Glendon, Father Lowell Martin
1992, August 10
Date of Birth: 1935, June 28
October 20, 1994
Speaking at the funeral liturgy for Rev. Lowell Glendon, S.S., Bishop P. Francis Murphy, western vicar for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, observed, “As a priest, he was a very gifted pastoral person who brought his full humanity to the tradition of priesthood and God’s grace.” The variety of people who participated in the vigil and liturgy of Christian Burial underscored another observation: Father Glendon, born to eternal life on August 10, 1992, had indeed “touched the lives of many people.” Worshipping and witnessing to his life were not only priests from many dioceses but professed religious, homeless persons, business executives, and people formerly estranged from the Church.
This priest, whose life ended after a three-year encounter with lung cancer, began life in 1935 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, as the son of Margaret Crowther and William J. Glendon. With a father strongly devoted to the Catholic tradition and a mother coming from an active Congregationalist background, Lowell’s early exposure to Christian faith combined the devotional character of pre-Vatican II Catholic worship with the more free‑spirited Congregational attentiveness to the Word of God. That faith background, together with Lowell’s keen sensitivity to the incarnational dimension of God’s grace, would position him to live on the “cutting edge” in both theology and pastoral ministry for most of his years of priestly service. One of three children, Lowell had a brother, William, who was married with one daughter, Darlene; and a sister, Barbara; she would go on to join the Ursilines.
After attending public schools in Dalton, Massachusetts, and the University of Massachusetts where he majored in Romance Languages (1952‑1954), Lowell entered St. Thomas Seminary in Hartford. With his move in 1955 to the Grand Seminaire in Montreal, staffed by the Sulpicians, he began his long association with the Sulpicians which he would cherish for the entire twenty‑seven years of his priesthood.
Lowell’s association was destined not to be completely smooth. Indeed, when he was released by the Bishop of Springfield to the Canadian Province of the Society of St. Sulpice, it was with the intention that he would be an asset in dealing with the English-speaking American seminarians who came to Montreal. With this purpose in mind, Lowell began course work for a doctorate in theology just a few months after his ordination to priesthood on December 10, 1961. Without completing the work, and lamenting the lack of direction he felt he was receiving, he was appointed as an lnstructor of Homiletics at Montreal’s Grand Seminaire of St. Sulpice and as secretary to the house superior. The following year, 1963‑64, he went abroad to continue work on his thesis under the direction of Fr. Hervé Nicolas, O.P., at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.
Unfortunately, the influx of American seminarians into the Canadian Province dwindled to the point where Lowell judged that he would not be useful in Canada and thus explained that he would not be seeking permanent membership in the Canadian Province. Nevertheless, following his year in Fribourg, he was assigned to the Canadian year of solitude during which he was able to complete his thesis. Unfortunately, the need to change moderators and the new moderator’s inability to accept Lowell’s thesis made him face the decision to abandon the work or begin again. He decided at that point to attempt work on a new thesis while, at the same time, seeking membership in the U.S. Province. The Canadian Provincial at the time, the Reverend Edouard Gagnon (now a Cardinal in Rome), concurred that Lowell might be of more help to the U.S. Province.
The first three years of this transition found Lowell teaching moral theology and developing a program of spiritual formation at St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. Although Lowell found life as a seminary faculty member to be rewarding and enjoyable, he wondered if his poetic nature poised him to engage effectively in a life marked by rigorous academic scholarship. In addition, his own theological approach was marked by his early background and by the growing movement in western theology to draw on human experience for theological reflection. At times, this placed him in conflict with those whose focus developed out of a more classical and scholastic tradition.
Yet, the conflict did not deter Lowell from seeking an experience of community, of faith, and of the Risen Lord. In these early days, he retained that openness to people and ideas which would come to be seen by many as one of his greatest traits. During this period, he even wondered if he might someday end up retiring in a Zen monastery in contemplation of God, life, and the gift of humanity.
With the closing of St. John’s Seminary in the spring of 1971, Lowell took a position at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. Believing that he was not fully in touch with the intricacies of moral theology and justice, he expressed a desire to teach Fundamental Theology rather than moral. Hence, from 1971 to 1973, Lowell served at Roland Park, and continued to seek ways for expressing what he understood was a graced intersection between God and human experience. With his avowed openness toward meeting the divine in sometimes unexpected places, Lowell, for example, was among one hundred persons invited to the first annual academic conference on “Religion, Psyche, and the Spirit,” at Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois in 1972. In his final year at St. Mary’s, he participated in a therapy training program at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center of Baltimore. There he engaged in individual guided exploration of altered states of consciousness, which included training and supervision in the art of Guided Imagery and Music. Furthermore, he received training in healing ministry at the New Life Clinic of Baltimore. Although his quest puzzled some, more found an appealing and hopeful spirit in his journey. Consequently, Lowell’s thirteen-year dialogue with the Sulpicians culminated in his acceptance as a member of the Society’s U.S. Province.
In the fall of 1973, Lowell moved to the Bronx to begin again doctoral studies, this time in spirituality. His doctoral courses at Fordham University put him in touch with a broad spectrum of traditions from east to west, and he was quite delighted when he was asked to present a paper at the second annual conference on “Religion, Psyche, and the Spirit.” His topic was “Mysticism and Psychic Phenomena.” When the Provincial Council articulated its hope that Lowell would be mindful of the needs in then current seminaries, he very gladly observed that he would place focus on “more traditional” theological endeavors, although he would also continue his pursuits regarding God’s multifaceted presence in this world.
His readiness to embrace the Sulpician tradition of spirituality was witnessed in his dissertation work and study on Father Olier. Lowell immersed himself in the French tradition with the conviction of the original spirituality of Sulpician seminaries could indeed be an asset to present day seminary and priestly life. With consultation from his academic advisors, Lowell chose his three comprehensive areas: 1) the theological framework of the spirituality of Pierre Cardinal de Berulle, founder of the French school; 2) the imitation of Christ in the spirituality of Francis and Bonaventure; and 3) asceticism in Clement of Alexandria and Origen.
During the summers between 1973 and 1977, Lowell served as a staff person and liturgist for the Prayer Workshop conducted at Sangre de Christo Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1972 and 1973, he had spent his summers teaching Moral Theology at Wheeling College in West Virginia.
In 1977, the Council appointed Lowell as the Director of the Spiritual Formation Year which would be conducted in Berkeley, California for the next four years. Since the formation year was conducted in connection with the Institute of Spirituality and Worship at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Lowell also served as a Professor for the Institute, which normally had about forty students from all parts of the world in its year-long program. With the Graduate Theological Union, he taught a course entitled “Christian Spiritual Classics.” Among both the Sulpician candidates and the students of the ISW, Lowell was recognized as a sensitive, compassionate, and dedicated teacher and advisor. He never encountered persons without letting them know they had his full and prayerful attention; and, in his demeanor, many spiritual journeyers knew precisely what it meant to have a close and caring spiritual friend.
In addition, he evidenced a deep concern for social justice in his use of money, in his hospitable acceptance of diverse people, and in the simplicity of his life‑style. With Sister Kristen Wenzel, O.S.U., he “adopted” from afar a young child in Africa, and up to the time he died he continued his support of the boy. When he explained that he had “fallen into a vegetarian space,” he meant that his decision to abstain from meat had developed from a deeply centered experience of his relationship with the poor and hungry. Unlike some who would “give up” meat or alcohol out of fear of health-threatening dangers, Lowell’s decisions came out of a desire to be completely open to the life which surrounded him and to live in solidarity with those who were most vulnerable.
When the Province decided to acquire property in Berkeley during his second year there, Lowell was instrumental in 1979, at the request of the Provincial Treasurer, Father Lou Stasker, in finding the Milvia Street property that would come to be known as Vaugirard, named after the area in Paris where Father Olier had lived. In this new Vaugirard, the solitaires where exposed to the sayings of Father Olier; and, from there, Lowell facilitated the weekly sessions on the Sulpician and French traditions of spirituality and seminary life.
During this time Lowell also successfully completed and defended his doctoral dissertation, “Jean-Jacques Olier’s View of the Spiritual Potential of Human Nature: a Presentation and an Evaluation.” Lowell had taken on this work in an effort to address the concerns of Americans who found Olier’s view of human nature to be perhaps elusive to modern minds. He believed that an appropriate methodology would give way to a more accurate and nuanced understanding which could enlighten American thought. His work on the dissertation gave him a unique vantage point from which to acquaint Sulpician candidates with the tradition they sought to embrace. Furthermore, Lowell remained active in translating books and articles which had been unknown to English speaking Sulpicians.
When there were no candidates for formation in the fall of 1981, Lowell returned to the East Coast where he put together a “package” which found him serving at two places. For one, he served on the faculty of the Pastoral Counseling Department of Loyola College of Baltimore, and, at the same time, was facilitating Loyola’s Pastoral Integration Seminar and also facilitating a course in Case Studies in Spiritual Direction. He also completed a study in the department for an M.S. degree in Pastoral Counseling (1987). His second assignment included teaching and spiritual direction for students at St. Mary’s Seminary and University, where he remained until June 1985 when he gave his full attention to the Loyola Program.
Early in 1981, Lowell had outlined for Father Edward Frazer, the Provincial, a comprehensive program that would help in meeting the spiritual needs of people in the city of Baltimore and that would bring a Sulpician presence in an area of the city where the Sulpicians had been well-regarded. Thus, Lowell offered valuable input when St. Mary’s Spiritual center was opened under the direction of Father Joseph Bonadio. In the meantime, Lowell, in 1987, took a part time position as a spiritual director with the Bon Secour Spiritual Center in Marriottsville, MD. He teamed with Sister Joanne Bierl, M.M.M., to offer retreats such as “Wonders and Hungers of the Human Heart.” In July 1988, Lowell was appointed as the Director of St. Mary’s Spiritual Center.
When he had returned to the East Coast, Lowell also became involved in parish ministry at Corpus Christi Parish in downtown Baltimore. When the parish administration was given to Sister Jane Coyle, Lowell became the primary assisting priest for the community, and was proud to celebrate his silver jubilee in the environment of a lively faith community. At his death, recalling that Lowell had considered himself a member of Corpus Christi for eleven years, Sister Jane Coyle, wrote, “Lowell permitted us to share in his life in a manner that helped us to understand, in daily life, in health and in sickness and pain, what it means to be – alter Christus – another Christ.” In this setting, he also continued his active engagement in projects directed toward hunger-relief; for example, he served as a recruiter with the Baltimore Walk for Africa, aimed at increasing famine relief.
During the Sulpician retreat of 1989, Lowell joked with some of his colleagues about the persistent hiccough he was experiencing. The diverse methods tried to end them would always be fruitless. Only a few weeks later, the associate director of the Spiritual Center, Sister Suzanne Delaney, encountered Lowell in a somewhat dazed state. Immediate medical tests showed that Lowell had developed a malignant tumor in the brain, a tumor which had originated in the lungs and which the doctors explained was the source of Lowell’s hiccough. He soon thereafter began a course of radiation which diminished the tumor so that he was able to return to full work and to resume driving again. His hope for a complete recovery, however, was not to be fulfilled.
On June 3, 1991, Lowell wrote to his friends that because his cancer had recurred as multiple brain tumors he would be resigning from his position as Director of the St. Mary’s Spiritual Center, although he would remain on the staff as long as his health would allow. Lowell was able to remain in his apartment for about a year before he moved to St. Charles Villa when he was no longer able to get around on his own. Even at the Villa, to the extent his health would allow, he maintained a schedule of spiritual direction and meetings with friends, until shortly before his death on August 10, 1992. In his journey toward death, Lowell had given many the opportunity to walk with him and gently enter into his suffering and hope.
As a Sulpician, Lowell offered much to the work of the Society, both nationally and internationally. In addition to his regular assignments, Lowell served on the Personnel Committee of the Sulpicians from 1983‑1986, and as a delegate to the Provincial Assemblies of 1985, 1988, and 1991. He was instrumental in planning for the first “Mois Sulpicien” in Paris in 1981 and served as a facilitator and translator for that and subsequent meetings. In 1982 he served with Fathers Frederick Cwiekowski and Robert Eno on the Committee to Approve Translation of the Approved Constitutions. In 1986, he was appointed to the Commission des Sources, at which time Provincial Father Gerald Brown noted, “Your expertise in the field of French spirituality, with a special emphasis on Olier, and your fluency in French will allow greater input from our Province concerning the direction of future research, translations, and publications.”
His published works included a review of Marie of the Incarnation: Selected Writings (Theological Studies, March 1991); an annotated chronology of Jean Jacques Olier; two chapters in a joint effort by the Loyola Pastoral Counseling faculty, The Art of Supervision: A Pastoral Counseling Approach (Paulist Press, 1987); and, (with Bill Thompson), Berulle and the French School, as part of the Paulists’ Classics of Western Spirituality series.
Because of his close relationship with Bread for the World and his concern for the hungry, at the time of his death, Lowell’s family directed that memorial contributions be given to that hunger‑service organization. The funeral liturgies were held at Corpus Christi Church with the Rite of Welcoming at 2:45 p.m. and a Vigil Service at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 12, 1992. It was at the Vigil that friends of Lowell heard testimony confirming the way he had touched so many and had enabled people to encounter God’s love in their lives and to feel accepted and graced in new ways.
Eucharistic Liturgy followed the next day, August 13, with Sulpician Provincial Father Gerald Brown presiding and Bishop Francis Murphy in attendance. Lowell had carefully planned the liturgies with Sister Kathleen McNany in such a way that the congregation could give genuine thanks to God for the life of Lowell which had been such a gift to them. Following the funeral, Lowell was buried at the Sulpician Cemetery in Catonsville.