Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Linda Reeves - The Florida Catholic Palm Beach
POMPANO BEACH | Most Catholics know there is a priest shortage and that the number of individuals responding to the call to consecrated life is far below what it used to be. But few know about the small group of lay people who aim to increase those numbers while also supporting those who answer God’s call.
“I was invited to a Serra Club meeting 20 years ago, but I didn’t know what it was all about,” said Malcolm Meikle, a member of St. Gabriel Parish in Pompano Beach. “Serra was the only organization assisting with vocations. Promoting vocations is so important.”
Fast forward: Meikle is now president of the Serra Club of Broward County, part of the worldwide Serra International.
There are more than 750 Serra Clubs in 42 countries, with a total of 20,000 members. The Archdiocese of Miami has two: the Miami Serra Club moving into its 70th year of service, and the Serra Club of Broward County, moving into its 60th year.
To mark the milestone, both groups have launched membership drives, with Broward Serra even waiving its $50 annual dues for new members. The Miami Serra Club recently opened Facebook (@serraclubmiami), Instagram and Twitter accounts (@serraclub).
What do the Serrans do? “We pray for an increase in vocations, and we pray for our priests,” said Marie Helene, a member of the Broward Serra Club since 1984. “We need good holy priests.”
Serrans focus on promoting and increasing vocations to the priesthood and religious life while supporting and showing appreciation to priests in ministry. The clubs financially support seminaries and seminarians through fundraisers. Serrans also gather for monthly meetings and annual activities that help their members recognize their own vocation, the universal call to holiness.
“We have a dedicated group of men and women,” said Lillian DiStasio, a long-time Serran. “We do anything we can for vocations. The number of men going into the priesthood is decreasing in the United States. We support our seminarians, and we are praying for them.”
The Serra Club of Broward County gets together the second Monday of the month between November and May at host St. Gabriel. Before COVID, members also visited St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach for Masses with the seminary community and an annual retreat day.
The Miami Serra Club also meets monthly, currently by Zoom because of the pandemic. Among the events they host are a homecooked dinner before Christmas each year for members of religious orders in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, and the annual altar server awards on Good Shepherd Sunday.
“We are now in a growth mode,” said Meikle, sharing that membership has declined especially during the pandemic. “We are working with all of the Broward parishes trying to have a communications person in each parish to promote our events and activities.”
The club gathered April 10, 2021 at St. Gabriel, wearing masks and distancing, for a morning-long program that included a Mass celebrated by Father Matthew Gomez, archdiocesan director of vocations. Father Sahayanathan Nathan, St. Gabriel Parish administrator, and Father Andrew Tomonto, parochial vicar atSt. Coleman in Pompano Beach, concelebrated.
“This is a beautiful witness of the Serra Club,” said Father Gomez as he addressed the nearly 30 people gathered for the Mass.
“We have the opportunity to have a Mass, to talk a little but also to share,” added the priest, who gave a presentation after the celebration discussing the Office of Vocations’ projects for 2021, including designating the month of May as a month of prayer for vocations.
During May, Father Gomez is also planning to produce a series of Sunday reflections by seminarians, which he will post on the Vocations Office social media platforms. He also plans to gather vocation stories from a variety of priests and share them virtually.
“Praise to God. The bishop has given the green light. It is going to be beautiful. Let’s pray for vocations this May,” Father Gomez said.
The Archdiocese of Miami currently has 52 seminarians studying at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminaryin Hialeah, and St. Vincent de Paul in Boynton Beach.
Three men — Sebastian Grisales, Cesar Betancourt and Agustin Estrada — were ordained transitional deacons by Archbishop Thomas Wenski April 11 at St. Mary Cathedral. Eight men will be ordained priests May 8 at St. Thomas University.
The Serra Club was founded in Seattle in 1934. The four lay founders named the organization after Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan missionary known for founding a string of California mission churches in the 18th century and converting many Native Americans of the area. Father Serra was canonized in 2015 by Pope Francis.
Nearly 25 years after the first Serra Club launched, the organization came to the then Diocese of Miami. The Serra Club of Broward County was founded in 1962.
Today, Peter Jude is president of Miami Serra Club. Currently, the club has 20 members but also aims to grow by gaining at least one member from every parish in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
“We need priests — and good priests — from wherever we can get them,” Jude said.
In the diocese’s early days, Bishop Coleman F. Carroll counted on Serrans to help fund his very first building project, St. John Vianney Seminary. Today, the Miami group continues to raise funds for St. John Vianney through its Friends of the Seminary project. Members also “adopt-a-seminarian,” visiting the students on campus, celebrating Mass with them, and taking them out for an occasional dinner or movie.
The Broward group helps the regional seminary in Boynton Beach by sponsoring its annual Friends of the Seminary Mass and dinner and the annual Joe-Paddy Festival. (Most of these activities have been canceled or held virtually the past year due to the pandemic.)
During the April 10 Mass, Father Nathan thanked the Serrans of Broward County for their dedication and their witness of faithfulness to the Church.
“Vocations are so precious,” he said. “God bless you for your prayers for vocations. We need priests or the Church will die. Thanks to all of you for all you do. I hope that we can do this again next year,” he added, encouraging them to make the Vocation Mass at St. Gabriel Church a Broward Serra tradition.
World Day of Prayer for Vocations
- The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is April 25. During this annual celebration, now in its 58th year, the faithful are called to pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, societies of apostolic life, secular institutes and missionary life.
- The day is also an opportunity for all Catholics to raise awareness about the need for men and women to say "yes" to their vocations, especially if one is called to priesthood or religious life.
- For the Serra Club of Broward County, contact Malcolm Meikle, president, at 207-8331-0385 or [email protected].
- For the Miami Serra Club, contact Peter Jude, president, at 305-321-7947 or [email protected] or visit www.serraclubmiami.org.
- Follow the archdiocesan Vocations Office on Facebook and Instagram @miamivocations. Contact the office at [email protected]or by calling 305-762-1137.