By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
The Second Vatican Council was underway, inspired by the Holy Spirit to reinvigorate the Church. Thirty-two men with a commitment to fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life decided that was the time to charter the Serra Club of Davenport. Their mission, undertaken 50 years ago, continues through the efforts of men and women encouraged by an increasing number of seminarians and candidates for the Davenport Diocese.
Longtime Serra Club member Sandi Frericks said she was attending Mass in a hospital chapel last week when another deacon’s wife commented enthusiastically about the growing number of seminarians in the diocese (14 at present). Frericks said she responded, “Yes, isn’t that exciting?”
Serra Club President Bill Barrett says diocesan Vocations Director Father Thom Hennen is doing such a good job that Serrans need to raise more money to support that work. Among the services and projects Serra Club provides: financial support and Catholic Messenger subscriptions for seminarians; advertising; posters; recognition of priests on ordination anniversaries; twice-annual dinners for seminarians, priests and religious; and other special requests, such as visits to seminaries with prospective candidates.
Fr. Hennen said he can count on Serra Club to help whenever he puts out the call. “They’re very willing to help. Serra Club is very supportive of efforts to foster vocations awareness in parishes, as well.”
“The Serra Club has always been very welcoming to my family and me,” said Deacon Guillermo Trevino, a diocesan seminarian who anticipates ordination to the priesthood next June. He recalled how one year his mother wanted to accompany him to a Serra Club dinner. “They made my mother feel very welcomed and that meant a lot. I am truly grateful for their commitment to vocations and their support throughout the years.”
In hopes of continuing to fund vocations-supporting activities, Serra Club has re-launched its “100 Club,” inviting Catholics to become members by donating $100 each. Those who are unable to contribute financially are encouraged to commit to 100 devotional prayers for vocations throughout the year.
Bishop Martin Amos affirmed Serra Club’s work in a letter accompanying Barrett’s invitation. “I wish to thank the Serra Club for all they have done over these past 50 years and all they continue to do. We can certainly see the fruits of their labor.”
By joining the “100 Club,” donors “can help defray the cost of promotional materials and help pay for various events sponsored by the Serra Club and the diocesan Office of Vocations. Through your spiritual pledge of prayer you can draw others to Christ and help them to open their, ears, their minds and their hearts to his calling,” the bishop said.
“Most of the seminaries are full,” said Barrett, a 25-year member of Serra Club, which is part of a nearly 80-year-old international organization. “I was just at a Serra Convention in Wichita, Kan., several weeks ago. Wichita has 64 seminarians; Lincoln had well over 100; Des Moines has 24; Davenport has 14 — more than they’ve had in recent history. People are heeding the call. There’s a new respect for vocations again, I think.”
Barrett attributes the increasing number of seminarians in the Davenport Diocese to the support of Bishop Amos and a vocations director “who is actively involved and enthusiastic and enjoying his own vocation.” Fr. Hennen also teaches religion part-time at Assumption High School in Davenport (as do Father Chris Young and Mother Susan Rueve, OSF), which helps boost vocations awareness, Barrett said.
“People can see what Serra is; it’s not ‘Sierra,’ the environmental organization. We do plant seeds, but a different type,” Barrett added.
Frericks was among the first five women to join Serra Club in the mid-1980s when dwindling membership prompted the organization to welcome women. Frericks said she moved from vice president to president of the local club very quickly. “We decided we needed to talk about women’s vocations as well as men’s vocations. We felt that for the fullness of the Church both voices — male and female — needed to be heard.” She continues active participation because Serra Club confirms and affirms vocations to religious life — as Sisters, priests or deacons.
“The key to continuing growth in vocations is for each of us to ask someone we think has the potential to be a priest, a deacon or a Sister whether they’ve ever considered a religious vocation,” Barrett said. “Any of the priests will tell you, someone asked them.”
About Serra Club
Serra Club of Davenport welcomes new members to join from anywhere in the diocese and beyond. Serrans meet the first Friday of each month to pray the rosary, celebrate Mass with Bishop Martin Amos or one of his priests and enjoy breakfast with retired priests at diocesan headquarters in Davenport.
In addition to monthly meetings Serrans do what they can to assist the vocations director and to promote vocations in schools and parishes. “One of the goals of the Serra Club is to set up active vocations committees in every parish,” Barrett said. “Each parish should have a vocations committee. That’s where the new prospects are going to come from.”
For more information, contact Fr. Thom Hennen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (563-888-4255).