By Kay Cozad
The Serra Club of South Bend, led this year by President Stephen Elek, Jr., and the Serra Club of Fort Wayne, whose president is Dave Steffen, have been busy preparing some new initiatives for the new year that promise to strengthen and promulgate the clubs’ mission to “foster and affirm vocations to the ordained priesthood and vowed religious life.”
The South Bend chapter, which meets the first and third Friday of each month at the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, hosts close to 30 members for Mass, recitation of the rosary, lunch and interaction with informative speakers. And according to Elek, two new initiatives to foster vocations were announced recently in South Bend.
“We are having a membership drive that will cover all western parishes included in five counties. That’s 38 to 40 parishes,” says Elek.
The drive will communicate Serra Club membership information to area parishioners through bulletin blurbs and other avenues. In addition to fostering vocations the club also vows to “foster and affirm its members’ common Catholic faith.”
The second project involves the expansion of the College Connection for Catholics program, which has been successfully linking incoming college freshman with Catholic campus ministries for six years. The expansion will include not just Marian and Saint Joseph’s high schools, but all Catholic seniors graduating from public high schools or home schools in the South Bend area as well.
Ray Vales, regional director for the Serra Club, reports that, with permission, names of graduating Catholic seniors will be gathered from the parishes and entered into a database, which will provide information to the campus ministries of colleges across the country in the fall. Each campus minister then contacts the students with an invitation to become involved in ministries around the campus.
Vales says that those students who initially are involved in faith ministries at college fare better in their religious practices.
“The key is to get them right away,” he says.
Elek adds that statistics show that 85 percent of graduating college seniors retain their faith and become leaders in the Church when they are involved in campus ministries.
This diocese is enjoying an increase in the number of new seminarians — more than it’s seen since the 1970s. Vale remains confident that these new vocations are good men.
“These are quality guys. Even with the numbers going up, its still a strict process and we’re getting good men,” he says.
Other services the South Bend Serra Club participates in include visiting or sending seminarians cards, inviting parents to the club and prayer. Vales says each South Bend club member prays for two seminarians.
“Our prayers are directed toward the seminarian that their vocation will work out,” he reports.
Each year a holiday luncheon for seminarians is hosted alternately between South Bend and Fort Wayne. Parents and family members join their seminarians for an afternoon of Mass, lunch and presentations.
The 48-year-old Fort Wayne Serra Club boasts 50 members and along with the South Bend club is open to both men and woman of all ages. The club meets the first Friday of each month at St. Joseph Hospital for Mass and a luncheon. Guest speakers round out the meetings with vocational inspiration.
The club is involved in fostering vocations and their own spiritual growth by promoting a newly revised membership packet that includes the history of the development of the club as well as information on Blessed Juniper Serra, its patron saint. The Serran’s mission and prayer for vocations complete the packet.
The club supports Andrew Dinners for young men interested in investigating the priesthood, an annual dinner for the congregations of sisters in the area, a seminarians’ picnic, the spring presentation of the Christian Leadership award to a graduating high-school senior and the sponsoring of the Bishop’s Trophy presented to the winner of the annual football rivalry between Bishop Luers and Bishop Dwenger high schools.
This year a progressive initiative in Fort Wayne involves distribution of refrigerator magnets highlighting the vocations prayer to grade school students in the area. Fort Wayne President Steffen says there is no age limit on a vocation.
The Serra clubs of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend are independent clubs affiliated with Serra International, founded in 1935. Of the approximately 20,000 Serra Club members worldwide, 11,000 reside in the U.S. Regional director Vales concludes, “All 11,000 are praying for vocations and our mission to foster vocations.”
For information on vocations contact:
Msgr. Bernard Galic, director of the diocesan Office of Vocations, at (260) 622-4491.
For membership information for the Fort Wayne Serra Club contact, Derek Pillie, membership chairman, at (260) 627-9402 and for the South Bend Serra Club, contact Karol Pasierbowicz, vice president of membership at (574) 277-4781.
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