Serra International forming first Boston chapter

BOSTON -- With the goal of strengthening the culture of vocations, the Archdiocese of Boston announced the formation of a local chapter of Serra International. The organization’s mission is to foster, promote and support vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Father Michael Harrington, associate director of the archdiocese’s Vocations Office, said of Serra, “We hope that it creates more of a culture of vocations where men and women are open to discovering whatever it is that God is calling them to. That is the beauty of every person -- to discover God’s call in their life.”

An informational meeting about Serra will be held at St. Mary Parish in Waltham on Jan. 19 from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Anyone with an interest in promoting vocations is welcome to attend, he said.

The non-profit organization, named after Franciscan missionary Blessed Junipero Serra, was founded in Seattle in 1935. A Spaniard, Blessed Junipero devoted himself to spreading the Gospel message among Native Americans and established nine missions in what is now the state of California.

There are over 1,088 Serra clubs in 44 countries with a total membership of more than 20,000 Catholics. Its national headquarters are now in Chicago, and the new local chapter will support the Vocations Office through prayer and assistance at planned events. Father Daniel Hennessey, director of vocations in the archdiocese, will serve as chaplain of the new chapter.

“Across the board we are seeing a substantial increase in the number of people interested in serving the Catholic community here in the archdiocese,” Father Hennessey said in an archdiocesan press release. “Serra will help to bring the talents, energy and commitment of the Catholic laity, clergy, religious and diaconate together for the purpose of serving Christ, the Church and her faithful.”

Father Harrington told The Pilot that the local Serra chapter will be a “right arm” for the Vocations Office and will assist lay people in promoting vocations, something the Vocations Office and Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley have long encouraged.

In a pastoral letter released in January 2005, the cardinal wrote that vocations, particularly to the priesthood, “are everyone’s business.”

“If you are a Catholic, you have a huge stake in the priesthood and vocations,” he said.

The letter encouraged parishes to form a vocation team that would promote awareness, begin a campaign of prayer, and identify individuals who may have a calling to the priesthood.

Father Harrington said the letter highlighted the fact that lay people are centrally involved with the promotion of vocations to the ministerial life.

The Vocations Office has held workshops to assist parishes in forming their own vocation committees. Those committees encourage everyone in the parish to pray for vocations through Mass intentions and by handing out prayer cards. They also organize parish events that will promote vocations such as the Vocation Cross Program. The program allows different parish families to take a cross home each week and pray for vocations.

“One of the things we have continued to try to do within our office is to promote the work at the parish level of the promotion of vocations,” said Father Harrington. “We think a Serra organization here in the archdiocese will help us to do that better.”

In addition to praying for vocations and fostering vocations in their parishes, members of the new chapter of Serra will provide needed support for large vocational events sponsored by the office, he said.

In the statement about Serra, Cardinal O’Malley praised the “commitment and energy” of the Vocations Office, which has helped many to consider the call to the priesthood and religious life.

“The important presence of Serra in the Archdiocese of Boston and their dedication to fostering vocations will greatly enhance our efforts to reach out to those who are being called to serve the Lord and his Church,” he said.

The first Serra meeting in Boston, to be held Jan. 19 in Waltham, will allow prospective members to become more familiar with the organization. Both a national and regional representative from Serra will speak and answer questions. A Mass will be celebrated at 8:30 a.m., followed by the Serra presentation from 9-10:30 a.m. Monthly meetings are planned for every third Saturday from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at St. Mary’s.

Brian and Loretta Gallagher, the local chapter’s interim leadership team, welcomed all to attend the first Serra meeting.

“We are happy to be a part of this exciting new venture,” they said in the statement. “We invite everyone to participate in this mission by active membership in Serra, and ask for their prayerful support of this important endeavor.”

For more information about the local chapter of Serra, visit the Web site at