By Tim Johnson
The Serra Club is an international organization with approximately 18,000 members in 37 countries. The club fosters vocations to the Priesthood and religious life and encourages its members to fulfill their own Christian vocations to service. The Vatican has designated Serra as the lay vocation arm of the Church.
Serra clubs are named after Blessed Junipero Serra, who founded the missions along the California coast and evangelized thousands.
The Serra Club has two very active chapters in the diocese, one in South Bend and one in Fort Wayne.
Each club is a member of both a national council and Serra International.
Ray Vales, who is the Region 7 director of which the South Bend and Fort Wayne clubs are members, said, “(The Serra Club) is a good way to have a closer affiliation to the pope and Vatican since Serra International is aggregated to the Vatican. It is the lay apostolate of the Catholic Church for vocations to the Priesthood and religious life.”
The Serrans’ mission to pray, foster and support vocations is extremely important.
Serrans offer support to the diocesan Vocation Office. The clubs sponsor a Christmas luncheon for the seminarians and their families every year, rotating between the Serra Club of Fort Wayne and the Serra Club of South Bend. This year the dinner will be held at St. Therese Little Flower Church in South Bend.
The Serra Club of South Bend is led by Susan Vales, the current president. The club meets twice a month at the Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka.
“The Serra Club of South Bend is open to all practicing Catholics,” reported Susan Vales. Vales noted friendships are deepened with fellow Catholics in the diocese. A great emphasis is placed on praying for vocations to the Priesthood and religious life.
“Serrans also share in and affirm vocations to the Priesthood by attending the ordination and profession of vows by priests,” Vales added.
Serra promotes strong personal spiritual growth through monthly Mass, retreats, holy hours and spiritual reading.
Through talks by seminarians at Serra meetings, friendships and associations with those who are discerning the religious life develop.
In South Bend, Serrans meet the first Friday of the month for Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Chapel in the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. Mass is followed by lunch and a meeting. On the third Wednesday of the month, Serrans meet for dinner at 5:30 p.m. Dinner is followed by a 6 p.m. meeting and speaker.
Some of the Serra Club of South Bend activities include raising money for seminarian education through the sale of St. Joseph Father’s Day cards, recognizing Mass servers with a certificate of appreciation and support, participating in the Newman Connection to connect new college students with their respective campus ministry offices, adopting a priest and seminarian to pray for and send letters of encouragement and sending cards to priests on the anniversary of the ordinations to the Priesthood.
Father Paul McCarthy serves as the chaplain of the South Bend club. Each fall, members attend a retreat that he facilitates.
“New members are welcome,” said Vales. For information call Randy Blum, vice president of membership at 574-277-1633 or Susan Vales, president, at 574-204-2084.
The Serra Club of Fort Wayne meets on the first Friday of the month at St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne, for Mass at 11:30 a.m., followed by a luncheon with a speaker.
Throughout the year, the Serra Club sponsors the Little Flower Holy Hour. They host a picnic in August for all the priests and seminarians of the diocese at Lake Wawasee. In October, the club hosts a dinner for all the sisters in the Fort Wayne area. In January, the club shares vocation magnets, which are given to fifth-grade students of Allen County Catholic schools. Each spring, the club honors two students who are chosen by their schools as exemplifying Christian leadership from the two Fort Wayne Catholic high schools.
Deb Andrews, who serves as the club secretary, noted, “We have an Adopt a Seminarian program. A Serran chooses a seminarian and supports him through prayer, getting together with him when he is home, sending care packages or whatever else the adopter wants to do. This usually carries on after they have been ordained.”
Terry Coonan, the father of two diocesan priests, is the president of the Serra Club of Fort Wayne and Father Ajay Tiru, pastor of Queen of Angels Parish, Fort Wayne, serves as the chaplain.
Coonan said that he joined the Serra Club when his sons were in the seminary reasoning that he should be a part of a group that supported seminarians and vocations. However, he stayed with Serra after the boys were ordained because he saw the value of the organization.
“Two of my goals for this year are to partner more closely with the diocesan Office of Vocations and to collaborate and coordinate more with the South Bend chapter of Serra,” Coonan said. “I think this will generate excitement and boost our membership.”
Andrews told Today’s Catholic, “Any actively practicing Catholic male or female, 18 years or older, is welcomed to join our club. If they do not know a Serran, they can speak with their church office or call the diocese to get the name of the president and the president would invite them as a guest to the next meeting. They can come as a guest and see what we do and how the program works. If they decide they would like to join, an application is given and they need to fill it out and give it back to a Serran that can get it to the board.”
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