A celebration of vocations to priesthood, diaconate and religious life

Barb Arland-Fye
Sister Lois Baniewicz, OCarm, and Father Rich Adam talk during the St. Serra Club gala Nov. 18 at the Outing Club in Davenport.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Priests, deacons and women religious mingled with members of the St. Serra Club during the recent annual vocations appreciation gala that serves two purposes. It celebrates the men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving God’s people and it provides a fundraising boost to the club’s efforts to create a culture of vocations in parishes and to increase vocations in the Church.

“Our hope is to foster prayer and support for our current and retired priests, deacons and religious, as well as creating an awareness and support of our current seminarians,” said Deb McAfoos, a St. Serra Club member. She spoke on behalf of herself and her husband, Bill, St. Serra Club’s president, who was out of town on business.

“We have hosted an annual summer picnic to provide an opportunity to meet our seminarians and we try to create awareness of those who are in seminary with our posters sent out to parishes.” The club also hosts a reception each year following the ordinations of priests and deacons. “The gala has been a nice opportunity for lay people to meet with priests, deacons and religious in our diocese in a more casual setting,” McAfoos said.


St. Serra Club engages in a variety of other activities to foster vocations, including with religious education students, and recently purchased the International Exhibition of the Eucharistic Miracles to display in Catholic schools and possibly some parishes. Blessed Carlo Acutis, an Italian teen who loved the Eucharist and expressed a fascination for eucharistic miracles, created and designed the exhibition. He died of leukemia at age 15 in 2006.

St. Serra Club presented the display at the gala Nov. 18. Bishop Thomas Zinkula presided at the Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral that preceded the gala. “We realize the importance of providing

opportunities to foster an awareness of all vocations and a love for Jesus to our youth. This project is especially important with the current Eucharistic Revival in our Church,” McAfoos said.

Barb Arland-Fye
From left, Sharon Barrett, Father Paul Connolly, Father Jack Gallagher, Father John Stecher, Father Apo Mpanda, Father Hai Dinh and Bill Barrett celebrate vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and religious life during the St. Serra Club Gala Nov. 18 at the Outing Club in Davenport.

St. Serra Club members build on their efforts to foster vocations by attending Mass together on first Fridays at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport, followed by recitation of the rosary. “Each member of our group has chosen a day to pray for our vocation directors,” McAfoos said. “Bill and I realize that our priests, deacons and religious all play a vital role in our Church and they have been chosen by Jesus. So, it’s our responsibility to support them in prayer, and in all these other small endeavors. Without our priests, we would not be able to attend Mass and receive holy Communion and other sacraments, all of which support our faith journey. We do pray for all vocations daily, as we realize the many challenges they face.”

Father Hai Dinh, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Hills and St. Mary parishes in Lone Tree and Nichols, said he is grateful to St. Serra Club members for their support for vocations. “They have been doing a fantastic job! They have spent time praying for more vocations around the world, especially in the Davenport Diocese, through attending Mass and reciting the rosary and sending cards to priests, deacons and religious sisters on their anniversaries of ordinations. I always thank God for them and their families and keep them in my prayers for their support and kindness.”

“I think it would be great if the St. Serra Club leaders would have a pizza lunch with senior high school or college-age students to share with them what they are doing,” Father Dinh said. This activity could encourage students “to think of becoming priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters to serve God and his people, especially those who are in most need.”

John Stratman, a member of St. Serra Club for 50 years, remains steadfast in his support for the organization. Earlier this year, he resigned as the longtime treasurer (35+ years). He continues his

J. Stratman

membership “because I believe in the goals of the organization of fostering and promoting vocations to the priesthood and working with other like-minded members in pursuit of our goals.”

Stratman, the brother of two priests, Father Tom Stratman and the late Father Bill Stratman, said the most satisfying aspect of his membership has been witnessing the priestly ordinations and the “great response to our initiation of the galas.” His hope for the club’s future is to “recruit ACTIVE members to pursue objectives and, of course, see increased vocations.”

Bill Barrett, the club’s former president who now serves as vice president for programs, described the Stratman family as a family of “great faith and great service to the Catholic faith, which is a real tribute to their upbringing.”

St. Serra Club is always in need of new members who can fulfill the club’s hopes for its future, Barrett said. “We are very limited because of (lack) of people power. Any Catholic in good standing is a good prospect.”

For more information about the St. Serra Club, visit the website (davenportvocations.org/serra-club/).

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