Pope John Paul II
December 7, 2000
Dear Members of Serra International:
1. I am happy to live with you this intense spiritual moment on the occasion of your Pilgrimage Jubilee to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
I greet Monsignor Justin Francis Rigali, Archbishop of St. Louis and thank him for the cordial words that he has delivered on your behalf. I extend my greetings to all of you here present from various nations.
You carry in this celebration the spiritual sign that distinguishes you: by this I refer to the perception, particularly alive, of Christian existence as vocation. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you….” (Jn 15,16): this word, delivered by Christ to the Apostles, extends to all of the baptized. We should have a joyous and pleasant awareness. Coming to implore the jubilee grace, you have come precisely to open yourselves with new availability to the fundamental call received in the baptism, renewing the radical choice of Christian commitment and of sanctity.
2. Your baptismal calling leads you towards others: it is essentially a missionary calling, as you have learned from the example of St. Junipero Serra, the great Evangelizer of California. Following in his footsteps, you have come to share in the heartfelt concern of Christ himself: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few!” (Mt 9:37; Lk 10:2). How can we fail to feel the timeliness and urgency of these words! The horizon of the Lord’s “harvest” is indeed limitless, if we consider not only the pastoral needs of the Church herself but also the immense number of people who still await the first proclamation of the Gospel. Amid all the complexity of the present time, now, at the dawn of a new millennium, we need to recognize the search for meaning—a real yet often silent search—which is spreading through society. There is an unexpressed sense of need for Christ rising up from young people, from the world of culture, and from the great ethical and social challenges of our time. In order to respond to this need, the whole Church must become completely ministerial, a community of heralds and witnesses, rich in laborers for the harvest.
3. It is really God himself, the “Lord of the harvest,” who chooses his laborers; his call is always undeserved and unexpected. And yet, in the mystery of God’s covenant with us, we are called to cooperate with his providence, and to use the powerful tool which he has placed in our hands: prayer! This is what Jesus himself asked us to do: “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest!” (Mt 9:38).
Dear Serrans, you are committed in a special way to promoting vocations. Never forget that yours must be above all a commitment to prayer, prayer that is constant, unwavering and full of trust. Prayer moves the heart of God. It is the powerful key to resolving the vocations question. But at the same time prayer for vocations is also a school of life, as I had occasion recently to point out: “By praying for vocations we learn to look with Gospel wisdom at the world and at each person’s need for life and salvation; it is a way of sharing in Christ’s love and compassion for all mankind…” (Message for the 38th World Day of prayer for Vocations, September 14, 2000, No.6).
4. Along with prayer, the work of fostering vocations also requires a constant effort to bring the need to people’s attention through personal witness, so that God’s call may encounter a ready hearing and generous response in those to whom it is directed. This is the aim of your efforts to spread an authentic culture of vocations.
The Christian community urgently needs to realize that promoting vocations is more than simply a matter of “programs.” It is something that touches the very mystery of the Church. Vocations in fact are relative to the very meaning of the Church as the Body of Christ, formed and enlivened by the Holy Spirit with all the wealth of his gifts. The Second Vatican Council reminded us of this: “In the building up of Christ’s body there is a variety of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, distributes his different gifts for the welfare of the Church” (Lumen Gentium, 7). Within the People of God, there is a specific mission awaiting each one. Because the needs of the “harvest” are so great, all the members of God’s People must grow in the awareness of “being called.” Significant are the gifts and tasks associated with the involvement of Christians in the temporal order. These are above all the responsibility of the laity. But a relevance all their own belongs to the ministries directed to the guidance and growth in holiness of the ecclesial community, namely the priesthood and the consecrated life. As Serrans you understand this, and members of the laity that you are, you are committed to fostering such vocations.
5. In this ecclesiastical framework is placed, dear Serrans, your commitment to the vocational pastoral. Devoting yourselves to this, you demonstrate that the problem of vocations does not remain the concern of pastors alone, but relies on the sensibility of all, involving, in particular, families and educators. And this is of vital importance.
Continue to give to this end your contribution, in full agreement with your Bishops. Be persons of communion, placing yourselves with hard working affection close to the priests. Come to meet, with the charity that distinguishes you, the demand of the scarce vocations. The good this does will flow back to the Church, will be a token of abundant celestial blessings, that I willingly invoke upon everyone of you and on your movement through the maternal intercession of Mary, Immaculate Virgin.
With such feelings, from my heart, I bless you all.
Bishop Anthony Tonnos (Hamilton, Ontario)
Serra Clubs promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life in various ways through their prayers and their practices.
One of the many benefits of Serra is a greater awareness in the minds of both young and old of the need for vocations.
Serra also encourages and enables people to take steps to provide for this need.
Serra Clubs are a blessing for the Diocese of Hamilton and I thank God for their presence and good work.
Pio Cardinal Laghi
“With Serrans coming from five continents to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, in close participation, I join myself to the general giving of thanks to the Lord for the useful work done by the Serra family in favor of vocation ministry. To promote the vocation to grace, to the ministerial and consecrated life, is to give a meaning to the life of each man, of each woman who comes into this world…
“Indeed, Christians, by the power of baptism, are continuously stimulated to find their place in the Church and in the world of today… This can happen only with the most absolute respect for a few fundamental conditions: being faithful to the plan of God for man and paying attention to the signs of the times that constitute an essential point of reference for whoever wishes to consider the vocation as a service and not only as a personal achievement. The search for the meaning of life cannot be carried out only by the self. It becomes reality for us to the extent in which we relate to others.”
Archbishop Zenon Grocholewski
Prefect, Congregation for Catholic Education
“Dear Serra members, allow me to express to you my deep gratitude for all the good that you have done in supporting candidates to the priesthood. In many particular churches, you have become the right arm of the bishops in vocations pastoral action, promotion and support. I admire this noble witness of Christian concern directed to the good of your dioceses, and I am delighted, at the same time, that this praiseworthy effort has been carried out by you with hearts that are open and attentive to the needs of the whole Church.”
Rev. Liborio Amaral
Vocations Director, Archdiocese of Toronto
In the Archdiocese of Toronto we are blessed to have an important group of dedicated men and women commissioned to promote Vocations, known as Serrans.
As a Vocations Director, I can attest to the great support that Serrans have brought to my ministry.
The men and women of Serra are dedicated to fostering a Vocation Culture in our Archdiocese; they accomplish this mission by prayer and action. Serra initiatives, such as our Ordinandi dinner, Altar servers’ awards, priest-appreciation nights, parish vocation activities etc., are highly anticipated by the greater community of the faithful. These yearly events bring about an awareness of the need for a Vocation Culture to permeate the whole of who we are and where we live.
I would strongly encourage diocesan Bishops and Vocation Directors to seriously consider founding a Serra club in their diocese. Just as the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Women’s League, bring graces to a diocese through their work of charity and service in the local church, so to does a Serra club bring to the local church the grace of prayer and promotion to priestly and religious life.
I thank God that in my ministry I have not been alone in the promotion of Vocations. Serra continues to be a great support in the work of promoting the joy and honour of saying “yes” to the Lord in his Call to serve in his Vineyard.
Fr. Frank Freitas
Chaplain of the Kitchener/Waterloo Club
My first introduction to the Serra Club was at the age of 12 when I was selected by my Pastor for an Altar Servers Award sponsored by the Kitchener Waterloo Club. Shortly after that, one of its members asked if she could pray for me, for she felt that God was inviting me to consider priesthood. I was humbled by the requested, challenged by its observation, and comforted by it many times. As a seminarian, the Serra Club’s presence grew, the occasional card of encouragement, and even the invitation to come to a meeting, with the opportunity to speak to the group and get to know its members. At my priestly ordination, and First Mass, every corner of the Church had a Serran. Shortly after my ordination, another opportunity to be present for my Priestly Portrait to be placed in my elementary school and my high school. Then, in 2007, I was invited to consider being their Chaplain. How could I refuse ? Serra had encouraged me, it was time for me to be part of this group and to encourage another. Serrans work quietly and humbly, yet in my life and vocation their influence has been loud and strong. I am honoured to be a Serran.