Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Serra Club tackles task of fostering, promoting vocations

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Catholic Spirit. What is the Serra Club and what is its mission?

Garry Davis: Our organization is named after Blessed Junipero Serra, the Franciscan missionary who established the California mission system in the 1700s. The Serra Clubs were established in the Seattle area back in 1935 and then spread eastward.

The Minneapolis club was the sixth Serra Club to be established, and the St. Paul club was the ninth. Now, there are over 310 clubs in the United States, totaling 12,000 members.

The purpose of Serra Clubs is to foster and promote vocations to the priesthood and to support priests in their sacred ministry, to encourage and affirm vocations to the consecrated religious life, and to assist members to respond to their own call to holiness in the church.

Q. During your term as president of the U.S.A. Council of Serra International, what were your goals and priorities?

GD. Two of my specific goals dealt with making our clubs aware of the resources that are available in our Chicago office and raising the awareness of Serra around the country.

I'd like to think that we've made some progress in both of those areas. We have an excellent Web site at www.serraus.org that provides up-to-date information. Another area that we've been working on is to determine the best structures for the USA Council and for our parent organization, Serra International.

The organizations have evolved here in the United States and across the world in the last 20 years and it is a challenge to determine what are the best structures for both entities for the future.

Q. What were the greatest challenges during your term?

GD. I think there were two. One was attempting to keep the clubs focused on their vocation efforts while the structural issues were being worked on by their support organizations. The second was spreading the good news that is happening on the vocation front, especially with regard to priestly vocations.

Overall, throughout the country, I understand that we are holding our own on vocations, but right here in our own archdiocese we have two wonderful success stories going on at both St. John Vianney Seminary on the grounds of the University of St. Thomas and at the St. Paul Seminary.

St. John Vianney expects around 155 college-level seminarians this fall. That is twice the number that were there just four years ago. Something very similar is happening at the St. Paul Seminary.

That shows that God is continuing to provide vocations but that they need to be recognized and acted upon. It shows that both seminaries have outstanding rectors who are each supervising excellent staffs and programs. It also shows the efforts of Archbishop Harry Flynn and his work to grow the two seminaries.

Information I've recently received on other Midwestern states is also showing a similar trend. We need to make Catholics, and particularly potential candidates, aware of this great blessing.

Q. What are some new projects that Serra Clubs are working on?

GD. One exciting project that is just starting out is a program called The College Con­nection.

The purpose of The College Connection program is to connect high school graduates with the campus ministry in the college they are attending and vice versa.

Often­times there is a tendency for some college students to stray away from their faith during their college years. Really, the college years should be a time when Catholic students are deepening their understanding of their faith and preparing themselves for church leadership roles.

Q. How is the Serra Club working to develop interests vocations?

GD. Serrans try to approach the task of fostering and promoting vocations at every level. I'll try to name just a few.

First of all is prayer. Prayer for vocations, and for seminarians and postulants, and for those who are already living out their vocation is extremely important.

Serrans also like to work with parish vocations committees and support other vocation activities at the parish level.

Some Serra Clubs have made special efforts to bring grade school students to the seminaries or other places of vocation formation as part of a curriculum on vocations.
One club developed a "God Stuff" booth for parish fairs where students, and some older people, too, could get their picture taken in a habit or a priest's suit cutout. It has been a great hit!

Gary A. Davis, 66, is past president of the USA Council of Serra International and currently serves on their board. He is a member of the St. Paul Serra Club. Davis was raised in Nativity of Our Lord parish in St. Paul and attended Cretin-Derham Hall High School. He is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas and William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul. He is an assistant Ramsey County attorney, serving in the civil division for more than 36 years. He and his wife, Marilyn, are members of St. Pius X, White Bear Lake.

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