“Match made in heaven:” Clergy address Serra Club at national rally hosted by DFW region
IRVING — Before the official welcome or the keynote address, the 2023 Serra Club rally began with Eucharistic Adoration, which continued around-the-clock until the conference’s closing Mass.
According to Greg Schwietz, president of Serra International, continual Eucharistic Adoration reinforces the spiritual dimension of the rally. “This is more than an event,” he said. “Adoration is central to what we try to model to our communities: to promote and affirm vocations, we need to grow in our own spirituality.”
About 120 individuals representing almost 50 U.S. Serra chapters and five international chapters met Jan. 12-14 for three days of inspiration and information to further the organization’s mission of supporting religious vocations and responding to God’s call to holiness in the members’ own lives.
More than 20 speakers, including several clergy, addressed the attendees. Father Maurice Moon shared his personal perspective of fostering vocations as chaplain of Nolan Catholic High School and director of collegiate seminarian formation for the Diocese of Fort Worth.
Fr. Moon began by listing multiple statistics from a survey of the 419 men ordained to the priesthood in 2022 in the U.S., conducted for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations.
The USCCB has polled the ordinands since 2005, and Fr. Moon noted that the number of seminarians and newly ordained priests has declined slightly over the past few years.
The decrease, according to Fr. Moon, is not a reason for discouragement. “But the reality is, our job is to be faithful to Christ, day in and day out.
“If we’re living our lives as we should, living our vocations well, we’re going to inspire others to follow Jesus,” he said.
Almost 3 in 4 respondents to the survey reported that regular praying of the Rosary and participating in Eucharistic Adoration helped them discern a priestly vocation, and 74 percent were altar servers before entering seminary.
Fr. Moon suggested this indicates the best prospect for young people to discern a religious call is strong, committed Catholic families. He said, “Parents are the first formators and have a huge influence on [their children’s] Catholic faith and on being open to the possibility of following Jesus as a priest or religious sister.”
Father Jorge Torres, the executive director of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said a dip in ordinations “is not necessarily bad news, just something to keep an eye on. You want to pay attention to it.”
In his talk, titled “The State of Vocations in the U.S.,” he pointed out that the pandemic and academic debt may have hindered seminary enrollment. Also, “the world continues to offer a plethora of opportunities, now more than ever, not only in terms of opportunities of how to work, where to work, when to work — things that even five years ago we would have never explored.”
One priority of his committee is increasing the number of U.S.-born Hispanic priests. A good first step would be increasing Hispanic enrollment in Catholic schools, according to Fr. Torres. The U.S. Church is growing, along with the proportion of Hispanics in the Church, increasing the need for bicultural priests. This year’s ordination class was 22 percent Hispanic.
Fr. Torres stated that he was grateful to speak to the Serrans, because its mission so closely matches that of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. “It’s a match made in heaven,” he quipped.
Clergy and the lay faithful have mutual roles in promoting vocations. As an example, Fr. Torres shared the story of Jan Tyranowski, a young Polish man whose dreams of becoming an accountant were dashed by illness, forcing him to leave school to work in his father’s tailor shop.
His parish priest noted Tyranowski’s deep faith and invited him to direct a youth group, which was attended by Karol Wojtyla, the future St. John Paul II.
Out of Tyranowski’s faithfulness despite difficult circumstances, God created a pope and a saint.
Fr. Torres encouraged the Serrans to build relationships with young people. “Regardless of what the numbers say, you and I are called to look and find future saints…In our situation, as difficult as we sometimes like to paint it, God can work miracles through any one of us in ways we have yet to know.”
Close to home
In the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Serra Club has three chapters: Fort Worth, Arlington, and Northeast Fort Worth.
St. Andrew parishioner Bill Moore heads the Fort Worth chapter, and he serves as district governor elect for District 46, which includes the three local chapters plus four in the Diocese of Dallas.
Moore said the Serra Club has become a second vocation for him after serving 40 years in the U.S. Navy, retiring as an admiral.
“The mission of Serra addresses the most critical need for the long-term health and stability and future of Catholic Church: priests to administer the sacraments. I’m happy to contribute to this most critical issue,” he said.
Serra Club chapters work closely with the bishop and vocations office to promote vocations through prayer and practical support, such as facilitating the Vocation Awareness Program each summer.
Becoming a Serran has deepened his own faith, said Moore. “My holiness has increased by working with fellow Serrans and the bishop.”