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Glenmary showed donor what she, siblings could be

Glenmary showed donor what she, siblings could be

In one small Kentucky town, Glenmary opened up a world of possibilities for the children it served. In fact, Theresa (Hayes) Weyer would say Glenmary saved her life.

As a young girl, Theresa lived in Sunfish, Ky., one of Glenmary's first missions. The small western Kentucky town was far removed from most of the world. Few people had cars. Most of the people farmed, and many of them were related. Almost no one was Catholic.

It was difficult for Theresa. The children in town did not understand Catholicism and would make fun of Theresa and other Catholic children. The locals feared that if they walked by a Catholic church during Mass, the parishioners would come out and kidnap them.

"Once, when Father Raphael Sourd was preaching, a boy threw a rock at him," Theresa said. "He kept on preaching and later said it was the first blood shed for Jesus in Sunfish."

Even Theresa's uncle was prejudiced against Catholics and was even more wary after he visited St. John the Evangelist Church one morning in Sunfish. While Father Clem Borchers was blessing the congregation with holy water, the head of the aspergillum flew off and hit the wall above her uncle's head. Needless to say, he ran out of the church.

"Father Borchers was a young, strong man," Theresa said. "I guess he didn't know his strength."

But, when Glenmary arrived in 1942, it brought books, education and worldly knowledge. Father Clem brought western and pirate books that Theresa devoured.

"Glenmary showed us there was a different kind of life than we were leading there," Theresa said. "Everything they had was a little nicer than we were used to. They showed us that there is another way of life besides farming. They gave us the idea that we could have something more."

Shortly after arriving, Father Clem helped build a school. During the construction, he set up a trailer and used it as both a chapel and information center. He explained to locals what Catholics believed and helped dispel rumors that Catholics practiced witchcraft.

Glenmary made Catholicism more accessible and acceptable for Theresa and her family. Previously, church was an all-day affair. Once a month, a diocesan priest would come in from Leitchfield, Ky. He would preside over baptisms and marriages and hear confessions. Then, the group would have Mass, a picnic lunch and benediction.

"When Glenmary came, we had Mass every day," Theresa said. "We could go whenever we wanted. I remember one year during Lent, my father walked with me to morning Mass. It was so special, because he worked all night on the ferry and usually came home and went to sleep. I will always remember walking to church with him."

Father Clem also began making sick calls. Though he had a car, he would ride his horse to people's houses, because the roads were not conducive for a car.

But one day, his car came in handy. Theresa's appendix burst, and she needed to go to the hospital in Louisville.

"Father Clem lent my brother his car, so he could drive me to the hospital," Theresa said. "I truly believe that had it not been for Glenmary, I would have died."

Though her family later moved from Sunfish to Henryville, Ind., Theresa never forgot the impact Glenmary had on her life. When she got older and more established, she began donating to Glenmary and later opted to establish a charitable gift annuity. She wanted to help continue Glenmary's work in rural America.

"When I was a teenager, I was working 40 hours a week for 50 cents an hour," Theresa said. "One day, I only had a 50-cent piece to put in the collection basket. Then, a missionary priest did an appeal, and I did not have anything to give for the second collection. I promised God that if I ever had money, I would give him some. I knew what Glenmary does with its money. I knew my gift would not be wasted."

Now, she lives in Ferdinand, Ind., on an 80-acre farm, just 7 miles from St. Meinrad, where many of Glenmary's men in formation study. She has visited 41 states and traveled the world, raised seven children and is an avid supporter of Glenmary and St. Meinrad.

"I have had a crazy life, but God has been really good to me," Theresa said. "I wanted to give back to help others have the same experiences I did.

"My uncle was one of the most prejudiced men you would ever meet," Theresa said. "He did not trust priests and he did not like Catholics — even though he was married to one — but Father Borchers told me that he baptized Uncle Jim before he died. That shows you what Glenmary can do. I know Father Borchers will get a gold star in heaven for that."