My work as a photographer is rewarding, to be sure, but a definite perk of the job is having the opportunity to meet great people and learn about how some groups are "walking the walk" and making a difference in their work.
One such group is the Glenmary Home Missioners. It is a Catholic organization that was founded to serve what has been termed "No Priest Land," the areas of the country where the Church is under-represented, specifically in the South and Appalachia. It is not about "getting converts" to the faith; rather, it is about bringing the work of the Catholic Church to these areas.
Today, I had the opportunity to go out and photograph from young college volunteers from Iowa who are helping Brother Joe build housing using recycled materials from other buildings, and doing so to create a self-sustaining structure. The Glenmary Home Missioners maintain a volunteer center on Joppa Mountain in Grainger County, which is a very rural part of East Tennessee. Catholic youth from colleges and high schools come to Joppa to spend a week working. And yes, they work. The group today drove 14 hours and when I left them today, they were up and down on ladders, hauling branches, pounding nails, and commenting how tonight they will sleep well.
I cannot post my images from today as they have not been published, but the Spring edition of "Challenge," Glenmary's quarterly magazine is out and in which several of my images are published.
I went out to Joppa at the beginning of last autumn to capture a group of high school kids in action. They were up on roofs, helping to replace the roof of a pensioner's home, cleaning and visiting a home for the elderly, and clearing brush from a group home for neglected and abused children. If you don;t think it is wonderful to see youth like this doing these things, think again. Nothing is more uplifting and gives hope for the future than this.
For many of the kids that come, this is their first time in Appalachia and while they can enjoy the beauty that is East Tennessee, it also gives them an insight into the poverty in the area igrants changing demographics as many Hispanic emigrants come into the area to work in the fields (Grainger County is known for its tomato production). The Glenmary Home Missioners have done an outstanding job of ministering to them. One of their mission churches recently became a full-fledged parish church in the Diocese of Knoxville, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in Maynerdville.
Here are some images from last autumn.
I encourage any Catholic youth group to consider making the trip, especially those from the urban areas who have never experienced time in a rural area. I think this would also be an excellent opportunity for seminarians. Information about Glenmary's volunteer program can be found here.
Go tell the good news on the mountain - Joppa Mountain!