Serra Club affirms vocations to priesthood and vowed religious life


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT —Women religious, priests, deacons and other Catholics celebrated two feasts Nov. 10 at the Outing Club: Liturgy of the Eucharist and a banquet.

Barb Arland-Fye
Father Robert Harness chats with Sister of Mercy Rose Mary Kucera and Sisters Marie Vittetoe and Kathleen Tomlonovic of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary during the Serra Club of Davenport’s “Thanksgiving” gala at the Outing Club in Davenport on Nov. 10.

Serra Club of Davenport organizes the annual “Thanksgiving” gala as one of its ways to foster and affirm vocations to the ministerial priesthood and vowed religious life and to further members’ common Catholic faith.

Stewardship, the gift of self in thanks to God, served as the evening’s focus — from Bishop Thomas Zinkula’s homily to guest speaker Mike Downey’s speech.


“If we give ourselves away,” the bishop said, “it changes us. We’re more joyful. That’s what I’ve found in my own life. On earth, we’re in charge of things that aren’t really ours. Everything we have — from our life and faith to our talents — is a gift from God,” he reflected. “In heaven, we will receive what is truly, genuinely ours — based on how we used what was given to us. We will be judged on how we responded to the needs of others, as spelled out in the Gospel.”

St. Junipero Serra, the 18th century Spanish Franciscan friar for whom the Serra Club is named, gave of himself to evangelize and bring the Catholic faith to Native Americans in California, Downey said. The saint’s love of God and persistent prayer inspired him to persevere through constant pain and adversity to evangelize, added Downey, Region 9 director for St. Serra Club of Des Moines. He noted that contrary to media reports, St. Junipero Serra defended Native Ameri­cans.

Downey called for the Serra Club to take inspiration from St. Junipero Serra and encourage vocations to the priesthood among Hispanic Catholics, the largest growing population of Catholics in the U.S. He also urged the club to recruit a new generation of members to help carry forward the work of promoting and affirming vocations. Serrans, too, should follow the saint’s example in these four ways: humble service, bear suffering well, persist in prayer and advocate for indigenous people.

Bill Barrett, president of Serra Club of Davenport, expressed gratitude for the clergy and women and men religious who have responded to the call to vocations. “They’re the front line in keeping our faith alive,” he said at the gala. He also thanked Serra Club members for their support of vocations. He expressed hope that a new Serra Club could form in Iowa City. Father Jeff Belger, the diocese’s associate director of vocations, who gave a blessing at the gala, serves as director of Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City.

Among the Serra Club members at the gala was Thom Hart. “We’re great at calling on those in religious life in time of need, but not so great in saying every day, ‘We appreciate what you do for us,’” Hart said. The gala “is an attempt to do that in a small way.”

Father Hai Dinh, parochial vicar at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine, said he attended the gala to thank the Serra Club members for “their support and their prayers, especially for their prayers and everything they’ve done for vocations in the diocese.”

Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, faith formation director at Ss. Mary & Mathias, said the gala provided “an awesome look at the wider church, which includes all of us — priests, deacons, sisters and lay people.”

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