They don't stand out in regard to who they are, but what they do plays an important role in the mission of the church. Their role is so important that they even have a special relationship with the Vatican.
They are Serrans, members of Serra International.
The Serra Club of Alexandria is the only one of its kind in the diocese. This group of 50 members are men and women who meet at least monthly to coordinate programs and pray specifically for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Why the name Serra? The name comes from Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan missionary who worked from 1768-1784 in the area of present-day California. He spent much of his time building churches and schools for the poor and the native people. But he also worked hard as a priest to catechize those in his care and to build a dedicated priesthood.
So, in 1934, when the first Serra Club was established in Seattle, Wash., the first members chose the name to honor Blessed Junipero Serra.
“A lot of people often get us confused with the “Sierra” Club, which is an environmental club,” said Ann Masden, past president of the Serra Club of Alexandria and the first woman to hold that office. “We want people to remember that we’re the Serra Club without an “i” because “we” support vocations.”
The Serra Club of Alexandria is the only Serra organization in the diocese. It is one of the 1,100 Serra Clubs organized in more than 46 countries, and is a member of the larger Serra International. Organized in 1951 as part of the Sacred Council for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocation, Serra International today has more than 20,000 Catholic members world-wide.
The local Serra Club prays for vocations by means of Masses, rosaries, intercessory prayer, and the Serra Prayer for Vocations.
“While we support vocations with our prayers, we also support vocations by our actions,” said Masden.
Club members help raise money for vocations by assisting with the diocese’s sponsorship of the two Annual Bishop’s Golf Tournaments and supporting the Taste of Faith dinner, both fund-raisers for seminarians.
“The assistance of the Serra Club members in these two fund-raisers is a huge attribution to its success,” said Masden who, as director of development for the diocese, also coordinates these events.
According to Masden, the Diocese of Alexandria is currently responsible for the education of 12 seminarians.
“With the tuition costs averaging $25,000 per year per seminarian, it’s easy to see how necessary it is to raise funds to meet these needs,” said Masden. “The Serra Club is happy to direct its energies toward achieving this goal.”
Two more programs that are especially unique to the Serra Club of Alexandria is its Adopt-a Seminarian program and the 31 Club. The Adopt-a-Seminarian program allows members from the club to personally care for a specific seminarian by means of prayers, Christmas gifts, and assistance with other necessities. The 31 Club assigns each member a day to pray for vocations.
In addition, the Serra Club of Alexandria also differs from other Serra Clubs because it has a broader focus which includes religious vocations rather than just seminarians.
“We feel an obligation to pray not just for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, but for all religious vocations, including sisters, brothers, and permanent deacons,” said Masden.
The Serra Club also encourages its members to live out their own vocation to service.
Pope John Paul II in his address to Serra International in December of 2000 said:
“The whole Church must become completely ministerial, a community of heralds and witnesses, rich in laborers for the harvest,” he said. “Prayer moves the heart of God.”
“The role of Serrans fits very well into the mission of the Church because they encourage pastors and laity alike to promote vocations,” the Holy Father concluded.
According to Masden, the club meets twice a month: every First Friday at Mass followed by a breakfast meeting and every third Monday of the month for a luncheon meeting. The meetings consist of the Prayer for Vocations, a meal, a guest speaker, and discussions upcoming Serra Club events.
The club recently hosted a round table discussion and bar-b-que dinner for seminarians, their parents and friends. Currently, they are in the process of assisting with the Bishop’s Annual Golf Tournament.
“Besides supporting vocations, the best thing about being a Serra Club member is meeting new people and developing new friendships,” said Masden. “Sharing this common bond has given me an opportunity to meet and work with people that otherwise, I probably would not have met. We have a lot of fun together.”
Membership is open to anyone interested in praying for and promoting vocations.
“We welcome everyone, but we would especially like to invite more young adults (ages 21-40) to join the Serra Club,” said Masden. “There are a lot of Catholic young adults, especially in the Diocese of Alexandria, who are very involved in the Church. We think they could add a lot to this service organization.”
For more information on how to join the Serra Club of Alexandria or to start a Serra Club in your deanery, contact Larry Feldkamp at (318) 449-3965 or any Serra Club member.
Prayer for Vocations
O God, who wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he be converted and live, grant we beseech You, through the intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever virgin, Saint Joseph, her spouse, Blessed Junipero Serra, and all the saints, increase of laborers for Your Church, fellow laborers with Chirst, Your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.