding a place to live near their assignment. They begin with a three-month orientation before starting work. Ms. McGhee has been assigned to the Clifty Mission in Elkton, Ky.
An applicant must be 21 or older, Mrs. ONan said, and have lived away from home or at college for two years. She must be a Catholic of deep faith who feels called to minister in missions in rural areas of the south.
The applicant must be willing to live simply in mission areas and able to build a strong relationship with the local Catholic faith community. She must be able to immerse herself in different cultures and be respectful of other faith expressions.
An applicant needs a high school diploma or its equivalent. Experience in social work, counseling or other ministry is helpful but not necessary. She is expected to supply her own car.
The program is starting off in a small way, Mrs. ONan said, but hopefully will grow so more areas can be served. The sisters plan to advertise in other Catholic publications and on college campuses and hope to have a new orientation class each fall. Based on what Ive seen, whether shes helping the poor or doing pastoral work, shell do a good job, said Deacon Walt Bedard, a member of the pastoral staff at St. Lawrence, of Ms. McGhee. Shes one of those unique people who can balance the budget with one hand and help the poor with the other.
The three women participating in the program have been assigned to missions in Kentucky. Their three-month orientation began Labor Day weekend in Livermore, Ky. Their assignments begin in December. Im really anxious to have the opportunity to use the gifts and talents I have to step into other peoples lives and lift them up in any way I can, Ms. McGhee said. I tell myself everyday: Do you see how lucky you are? Do you see how blessed you are?
For information about the lay missioner program, contact program co-coordinators Sister Mae Koenig or Barbara ONan at the Glenmary Center in Owensboro, Ky., at (502) 686-8401.