Jerry Schrader's talk at the December 2002 Meeting

Jerry Schrader

The Bay Area Serra Club, is one of eight Serra Clubs in the Galveston/Houston Diocese. Tonight I would like to tell you a little about Serra, its history, its purpose, its size, some of the programs it has to foster religious vocations, and its functions in the Catholic Church for those who may not know.

Serra Who?

You would be amazed at the number of Catholics who have never heard of Serra. When you ask most Catholics if they have heard about Serra, they say yes, they are the ones protecting the environment, Sierra.

Bishop Fiorenza is the leader of vocations in our Diocese and has appointed Father Clint Ressler and Sister Rosalie Karstedt as the Director and Associate Director of Vocations who both work out of the Chancery.

Fr. Clint and Sr. Rosalie are the right arm of the Bishop for vocations in this diocese, and the Serrans are the fingers, bringing all the directives, information, programs, etc. from the Office of Vocations to all the parishes in our diocese The Bay Area Serra Club has 15 Parishes out of the 160 Parishes in the Galveston/Houston Diocese with which we work The other 7 Serra Clubs work with the remaining parishes

The Bay Area Club represents the following Parishes St. Paul’s, St. Pius V in Pasadena, St. Mary’s in League City, St. Mary’s in La Porte, St. Luke the Evangelist, St. Hyacinth in Deer Park, St. Helen’s in Pearland, St. Francis Carbrini, St. Clare of Assis St. Bernadette’s, Shrine of the True Cross in Dickinson Our Lady of Grace in South Houston, Mary Queen in Friendswood, Blessed Juan Diego in Pasadena and Vietnamese Martyrs.

Serra’s History

Serra started in the 1930s and has since grown into the world’s largest Catholic vocation organization. There are 732 Serra Clubs in 35 countries and with a total membership of over 22,400 lay persons. The United States has over 10,000 members.

In 1934, four Catholic laymen in Seattle, Washington, decided to meet in fellowship to grow in their faith through programs of Catholic education and contribute to the mission of the church. They chose the support of seminarians as their special project. Their original purpose was "to assist in the education of young men to the priesthood." Financial support of seminarians was difficult in the 1930s, and since then many additional needs have emerged. Serra's purposes have evolved over the years in response to the changing times and needs of the Church, especially in light of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, Responding to Christ's call to "pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest," Serra has made the encouragement of Church vocations its hallmark. To reflect this goal, Serra restated its objectives in 1968 :

  • To foster and promote vocations to the priesthood as a particular vocation of service, and to develop an appreciation of the ministerial priesthood and of all religious vocations in the Catholic Church
  • To further Catholicism by encouraging its members, in fellowship and through education, to fulfill their vocations of service

Serran’s works demonstrate its grounding in the baptismal call of unity in holiness, and in its mission to the world by calling forth laborers to reap the harvest of the Spirit. Serra remains a group of laymen and women who are committed to the work of the church and who seek to achieve excellence in that vocation while convinced of the need to support its ministers.

The Serra Time Line

In 1935, founders Dan Rooney, Leo Sharkey, Richard Ward, and Harold Haberle organized luncheon meetings for business and professional men to exchange ideas on Catholic thought.

In the 1940s, a prayer for vocations was added to the club’s objectives of fellowship and Catholic discussion. Objectives were also expanded to include all religious vocations.

In the 1950s, the Serra International Foundation was established. Serra was extended to Canada, Mexico, Peru, England, and Italy.

In the 1960s, Serra extended to Spain, Venezuela, Brazil, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Australia. Serra participated in the First International Vocation Congress that was held in Rome.

In the 1970s, the National Councils of Great Britain and Brazil were established. Serra became a member organization of the US National Catholic Vocations Conference.

In the 1980s, Serra extended to New Zealand, Ghana, Nigeria, and Switzerland. Serra participated in the Second International Vocation Congress that was held in1981. In 1986, women were admitted as members. The National Councils of Spain, Italy, Mexico, and the Philippines established. The Called By Name program was adopted by U.S. Bishops for use in every diocese.

In the 1990s, the USA/Canada Council, the Serra Council of Australia and New Zealand, and the South Pacific Council were formed.

In 2000, the Holy See dedicated December 7, 2000 as the Vocation Day of Jubilee. This day represented a special recognition by the church of Serra’s significance as a lay organization.

The programs that follow are some of the many diverse ways in which Serrans accept the challenge to fostering vocations in their community.

Called By Name

Called By Name is a national, parish-based program that was begun by the Serra Club of St. Louis. It has two objectives:

  • To raise the consciousness of Catholics to foster vocations
  • To identify individuals who may possess the qualities necessary for a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

The 31 Club

The 31 Club is a prayer program in which a Serran chooses one day of the month when he or she will go to Mass and pray for all priests, sisters, brothers, deacons and lay ministers who have served or are serving his or her parish, and that future church vocations will be forthcoming from the parish.

Altar Server Programs

Serra Clubs recognize the valuable service young men and women nationwide offer the church by serving their parish community by awarding them certificates and medals. At the same time, Serrans help create an awareness of religious life as a vocational choice.

Life Awareness Weekend Retreat

The Life Awareness Weekend Retreat program targets single adults, ages 18 to 50, who may be interested in pursuing a religious vocation. This program is sponsored by another Serra Club in the Diocese.

Vocation Affirmation Programs

Friendship programs are one-on-one projects that demonstrate a Serran’s affirmation of vocation through personal, ongoing contact. Through the use of cards, remembrances and gifts, Serrans remember an anniversary, a birthday or a holiday and thank the priest, seminarian, brother or sister for their tireless work and commitment to the Lord. The Bay Area Serra Club has started an Adopt a Seminarian or Novice program.

Sports and Cultural Events

These large-scale programs provide priests, brothers, seminarians and sisters with an opportunity to step back from the daily pressures of their vocations and ministry and relax in a casual, supporting atmosphere. The Bay Area Serra Club sponsors the seminarian convocation cookout with over 40 seminarians as guests.

Dinners, Luncheons, and Appreciations

Whether formal or informal, dinners, luncheons and appreciations show: priests, brothers, seminarians and sisters that Serrans support their work. These events are an opportunity to talk about the work of the club, listen to what the Bishop envisions for Serra, or what the newly ordained priests are looking for in their relationships with Serra. The Bay Area Serra Club sponsors the Christmas Banquet for priests and religious for all of the 15 parishes.

Insight for Young Women

Insight is a summer weekend experience for young women in junior; and senior high school who are interested in exploring their Catholic faith, the vowed religious life, and the challenge of leading a Christian life. This program is sponsored by another Serra Club in the Diocese.
Each of the 8 Serra Clubs in the Galveston/Houston Diocese have their own specific programs supported by their members.

For instance, our club sponsors the Altar Servers’ Picnic for our 15 parishes, the Essay Contest, the Adopt a Seminarian or Novice program, the various religious panels and the Christmas Banquet for priests and religious.

Please keep in mind that we are always looking for programs that may promote religious vocations.

Thank you and God bless you.

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