Last week was the clear sign that my summer vacation has ended. It is an annual event – the luncheon sponsored by the Serra Club of Louisville. Normally, a sign that vacation is over is something to be avoided at all costs. But this luncheon is one that I look forward to each year. Here is why.
This is a potluck luncheon, and no one seems to want to miss being there. Serrans take the lead in bringing the delicious and varied food offerings, this year with help from the Priests’ Parents Club, which also deserves our special thanks. Those who join the luncheon include all those who have a hand in helping our seminarians locally – archdiocesan staff, priest pastors who work with seminarians on summer assignments, our fine Vocation Office staff of Father Michael Wimsatt, Father Shayne Duvall, Sister Sarah Yungwirth, OSB, and Kelly McLemore, and the members of the Serra Club.
Let me say a word about this organization. Founded in 1934, Serra International has as its mission to foster and affirm vocations to the ordained priesthood and vowed religious life in the United States and, through this ministry, the members’ common Catholic faith. So for over 80 years these fine lay women and men meet monthly to deepen their own spiritual lives and to spread a culture of vocations throughout our Church.
I was a chaplain in the 1970s to Serra — Father Joe Voor at age 91 is our archdiocesan chaplain for the local chapter — and cannot say enough about the blessings of Serra Club. Taking their motto from the words of Saint Junipero Serra, for whom they are named, the members “always go forward — never turn back!”
This past June as Pope Francis welcomed Serrans to Rome for their 75th international convention, he said this about their aim of friendship with priests: “The Serra Club helps foster this beautiful vocation of being laity who are friends to priests. Friends who know how to accompany and sustain them in faith, in fidelity to prayer and apostolic commitment. Friends who share the wonder of a vocation, the courage of a definitive decision, the joy and fatigue of ministry. Friends who can offer priests support and regard their generous efforts and human failings with understanding and tender love. In this way, you are to priests like the home of Bethany, where Jesus entrusted his weariness to Martha and Mary, and, thanks to their care, was able to find rest and refreshment.”
That cultivation of friendship with those in formation for the archdiocesan priesthood filled that luncheon as the seminarians prepare to return to their studies, or in some cases to begin their life as seminarians.
We now have 19 seminarians preparing for the priesthood for the archdiocese, and five of them are deacons preparing for priestly ordination this spring. The highlight of the luncheon came at the very end. Father Michael Wimsatt invited the seminarians to provide a brief witness and introduction of who they are, what they did this summer and what seminary they are off to. This is my favorite part. Not only is the grace of Jesus Christ alive in their words as individuals, but together they form a spirit of spiritual desire and of service that will serve our local church
well into the future.
Later that day, I joined the seminarians for Mass and an evening meal. They were gathered for a three day retreat at Mount Saint Francis, the Franciscan retreat house across the Ohio in Indiana. Though they will be off to different seminaries, there is a spirit of camaraderie that is tangible. In my homily, I told them how proud I was when I heard them witness, how much we need generous and holy priests and how grateful the Church is for their generous “yes” to Jesus’ call. In this age, it is so tempting for young adults to pursue a life plan that is very self-centered; these 19 men together are seeking to follow a call, ever ancient and ever new, from Jesus to serve as priests — a life to be given to Christ for the sake of His people. How blessed we are!
By the way, if you are interested in hearing more about Serra Club, make contact with the president, Bob Hublar at email@example.com. You will join the current members in finding a rewarding mission of coming together to grow in holiness and to promote a culture of vocations within the Archdiocese of Louisville.