Evangelizing Appalachia

Today marks the birth of William Howard Bishop (1885-1953), a Harvard-educated Maryland priest who founded the Home Missioners of America (better known as Glenmary) in 1939, for the purpose of evangelizing rural America. Or as he put it, that “the backwoodsmen, the mountaineers, the farm tenants, sharecroppers and day workers might one day eat the Bread of Truth.” Just as the Paulists (founded in 1858) aimed at evangelizing the larger culture, and Maryknoll (founded 1911) focused on overseas missions, Bishop planned an outreach the hundreds of counties in America (see map) without a resident priest. In some ways Bishop was way ahead of his time. Toward the end of his life he created a paraliturgical service for priestless congregations, titled “Service for Faraways.” It foreshadowed the Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest that the Vatican issued in 1988. As they approach their seventieth anniversary, Glenmary priests, brothers and sisters continue to work in Appalachia and other parts of the American South.
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