By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Every summer before the start of the academic year, Serra Club of Davenport hosts an appreciation dinner for men and women in the Diocese of Davenport who are responding to God’s call.
This year’s turnout of clergy, religious, and seminarians Aug. 12 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Davenport “was probably the best we’ve had. I think there were about 60 people; it usually hovers around 40,” said John Stratman, the Serra Club’s treasurer and brother of two priests — one living (Father Tom) and one deceased (Father Bill). “We call it a picnic because that’s what we started with, but we’ve elevated it to something inside where it’s a little nicer.”
Among the dinner guests was Sister Mary Jo Loebig, of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns (OCD) in Eldridge who was celebrating the 60th anniversary of her profession of vows. Accompanying Sr. Loebig were Sister Lynne Therese Elwinger, the Carmelite Monastery’s prioress, and Sister Teresa Susan Dreyer, who professed final vows 10 months ago.
It’s a way to reciprocate the Serrans’ appreciation, Sr. Elwinger said, and “It’s a nice opportunity to talk with people you otherwise don’t see and to meet the seminarians.”
She also enjoyed getting to meet a priest at Sunday’s event who has been a supporter of the Carmelite Monastery for a number of years. A deacon the nuns prayed for when he was hospitalized also is a regular attendee at the Serra Club appreciation dinner each year.
The Carmelites from Eldridge were among four communities of women religious in Davenport attending the event; the others were the Carmelite Nuns of the Kahl Home; the Congregation of the Humility of Mary; and the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the Divine Teacher, said Sandi Frericks. She serves as deputy governor for Serra Club District 9, which covers the Davenport Diocese and the Dubuque Archdiocese.
Because of the success of this year’s event and the participation of more women religious, “I’d like to see our Serra Club be a catalyst for an annual get together for religious communities from Dubuque on down,” she said. She envisions a social combined with discussion groups. “I think that would be a really good idea.”
Frericks was one of the first five female members of the Serra Club of Davenport. The others were Eleanor Duffy, Betty Luther, Sylvia Rasmussen and Catharine Downey who, along with Frericks, joined 25 years ago to help the men in their support of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Serra Club of Davenport is a member of the USA Council of Serra International. The organization’s mission is to foster and affirm vocations to the ordained priesthood and vowed religious life in the United States and, through this ministry, members’ common Catholic faith.
“I’ve gotten to work very closely with the Serra Club over the last year,” said Father Thom Hennen, the Davenport Diocese’s vocations director. “They have been very supportive in terms of coming forward and asking, what can we do to help you in your job?”
Serra Club provides spiritual and prayer support, along with some financial support. The Serrans strive to show appreciation and create awareness about vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life, he said.
A big focus this year for the Serra Club is encouraging establishment of vocations committees in parishes, Fr. Hennen said. In addition, the organization hopes to attract younger members to continue the work of promoting and fostering vocations.
For more information about Serra Club, call President Bill Barrett at (563) 391-7460.