In 1934 four Catholic lay men in Seattle, Wash., decided to meet in fellowship to grow in their faith through programs of Catholic education and contribute to the mission of the Church. They chose the support of seminarians as their special project. Their original purpose was “to assist in the education of young men to the priesthood.” While financial support of seminarians loomed large in the 1930s, since then many additional needs have emerged. Serra’s purposes have evolved over the years in response to the changing times and needs of the church, especially in light of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
Responding to Christ’s call to “pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest” (Matthew 9:38), Serra has made the encouragement of church vocations its hallmark. In 1968, Serra restated its purpose to reflect this: (a) To foster and promote vocations to the ministerial priesthood of the Catholic Church as a particular vocation to service and to develop an appreciation of the ministerial priesthood and of all religious vocations in the Catholic Church, and (b) to further Catholicism by encouraging its members in fellowship, through education to fulfill their Christian vocations to service.
The primary and fundamental sacrament that makes us one with Christ and with each other is baptism. “God has gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unite and peace, and has established them as the Church, that for each and for all she may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity.” (1) This call to oneness is emphasized dramatically by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. He writes, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (12: 12-13). Called in baptism to be members of the one body of Christ, Serrans work to strengthen the bonds between the ministries of the laity, clergy and religious as “fellow-workers for the truth.”(2)
While the sacrament of baptism unites all of us, our chosen lifestyles distinguish the specific role each of us has in the unity of the one body of Christ. Serrans are lay men and women who “are by baptism made, one body with Christ and are established among the People of God. They are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetic and kingly functions of Christ. They carry out their own part in the mission of the whole Christian people with respect to the Church and the world.”(3) The Serran’s mission is for the most –part to be carried out in the everyday world of office and home, factory and family.
Living as ordained ministers, priests are essential to the continued, embodied presence of Christ on earth. Serrans recognize the central importance of the priesthood for the life, vitality and continuity of the church. “Their mission is not theirs but the same mission of Jesus…priests are called to prolong the presence of Christ…In a word, priests exist and act in order to proclaim the Gospel to the world and to build up the church in the name and person of Christ the head and shepherd.”(4) Serrans respond to the priests’ proclaimed and lived Gospel by promoting vocations in the family, schools and parishes to which they belong.
Religious also contribute to the life and unity of the church. By living their vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience, they give witness to the kingdom of God. By fulfilling their ministry in community, they build up the one body of Christ. Historically, members of religious orders have influenced the lives of individual Serrans directly and personally, As members of the one body, religious receive equal support and affirmation of Serrans.
Serra’s work demonstrates its grounding in the baptismal call of unity in holiness and in mission to the world by calling forth laborers to reap the harvest of the Spirit. Serra remains a group of lay men and women who are committed to the work of the church and who seek to achieve excellence in that vocation while convinced of the need to support its ministers. By performing works cited as “criteria for ecclesiality for lay groups” by Poe John Paul II in Christifideles Laici, Serrans continue “the reawakening of vocations to…the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life…and (maintain) a capacity for teaching and forming Christians.”(5)
- Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Art. 9.
- Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Art. 6, quoting John 3:8.
- Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Art. 31.
- Pastores Dabo Vobis, 14-15.
- Christifedeles Laici, 30.