by USA Council President Greg Schwietz
A few months ago, we welcomed a new club into the Serra family: The Serra Club of North Idaho. This new club, with full starting support from our Spokane, Washington club (Club #2, celebrating 80 years this year), and District Governor Aileen Fields, is the first club in the Boise Diocese, 400 miles from its Chancery office. It is an exhilarating experience to share the joy of starting a new Serra club, no matter where it is. The spirit and the promise that a new Serra club represents is the communal experience of Catholic lay people who wish to share their love for the Church and for our consecrated and ordained ministers.
The news of a new Serra club is in and of itself worthy of an entire column of reflection, but it is another activity simultaneous to this new club charter that captures my interest and imagination at this time. Namely, in support of the new club, its 30 new Serra members, and its newly expressed commitment to vocations work, 310 people signed up for the Serra-sponsored 31 Club Mass at three local parishes. I call this the “second level of Serra.” And I call it exciting. (For more on the 31 Club and the 5-Star Program, see p. 7 of this issue.)
These 310 people committed to pray for vocations in a special way at one selected Mass a month. In effect, they are all supporting the Serra mission. Some of them are surely newly minted Serrans, but the majority of them have not signed on the dotted line, so to speak, and most never will, but they have done something that fits with their position and interest. They are part of the second level of commitment to the Serran mission.
It has been stated in the past and needs to be stated once again that Serra is not for everyone. In an article written in December of 1962 by our first Executive Secretary, Harry O’Haire, he states the sometimes forgotten principle: “Membership in Serra is select and selective.” He goes on to say, “Membership in Serra is a privilege granted, not a right obtained. This is always kept in mind when members select new associates. Men (and women) are chosen who are dedicated and sincere, whose loyalty to the Church and to the successors of the apostles is unquestioned. Serrans recruit members who can and will fulfill their obligations of membership. This is recognized as their duty because these men (and women) who are chosen have to provide brain as well as brawn to meet the challenging tide of (today’s cultural challenges) and to carry out the responsibility of the laity in the Church today.” (Parenthetical comments are my additions.)
Yet, Serra’s mission, to foster and affirm vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life, is a mission that is too large to be held only by a few committed Serrans. It is our great opportunity and responsibility to lead and expand this noble mission to the larger Catholic community. And this is what I like about the example shared above regarding the large number of 31 Club supporters in northern Idaho. It shows that while there has been the formation of a core group of Serrans, uniquely committed to this mission and to each other to assist each other in his or her spiritual growth, there is yet another, larger group of faithful, interested Catholics, in this case 10 times larger, who have been invited to join us in “our work.” And happily, they do.
So, as I see it, Serra has a big, noble mission, the responsibility of which has been formally and uniquely entrusted to us; namely, Serra is the premier, singly focused lay organization within the Church to foster and support religious vocations. This is the first level of Serra. But our role is that of not only doers. We not only provide, as Harry O’Haire said, “the brawn”; we must provide “the brains” as well. This means that our clubs must be always looking for ways to multiply their effect through proper inclusion of interested, committed Catholics to join our many vocations activities. This is the second level of Serra.
Bottom line: We need to sponsor more diocesan and region-wide vocations-directed activities that purposely invite the participation of the larger Catholic community, bringing the two levels of Serra together for maximum effect.
Serrans are doers, and they are also leaders. And lead we must, as we meet the challenges of this time — with our history, with our legacy, of course, but more importantly, with leaders who have been properly and uniquely called to serve the Church as Serrans. I invite your comments.