Praying for the harvest: three local Serra Clubs provide prayer, support for vocations
FORT WORTH — In 1934, four laymen, Dan Rooney, Leo Sharkey, Richard Ward, and Harold Haberle met for lunch in Seattle, Washington, to talk about how they could fully live out their Catholic values. The focus of their discussion soon expanded to fostering vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. That became the primary mission of the group, which they named “Serra” as a memorial to St. Junipero Serra, the Spanish missionary who established missions in California.
Serra International now claims 1,100 Serra Clubs and more than 20,000 members in 46 countries. Three of those clubs support priests, seminarians, and consecrated religious in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
The Fort Worth, Arlington, and Northeast Fort Worth Serra Clubs collaborate on diocesan-wide programs that actively foster vocations and support priests. But Serrans maintain that prayer is the primary and most valuable activity of each club.
Jo-Ann Bresowar, Serra regional director for Texas, said prayer is fundamental to Serra clubs. The 31 Club, for example, ensures that a Serran is praying for vocations every day of every month. With the Seven Serrans program, they pray for priests in the diocese each day of the week, Bresowar added.
Serra clubs also share a commitment to pray specifically for the diocese’s five vocations liasons, Bill Jackson, Northeast Serra president, said.
“Prayer does not require you to go out and act, but it is an act,” Bresowar explained. “Prayer is the basis for everything we do. The action comes out of the prayer, not the other way around.”
A WEEKEND TO DISCERN
A significant action carried out by Serrans is the annual Vocations Awareness Program (VAP), held this year June 11-13 at the University of Dallas. The Fort Worth and Dallas Serra clubs work together to fund, facilitate, and promote the weekend, which helps single women and men learn about the lives of priests, brothers, and sisters. Since the first VAP in 1990, about 1,250 men and women have been guided in discernment during two-and-a-half days of prayer, discussion, Q&A forums, and one-on-one conversations with priests and sisters.
“A lot of the current priests in our diocese have attended the VAP weekend,” Mary Elwood, former Northeast Fort Worth Serra president, said. “About 30 to 40 attend each year. You just never know who the Holy Spirit is calling to the weekend.”
In 2008, the Holy Spirit called 21-year-old Maurice Moon to the VAP weekend. Ordained in 2018, Father Moon now serves as chaplain at Nolan Catholic High School and as vocations liaison.
He said VAP helped him move forward in discernment because he was able to talk one-on-one with priests, ask questions, and be with other men considering the priesthood. He said Serrans helped him as a seminarian with prayer and financial support, and they continue to support his priesthood with both prayer and works.
“I am so grateful to them for helping me find my vocation, supporting me as a priest, and supporting what I do — helping more men and women consider their calling.”
PRAYER AND PROVISIONS
As a way to fortify the VAP with prayer, Serrans also host the St. John Paul II monstrance for several weeks before and during the VAP weekend.
In 2004, the late Pope John Paul II blessed six monstrances for the Year of the Eucharist, one for each continent. He presented the North American Continent monstrance to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which then gave it to Serra USA with instructions to fulfill the pope’s request to use it to pray for vocations.
This is the eighth consecutive year that Dallas and Fort Worth Serrans have handled the logistics of safely moving the monstrance between parishes, schools, and religious communities, Bresowar said. During that time, Serrans scheduled nearly 400 dates of prayer for vocations with this monstrance during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
“It’s in great demand because it’s a second-class relic. It was held by the saint, blessed by the saint, and given instructions [by the saint] on what to do,” she added.
Serrans also encourage vocations with food and fellowship. The three local clubs take turns providing food for monthly St. Andrew Breakfasts and Dinners, where men in high school or college can learn about the priesthood. On Thursday evenings during Lent, Serrans provide food for the Lenten Discernment for Men, which includes Holy Hour, dinner, and discussion on prayer, seminary life, and the priesthood.
THREE CLUBS, ONE PURPOSE
Each local Serra Club has found unique ways to follow the organization’s three-fold mission to foster vocations to the priesthood and support priests in ministry, encourage vocations to consecrated life, and help each other respond to God’s call to holiness in their own lives.
The Fort Worth Serra Club began in 1950 and currently has about 30 members. Jackson said the club pays for a seminarian appreciation dinner each spring and clergy appreciation dinners in May and December. The Fort Worth club also sends Christmas gifts to seminarians.
“It takes a lot of financial and prayer support to have enough priests to meet the needs of all the parishes in our diocese,” Jackson explained. “It’s heartwarming for me to know that I am working toward that. It has brought me spiritually closer to God because I know I’m helping to do His work.”
In 1985, the Arlington Serra Club received its charter with 25 members. Today, about 40 Serrans from five Arlington parishes pray for and sponsor programs supporting seminarians, priests, and religious.
Bruns Watts, Arlington Serra president, said that in addition to monthly meetings, the group also attends Mass together one Saturday a month to pray for vocations.
One Wednesday each month, Arlington Serrans also provide a home-cooked meal for students at the UTA University Catholic Center (UCC). Two of the UCC’s former members are now seminarians, Watts said.
“It is important to have lay participation to support seminarians and priests,” Watts said. “It’s a labor of love.”
The Northeast Fort Worth Serra Club also has assisted Catholic college students. For instance, the club purchased vestments for Benediction and Eucharistic Adoration at the TCU Newman Center, Elwood said.
The club, which formed about four years ago, currently has 17 members from parishes in the Northeast deanery. Members send care packages to diocesan seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary College in Louisiana, Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, and Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Seminarians receive school supplies in the fall and snacks and sweets in April when they are studying for final exams.
In February, for World Day for Consecrated Life, club members deliver pantry baskets with canned and boxed goods to convents in the diocese. During the pandemic, they sent baskets of cleaning supplies.
“All Catholics know we need more priests, and we also know the power of prayer,” Elwood said. “The things we do for them remind them that we also are praying for them.”
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