Is Your Club Relevant?
by Serra’s USA Council President Greg Schwietz
In many of the dioceses where Serra clubs currently exist, this question of relevance arises. Either this is the result of an internal review of Serra club activities, or it comes in the form of an unwelcomed comment from an outside observer. The question to be dealt with is always, “Does the work we do make a difference?” In other words, is Serra relevant to the work of the diocese in its efforts toward fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and/or in its affirmation programs for those who have already made that singular, life-long, vowed commitment as ordained ministers or consecrated religious?
How do we know? I suggest two ways to find out.
FIRST, as identified in my earlier article regarding Top 10 clubs, one of the items a top club does regularly is to dialog with their local bishop and his representative, normally the diocesan vocation director. The needs of the local church take on a primary importance, and are continually confirmed or challenged by the ever-changing needs of the diocese. This is important and cannot ever be superseded by what the local club feels is more important, or by “what we did yesterday.” Serra clubs are invited and allowed to serve at the invitation and will of the local bishop. It is our primary job to be attentive to his direction, and by association, with the diocesan vocation director. We present ourselves as ready, willing and able workers for the vineyard of vocations. But we don’t offer ourselves empty-handed.
The SECOND part of our determination to do relevant work is to realize that part of the reason we are respected as Serrans worldwide is because of our dedication and commitment to vocations and in the manifestation of this through Serra’s long-time activities and programs.
Enter: SERRA SPARK (www.SerraSpark.org). This past year, Serra’s National Council for the United States (USA Council) has worked closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in our capacity as a national consultant, and in collaboration with the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors (NCDVD) to develop a state-of-the-art digital resource for diocesan vocation directors and parish vocations committees nationwide.
Of course, what attracts leadership from these two organizations to Serra is our content. But, in addition to proven programs, Serra is also attractive because it offers “boots on the ground” in the form of Serrans around the country, eager and able to help. So, relevance becomes a two-factor item: First, helping with or doing what your bishop and vocation director see as important; and secondly, offering to your bishop and vocation director a one-two punch, both 1) fostering and discernment programs in the form of Serra Spark and 2) active Serrans to implement and support such activities.
Serra Spark is an up-to-date presentation of 23 vocations activities that have been vetted and performed throughout the United States and abroad. While some are not so new, these programs have been proven effective over the years and stand on their own. Most importantly, these 23 programs were selected by representatives of the NCDVD around the USA as the most desirable for implementation. Each of the activities, identified as TOOLS in the SerraSpark.org website, is presented in their basic, best practices format with references to local examples and tested variations on a theme. In some cases, the tool will also provide ready-to-use art work and supporting documents. It’s a one-stop vocations resource. And it is very important to our mission and work.
Relevance happens on both levels of Serra engagement: 1) recruiting or fostering new vocations, and 2) affirming and supporting existing vocations. So whether it is the starting of a new recruitment activity, like Houston’s adoption and implementation of the Called by Name program (SerraSpark tool #2) or if it’s the Spokane club replacing a long-time golf outing with its first-ever priests and bishop only steak fry and barbecue, asking the right question, of the right persons, and using the considerable program and people resources of Serra will find your club once again the “go to” club, doing big and relevant work.