Father Bertin Glennon—50 years a priest

Friends and family join in at Holy Spirit Church in Soddy-Daisy as he celebrates his golden jubilee      

By Dan McWilliams

Father Bertin Glennon, ST, of Chattanooga celebrated 50 years in the priesthood on the anniversary date itself, May 15.

Holy Spirit Church in Soddy-Daisy hosted Father Glennon’s golden-anniversary Mass and dinner.

Father Mike Barth, ST, delivers the homily at Father Glennon’s golden-jubilee Mass.

Father Glennon, ordained May 15, 1971, in Washington, D.C., is a priest of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity. He was the principal celebrant for his anniversary Mass. Bishop Richard F. Stika attended in choir. The superior general of the Missionary Servants, Father Mike Barth, ST, delivered the homily and concelebrated.

Also present were area priests Father Jim Vick, Father Alex Waraksa, Father Charlie Burton, Father Mike Creson, Father David Carter, and host pastor Monsignor Al Humbrecht. Father Glennon frequently joins Monsignor Humbrecht and the Holy Spirit community for Sunday Mass.

Father Glennon, a counselor who has a psychology degree, is clinical director and founder of the Center for Individual and Family Effectiveness, where he has served for 20 years. He formerly lived at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga for about 28 years.

“I was just thinking this morning when I got out of bed that 50 years ago, I was going over in a car to the church where we were being ordained. I remember I was sweating so hard,” Father Glennon said. “Now 50 years, I’ve made it. That’s what I can say.”

Many friends and family, including his sister, Eibhlin Glennon, attended the anniversary Mass.

Bishop Stika and Father Glennon speak after the latter’s golden-jubilee Mass.

“I can’t tell you what it means,” Father Glennon said of their presence. “It’s wonderful. These are the people who made my ministry. I get all the glory, but they do all the work.”

Father Barth in his homily said that “Father Bertin Glennon, in the footsteps of a Peter and a Paul and powered by faith, has been a missionary priest for 50 years. It’s a long time. He is a Missionary Servant priest, a congregation that has as its heart, powered by the charism given us by our founder, Father Thomas Augustine Judge, over 100 years ago. It is that charism that is a missionary call to develop and empower and energize laity. And to go out in service to those most in need: the poor, the abandoned, the marginalized, the often-aimless youth, the used and abused of our society, the neglected and rejected; these we consider our treasures.

“Our founder charged us to go to what he referred to as the tangled portion of the vineyard and there to be a light to those in darkness,” Father Barth continued. “Father Bertin, throughout his 50 years, has faithfully followed this path. From a ministry in the hills of coal-mining Appalachia in Manchester, Ky., to the rural south in Kiln, Miss., later in Hohenwald, Tenn., and now the past 35 years here in Chattanooga, founding and working at the Center for Individual and Family Effectiveness, ministering to and with some of the most marginalized and abandoned of our society.”

Father Barth asked, “What, we might wonder, fuels this kind of missionary life? Well, there are many things and many people. Friends, like many of you, who have traveled with him in the good times and in the bad. Colleagues with whom he has found professional support, intellectual stimulation, and challenge. Fellow priests like Monsignor Al and the other presbyters gathered here, his Missionary Servant brothers who pray for him, and all who share in his unique life as an ordained minister, and his religious family as well and his sister, Eibhlin, who is here with us today, who grounds him in those foundational relationships that only family and sisters can, that are so vital to each of us, and of course his beloved golden retriever, Sadie.

The jubilarian spoke to many people after his anniversary Mass.

“But, my friends, that which is foundational to all of that is his spiritual life, his prayer, and the Eucharist, and a powerful relationship with God that Father Bertin has developed over the years, the source: his Creator, the source of all.”

Father Barth quoted Jesus’ words of assurance, “My Father loves you,” and in that profound expression, “we’re invited into that intimate relationship of the Trinity, a community of love. This makes our love for others, our love for one another, a sacrament of divine love. Believing in this love, as Father Bertin has, gives us as it has given him, the freedom and the courage to ask God for whatever we need and to trust that love will be given us. Being loved by God, a love which we know lasts a lifetime and into eternity, empowers us as it has empowered Father Bertin, to risk loving in return through his priesthood now of 50 years.”

Father Barth, saying that he did not want to speak for Father Glennon, nevertheless said, “I feel that it’s safe to say that he probably doesn’t like the focus on him today. I suspect that in his heart he really wants to celebrate each of you. Why? Because each of you, without exception, has touched his life and enriched it. Because of you, he is different, more priestly, more Christian, more human. You have touched him in so many ways, beyond counting. You have let him share in your laughter and your tears, your head and your heart, your strength and your weakness. Together, you have played and prayed, thought and fought, have shared much of life and I’m sure no small amount of death.”

Father Glennon “has served humbly now for 50 years,” Father Barth said.

“We gather today to thank God for those years, to pray for Father Bertin, to pray that God will preserve him and allow him to continue to be the missionary that he is for many years to come,” he said.

Father Bertin Glennon, ST, distributes Communion at his 50th-anniversary Mass.

Bishop Stika thanked Father Glennon for his care for Monsignor George Schmidt, the longtime rector of the basilica, especially as the monsignor’s health declined in his later years.

“Father Bertin for so long was so good to Monsignor George Schmidt,” the bishop said.

Bishop Stika also thanked Father Glennon “in the name of all of the priests in this diocese, for all of the lives that you’ve touched in your very, very special work. It is very difficult because you see the fragile nature of human life, or somebody who just needs somebody to talk to. In the name of all my friends here in the diocese and those visitors—ad multos annos, many more years.”

Mike Dunne and wife Amy Katcher-Dunne of St. Jude Parish in Chattanooga were among the good friends of Father Glennon attending his golden jubilee.

“He married us 14 years ago,” they said.

“There’s a story behind it because we got married in Cleveland, Ohio,” Mr. Dunne said.

“Which is where I’m from,” Mrs. Katcher-Dunne said, “so he drove up to Cleveland, Ohio.”

“Because we couldn’t get a priest in Cleveland,” Mr. Dunne said. “He was visiting his family in Wisconsin. He drove five hours to do the ceremony.”

Father Glennon is “very special to us,” Mr. Dunne said. “His counsel has helped us in our marriage. We couldn’t be happier. We have a very successful marriage. I think he gives great counsel. His words of advice to us have been so important whenever we have issues. We work them out.”

“He’s a psychologist. He’s a doctor,” Mrs. Katcher-Dunne said. “As part of our pre-Cana [marriage-preparation course], believe it or not, he gave us the Myers-Briggs personality test. We still reference that. He’s like, ‘You know, just think about it. You process things differently, you come to the same conclusion, but you have to process it differently,’ and 14 years later we still reference that.”

“He’s very important to us,” Mr. Dunne said. “We adore Father Bert.”

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