Intervento Thomas Wong

Thomas Wong



Your Eminence Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, Your Excellency Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues, Monsignor Francis Bonnici, Your Excellencies, Bishops’ Delegates for Pastoral Ministry for Vocations, Directors of Vocations, my brothers and sisters in Serra and other members of Christ’s lay faithful:

On behalf of the governing board of Serra International (“Serra”) and its 18,000 members around the world, I warmly extend to you greetings of affection in Christ Jesus. By the grace of God, we have come together in the Eternal City to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the founding by His Holiness Pope Pius XII of the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations, and the 60th anniversary of Serra’s aggregation to that institution, which is now known as the Pontifical Pastoral Ministry for Priestly Vocations.


I am mindful that this Congress is beginning just 25 days after the 53rd anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII, to whom all promoters of vocations to the holy priesthood in the Catholic Church will always owe an enormous debt.  There are many of you here today who lived under the leadership and governance of this amazingly gifted Supreme Pontiff.  Some of you will still be acutely aware of the extent to which the world “descended into the abyss” during the turbulent years that followed the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the unprecedented challenges that the Holy Father was required to face as a result.  When I reflect on those traumatic times, I am astounded that Pope Pius XII, in the midst of all that chaos, conceived and implemented his powerful vision for the promotion of priestly vocations that was given to the Church in his Motu Proprio Cum Nobis of 04 November 1941.

Who was this remarkable man that we now call Venerable Pius XII?

Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli was born on 02 March 1876 in Rome into a deeply religious family living in Rome. Eugenio made clear his intentions to enter the priesthood when he was just 12 years of age. From 1895 to 1896, he studied philosophy at the University of Rome La Sapienza and received degrees in theology and in utroque iure (civil and canon law) in 1899.  Pacelli was the financial adviser to His Holiness Pope Leo XIII.  After being appointed papal chamberlain, he served as a Vatican representative at the International Eucharistic Congress in London in 1908, where he met Winston Churchill.  In 1911, he represented the Holy See at the coronation of King George V of England.

In 1915, he travelled to Vienna to assist the Papal Nuncio to Austria in his negotiations with Franz Joseph I of Austria regarding Italy.  Pacelli was appointed Papal Nuncio to what was essentially the whole German Empire from 1920 onwards.  In 1935, the year that Serra was founded, he was made the Camerlengo of the Catholic Church by His Holiness Pope Pius XI.  On 02 March 1939, Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli was elected Supreme Pontiff, taking the name Pius XII.  During his pontificate, he infallibly proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in his 1950 Apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus.  His forty-one encyclicals include Mystici Corporis, the Church as the Body of Christ; Mediator Dei on liturgy reform; Humani Generis on the Church’s position on theology and evolution.  He eliminated the Italian majority in the College of Cardinals in 1946.  No one in the Church seemed more qualified to do so which is probably why the Holy Spirit inspired the College of Cardinals to choose him as the next Successor of Peter.

It is a sad reflection on our times that, in recent years, there has a been a movement in secular and even some Catholic circles to try to re-craft the image of Pius XII by accusing him of being complacent to the point of becoming an unwilling accomplice in the extreme persecution of people of the Jewish faith by the Third Reich.  In reality, Pius XII remained strong and defiant against overwhelming force, something that was attested to by the many Jews who stood up to defend him against the extreme allegations made in the book Hitler’s Pope Rabbi Dalin explains how, contrary to the “anti-papal polemics of ex-seminarians like Garry Wills and John Cornwell (author of Hitler’s Pope), of defrocked priests such as James Carroll, or of lapsed or angry liberal Catholics”[1], Pius XII in fact saved more Jews than Schindler and exposed the whisperings of blood libel as fictitious.

In fact, so powerful was the message of rebuttal in Mit Brennender Sorge that the Royal Air Force and the French Air Force dropped 88,000 copies of that book over Germany.  It seems fair to ask if a neutral writing would justify the use of so much scarce military resources.  Supporters and admirers of Pius XII included Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog of the Palestinian Mandate and Israel, Israeli Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Moshe Sharett, and Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann.  It seems to me that a more just and balanced world would be appreciative of having such a strong leader during a time when great evil was rending the social fabric of Europe.

As Serrans, we are particularly grateful for the remarkable foresight and leadership of Pius XII in the field of vocations to the holy priesthood.  During a period when seminarians were plentiful, he recognized the importance of encouraging groups of Christ’s lay faithful to become front-line supporters of their shepherds in the vital work of promoting priestly vocations.


This Congress with its beautiful and challenging theme: “I have chosen you. Priests for our times” marks an important point in the history of organized support for priestly vocations by members of the lay faithful, and especially for Serra.  Sixty years ago, Serra had yet to venture beyond the boundaries of the United States.  Since 1951, with the blessing and encouragement of the Holy See, Serra has worked energetically and strategically to establish its presence in an additional 45 countries of the world located on every habitable continent.

While we are proud of that achievement, we fully understand that this is no time for complacency.  For as long as so many Catholic dioceses remain unaware of what Serra can offer them when they embrace its active presence, we will continue to strive every day to make Serra worthy of its recognition by the Holy See as the global lay apostolate for vocations in the Catholic Church.

To begin, I would like to speak briefly about the origins of Serra and the extent of its development and outreach over the period of 16 years leading up to its aggregation to the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations on 03 May 1951.  Secondly, I will describe what Serra has been doing to increase its outreach and the effectiveness of its work for vocations since that time as well as to recognize various important figures along the way.  I will conclude with some insights into where Serra’s apostolic work for vocations is likely to take the organization in the future.


Serra can trace its roots back to 1934 when four Catholic businessmen from Seattle in the State of Washington in the United States of America organized weekly luncheon meetings for business and professional men to exchange ideas on Catholic thought.  During those informal meetings, they became conscious of the need to set up an organization that encouraged the spiritual growth of its members, and worked to strengthen Catholicism in modern society.

These four men, Harold Haberle, Daniel Rooney, Leo Sharkey and Richard Ward, were the founders of what was to become known as Serra International.  They soon invited others to join them.  Over the next few months, the founders came to the conclusion that the group that had formed around them should devote itself to a worthwhile Catholic objective.  They sought the advice of their bishop, the Most Reverend Gerald Shaughnessy, to help them determine what that objective should be.

Shaughnessy had been appointed the fourth Bishop of Seattle by His Holiness Pope Pius XI on 01 July 1933.  His talent for administration and attention to detail kept the diocese financially stable during the Great Depression.  He also supported various other growing programs such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Catholic Charities.  Bishop Shaughnessy agreed to serve as the new group’s first chaplain which turned out to be a great blessing during those crucial formative years

Guided by their bishop’s wise counsel, Serra’s founders decided that the primary purpose of their new organization would be to foster vocations to the holy priesthood and to aid in financing the education of seminarians.  Thus the first Serra community of the lay faithful committed to fostering and promoting priestly vocations came into being in Seattle on 12 June 1935.

Of the four founders, only Daniel Rooney was elected international president.  He served in that office from 1941 to 1946.  In 1952, he received the honor of a private audience with Pope Pius XII.  Harold Haberle, the last surviving founder, had the privilege of meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1979.


Not only because of his place in American history as the founder of a chain of missions along the California coast, but also because of his life of priestly zeal and heroic virtue, Fray Junipero Serra OFM was chosen as the organization’s patron.  This gifted Franciscan friar had occupied the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy in Mallorca until he felt the call to commit himself further to the service of Christ as a missionary in the New World.  Departing from Cadiz in Spain in 1748, he made the perilous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a small ship, landing at Veracruz on the southern shore of the Gulf of Mexico.  From there, he journeyed on foot to the Capital (Mexico City) where tradition has it that he prayed at the church built over the famous site where the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531.

Fray Junipero Serra was transferred to the Sierra Gorda region at his own request, and was appointed President of the Sierra Gorda missions in 1751.  To get there, he made the arduous journey across the Sierra Madre mountain range.  After nine years, he was asked to undertake his missionary work some 2,800 km away on the Pacific coast of the North American continent, much of the time suffering with an ulcerated leg.  Fr. Serra and his fellow Franciscan friars eventually established a chain of missions in Alta California and worked tirelessly to bring Christ to the indigenous peoples.  After a lengthy period of demanding missionary activity, Fr. Serra died at his favorite Mission Carmel in 1774.  Despite the fact that, during his time as a missionary, Father Serra had very little involvement with promoting priestly vocations, today it can only be considered providential that a holy priest who demonstrated such zeal for souls would be chosen as the patron of a global vocations apostolate, considering that the primary focus of its work is fostering and promoting vocations to the holy priesthood and to supporting the sacred ministry of priests, those who spend and consume themselves for the salvation of souls.

Serrans are encouraged by the beatification in 1988 of our patron, Blessed Fray Junipero Serra, and continue to offer prayers and sacrifices imploring God to bless His faithful servant with the honor of being recognized as a saint of the universal Church. Blessed Fray Junipero Serra, pray for us!


In the first two years, Serra Clubs were chartered in Spokane and Tacoma in Washington and also in Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California.  As the need for stronger management became apparent, representatives of all six Serra Clubs met in Seattle on 08 July 1939 and voted to form Serra International as a Washington not-for-profit corporation.  Dr. Thomas Sheehan was elected its first president, serving in that office until 1941.  He was succeeded by Daniel Rooney who served as president until 1946.

It may be thought that Serra’s founders and early promoters had already adopted a grand vision of a future global organization when they chose to add the word “International” to the name of their new organization.  However, it is unlikely that such was the case, since it was quite customary in Seattle at that time to differentiate commercial entities with any potential for doing business in the Canadian provinces across their northern border by adding the word “International” to their names.  In fact, in the 16 years prior to the granting of the Decree of Aggregation, Serra’s outreach was confined to chartering 50 Serra Clubs located in 23 states and one territory of the United States (namely Washington. Oregon, California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas, Arizona, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, Kansas, Indiana, Colorado, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, New Mexico, Iowa, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and West Virginia).

It was not until 06 February 1952 that Serra finally lived up to its official name when the first Serra Club outside the United States was chartered in Toronto, Canada.


Samuel Alphonsus Stritch was born in 1887 in the State of Tennessee in the United States.  He entered the seminary at 16 years of age and demonstrated his brilliance and devotion to his studies by completing all required courses of study for the priesthood within six years.  Being only 22 years old, Stritch was below the age requirement for ordination.  However His Holiness Pope Pius X granted a dispensation saying, “[Stritch] is young in years but old in intelligence.  Let him be ordained.”[2] While studying in Rome in later years, Stritch would also become friends with the future Pope Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli.  In 1940, despite his protests, Stritch was appointed to succeed His Eminence George Cardinal Mundelein as Archbishop of Chicago.  In addition to his work with Serra, Cardinal Stritch oversaw the establishment of Opus Dei in America, the initiation of the Christian Family Movement, and an outreach to the Puerto Rican community.[3]

His Eminence Samuel Alphonsus Cardinal Stritch was appointed Serra’s first Episcopal Adviser in 1945 and served in that capacity for a record 12 years.  Cardinal Stritch was a visionary and he put his vision for Serra into action when he convinced the organization to move from Seattle in 1947 and to establish its first central secretariat in Chicago, hiring Mr. Harry O’Haire as Serra’s first full-time Executive Secretary.  The Cardinal’s next move was to arrange a series of meetings in The Vatican with the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities, His Eminence Giuseppe Cardinal Pizzardo.  As Serra’s Episcopal Adviser, Cardinal Stritch earnestly requested that Serra be given formal recognition by the Holy See for its apostolic work for priestly vocations.  During some of these meetings, he was accompanied and supported by Colonel Ralph Hauenstein, a Serran with significant international experience.  These efforts culminated in the signing on 04 November 1951 of a formal document on behalf of His Holiness Pope Pius XII, aggregating the fledgling lay organization to the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations, within what was then known as the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities.


While there have been many Serrans who are worthy of recognition for their commitment to and success in establishing and supporting new Serra communities in other parts of their home dioceses or in neighboring dioceses, I want to tell you about some remarkable Serrans who, in imitation of Christ’s Apostles, journeyed far and wide to establish a Serra presence in countries a long way from home and, by so doing, contributed significantly to its global outreach.

Colonel Ralph Hauenstein

During his visits to The Vatican in the early 1950’s, a distinguished Serran by the name of Ralph Hauenstein worked closely with Cardinal Stritch in support of his request that the Holy See formally recognize Serra’s apostolic work of promoting priestly vocations, meeting with Pope Pius XII in the process of those negotiations.

During World War II, Colonel Hauenstein served as Chief of Intelligence for the United States Army in the European Theatre of Operations.  In 1945, he was among the first Americans to enter liberated Paris, war-torn Germany, and the Nazi concentration camps.  The terrible destruction that he saw convinced him to work for better international relations and peaceful solutions to conflict.  After World War II, he became a successful entrepreneur, eventually owning companies that conducted business internationally.

Because of his extensive travels, Hauenstein was appointed by Serra’s governing board as District Governor-at-large to work for the extension of Serra across the world.  In that way, he became the first Serran to promote the organization outside of North America.  His efforts helped establish the first Serra communities in England (Liverpool in 1957), Italy (Genoa in 1959), and Hong Kong (1963).  He told me personally that he brought the Serran Bell to Hong Kong by himself at our charter ceremony.  The Serra Club of Genoa became the first non-English-speaking Serra community.  Hauenstein was elected Serra’s international president in 1960.  He is the oldest living Serran.  In his hundredth year, he remains a shining example of dedication to Serra and its vital work for priestly vocations.

Jan Berbers

A native of the Netherlands, Berbers moved to Uruguay where he ran a very successful business for many years.  He donated a retreat house for priests and seminarians as well as the premises for a local Serra office in Montevideo.  He was elected Serra’s international president in 1966.  Later he lived in Spain where he bought a downtown apartment for use as the Serra office in that country.  He eventually retired to his native land, remaining active in Serra until the time of his death.

New Serra countries: Uruguay (1961), Argentina (1962), Paraguay (1964), Spain (1972), The Netherlands (1990)

Paul Mariani

Mariani, a native of California, was in the fresh fruit import/export business.  He was an active Serran and used his business trips to Australia to meet with members of the Catholic hierarchy in Sydney and Melbourne and, with their support, to identify and motivate groups of Catholic men who became the nucleus of Serra in Australia and later in New Zealand.

New Serra countries: Australia (1969), New Zealand (1982)

Antonio LaVerghetta

LaVerghetta served as a general officer in the Italian army during World War II.  When he retired, he undertook the challenge of introducing Serra into the former Soviet-bloc countries of Central Europe.  LaVerghetta remained active in that missionary work until just a few years before his death in 2004.

New Serra countries: Slovenia (1991), Hungary (1992), Croatia (1993), Romania (1998)

Chainarong Monthienvichienchai

Chainarong worked as a Professor at the (Catholic) University of St. John in Bangkok for many years, eventually becoming its Vice Chancellor.  He travelled extensively throughout Asia promoting Serra in new countries.

Chainarong was elected Serra’s international president in 2004 and co-chaired Serra’s 63rd international convention held in Bangkok, Thailand in June 2005.  That convention attracted Serra’s most global audience being attended by representatives of 32 countries.

New Serra countries: Myanmar (2001), Bangladesh (2001), India (2003), Singapore (2006)

John M. “Tomi” Asenuga

A native of Nigeria, Asenuga studied Architecture and Town Planning in Britain and the United States before returning to Nigeria to practice his profession.  He later joined the Nigerian army where he worked on the design of military barracks.  Upon his retirement, he became very active in promoting the growth of Serra in Nigeria and also worked to restore its active presence in Ghana where the first Serra Club had been chartered in 1982.  Asenuga served as Serra’s international president in 2010-2011, the first from the continent of Africa.  He was instrumental in presenting a special brochure about Serra to all the bishops of Africa and Madagascar assembled for  their SECAM meeting in Ghana in September 2010.

Potential Serra countries (works in process): Ivory Coast, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and South Africa.


It should be apparent now that since the 1960’s, Serra has achieved significant growth. It has entered Italy, the countries of Central Europe, South America, Oceania, Asia and Africa.  As the first Chinese International President, I personally pledge to strengthen the Serra bond in throughtout Asia.  I will also try my best to outreach more Asian countries like China, Vitanam, Japan and Korea.  This challenges Serra to continue its global outreach, so that it may truly reflect the universality of the Church and more fully achieve its purpose as the global lay apostolate for vocations in the Catholic Church.


As Blessed John Paul II told us on more than one occasion, the primary means of doing the work of Serra is prayer.  Serra encourages its members (known as Serrans) to offer daily prayers and additional Masses each month for vocations and to organize centers for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament where fellow Catholics can join them in praying for vocations.

Serra is widely recognized and respected for the following activities directed at fostering and promoting vocations to the sacred priesthood:

■       The 31 Club.  Serrans encourage fellow members of their parishes to commit to attending one additional Mass each month to pray for priestly vocations.

■       Called by Name. Serrans promote this program in their parishes to encourage the identification of possible candidates for the seminary.

■       Vigil for Vocations. This program gathers members of the lay faithful on the eve of Good Shepherd Sunday to pray for priestly vocations before the Blessed Sacrament exposed.

■       Cards Program. We send cards of support and encouragement to seminarians and priests on anniversaries.

■       Serran Rosary for Priestly Vocations. This is a pamphlet which was composed by Monsignor John K. Aniagwu in Nigera and has been mass produced and distributed globally due to high demand. The focus here again, is begging for laborers for the vineyard and is an example of how the real work of Serra is done at a grassroots level and becomes crystallized in various worldwide programs.

■       Serra Unites!. This is an effort to unite Serra throughout the world by reducing diverging and differing programs and concentrating on the prayer for vocations manifest in worldwide initiatives.

We Serrans continue to pledge our duty to “fish for fisherman”.  I hope other faithful Catholics will join us in these projects.  The more personal and community effort that we have, and the more prayer for vocations, the more energy that will build in support of vocations. I believe God will answer our prayers.


Since that time, Serra has had its successes and struggles, especially during a confusing time of apparent revolution. During the 1970’s and 1980’s various negative things happened to Serra. During this time, some Serra Clubs seemed to become more like Rotary clubs, focusing on business and events and less on prayer and work for vocations. Also, while a large portion of our original members were retained, we failed dismally in attracting new members to replace them as they aged. Thus Serra has become an aging organization facing a demographic winter that will make it difficult to ensure that Serra is effective in its interactions with candidates for the priesthood, in some cases, separated by three generations.

However, Serrans throughout the world embraced the powerful message contained in Blessed John Paul II’s insightful Post Synodal Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis. In his writings, John Paul II seems to echo the vision and foresight of Pius XII regarding the promotion of priestly vocations: “All the members of the Church, without exception, have the grace and responsibility to look after vocations.”[4] Later in the same document, we read the words of the Holy Father describing what we like to think is Serra and its vital prayer and work for vocations: “With regard to diocesan and parish communities, special appreciation and encouragement should be given to groups which promote vocations, whose members make an important contribution by prayer and sufferings offered up for priestly and religious vocations, as well as by moral and material support.”[5] We have found not only a confirmation of the importance of our work in this important teaching document of our beloved Church, but also a description of it in the same sentence.  As a result, we have changed the focus of the opus of Serra to place more emphasis on prayer, since “begging the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers” is the most efficacious way today for Serra to support the holy priesthood.


Serra’s leaders were also inspired by their Episcopal Adviser, His Eminence Justin Francis Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, to redefine what Serra is by clearly stating what Serra does.  Serra’s process of redefining itself reached its fruition in June 2005, when the delegates to Serra’s 63rd international convention in Bangkok, Thailand approved amendments to the Constitution which restated Serra’s objectives and purposes as follows:

■       To foster and promote vocations to the ministerial priesthood in the Catholic Church as a particular vocation to service and to support priest in their sacred ministry;

■       To encourage and affirm vocations to consecrated religious life in the Catholic Church; and

■       To assist its members to recognize and respond in their own lives to God’s call to holiness in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

The thinking behind these amendments is as follows: As Blessed John Paul II exhorted those attending the Third Continental Congress on Vocations in North America in April 2002, “”On the issue of the vocation to priestly ministry, I would like to emphasize that it cannot be considered to be a call among many otheres. In fact, on it depend the realization and development of all other vocations. The priest represents Christ in his office of Head, Pastor, Priest and Spouse.”[6] The new first objective emphasizes the primacy of the priestly vocation and adds the obligation that Serrans must also support priests in their sacred ministry. The new third objective takes the beautiful words of Christifidelis Laici in reminding our organization that it must commit itself to assisting Serrans to recognize and respond in their own lives to the call to holiness in Jesus Christ.


These are indeed exciting times for Serra, not because of these words on a piece of paper, but because the recent recognition of mistakes allows Serra to take action in the correct direction.  In 2011 many unprecedented things have taken place in Serra.  In brief, I will describe a few of them:

In June, amidst the chaos of preparing for an international convention whose venue had changed only months before, we have run into more than a few priests who have joined the work of Serra with great excitement and enthusiasm about the life and times of Fr. Junipero Serra.  Along with his enthusiasm, he has brought great ideas and plans for new Serra Clubs.

In July, sixty of our members made a prayerful pilgrimage to the Holy Land where they walked in the footsteps of Christ in Galilee and later in Jerusalem. The highlight of the pilgrimage was a Mass in the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord, where prayers for vocations were offered at the site where Christ laid in death and was raised from the dead.

In August 2011, for the first time in our history, we commemorated Fr. Serra at World Youth Day in Madrid by handing out 2,500 of his holy cards.  A bell with an engraving of Fr. Serra and the words “Siempre adelante, nunca retroceder” was given to the Spanish Episcopal Conference through His Eminence Antonio Cardinal Rouco Valera as a symbolic gift of appreciation for the heroic missionary work of Fr. Serra.

In September 2011, a prayer initiative which started in Singapore called “Serra Unites!” was put into action.  After much preparation, a manual for the first annual “Day of Prayer throughout the Serra World” was put into use on the Feast of the birth of Mary, Mother of Vocations, celebrated each year on the eighth day of September.  I am sure that the hours spent begging the Lord of the harvest will bear much good fruit.


Since the aggregation there have been various positive things which here will be summarized:

■       The invitation from the Holy See for Serra to send Auditors to the Synod of Bishops that produced the seminal work on vocation to the ordained priesthood: Pastores Dabo Vobis.

■       The invitation arranged by the Congregation to make it possible for Serra to make a pilgrimage to Rome to celebrate the Great Jubilee Year 2000 with Pope John Paul II.

■       Beginning in 2001, the commitment to holding an annual meeting in October of each year by between the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation and his staff and Serra’s leaders.

■       On 25 October 2004, receiving the approval of the Holy See for use in promoting vocations both within and outside Serra of the invocation: Mary, mother of vocations, pray for us!

■       The invitation arranged by the Congregation for Serrans from four continents to receive special monstrances blessed by Pope John Paul II on 24 November 2004 specifically for use in adoration for vocations during the Year of the Eucharist.

■       The Congregation arranging for Serra to have a special monstrance blessed by Pope Benedict XVI for use in adoration for vocations during Serra’s international convention each year.

■       The calling on 21-24 June 2005 of the Fourth Congress on Vocations to the Ordained Priesthood and Consecrated Life in Asia to coincide with Serra’s 63rd international convention in Bangkok, Thailand.

■       Welcoming the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, His Eminence Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, as the Keynote Speaker at Serra’s 63rd international convention in Bangkok on 24 June 2005.

■       The invitation by His Eminence Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, for Serra to provide up to 80 participants to a special Congress in Rome on 03-05 November 2011 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding by His Holiness Pope Pius XII of the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations, and the 60th anniversary of Serra’s aggregation to that institution.


Here we are today in Rome for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Pontifical Pastoral Ministry for Priestly Vocations.  But our challenge goes beyond just this.  Anniversaries are a time to celebrate, yes, but they may also be considered a time to ask ourselves as Catholics trying to support vocations, “Where are we now and where we are going as a group?  How are we going to leave a lasting impression on this world for Christ?”  The priest is the one who brings the Mass and all the graces associated with the sacraments into the world.  Should we not unite and press forward with as much strength as ever for the salvation of souls, which is so greatly assisted by this great sacrament of Holy Orders given to us by Christ?

All of humanity needs men who are courageous in proclaiming the truth and living its example, thoroughly living it.  Pope Pius XII was just such a priest.  Consider the words of Pope Pius XI about his successor: “When today the Pope dies, you’ll get another one tomorrow, because the Church continues.  It would be a much bigger tragedy if Cardinal Pacelli dies, because there is only one.  I pray every day, God may send another one into one of our seminaries, but as of today, there is only one in this world.”[7] This was said at a time when seminaries were overflowing with candidates who had responded generously to the call to priesthood.  Serra has begun to recognize as well that the quality of priest is in fact more important than quantity.  Quality is found in the candidate’s response to the will of God and the way to really assist that from the Serran perspective is through prayers and sacrifices alongside our apostolate.

Serra is shrinking in the West along with many other Catholic organizations due to hardening secularism.  In Asia, and even more so in Africa, Serra is growing in leaps and bounds.  Currently Serra has established a presence in 46 of the 196 countries in the world.  That is only 23% of the countries in the world.  Why are we not present in nearly all that we can be?  If we are taking Christ’s missionary call seriously, it is essential that every last one of these countries has a Serra community present, encouraging and supporting the priesthood.  Sometimes it can seem like trying to start a fire with wet leaves, but God does not ignore our efforts.

As for Serra, we intend to dramatically reallocate our expenditures to improve the efficiency and ensure the viability of the organization and direct greater resources to the development of new programs and initiatives which aim to communicate, expound upon and promote the essence of the sacerdotal calling.  We believe that this change is going to bring great graces for the work of Serra and begin to involve the youth.  We pray that Serra communities will soon be ablaze so that those considering the ordained priesthood will be encouraged to make the transition to discernment and seminary life more confidently.

As President of Serra, I wish to thank all of you for coming and commemorating the foundation of this essential institution which is the fruit of the foresight of Venerable Pius XII and the continued support of his Successors.  May God bless all of our work and bring us closer to Him in whom we become closer to each other.

Mary, Mother of Vocations Pray for Us!

[1]Dalin, David G. The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2005. Print. 2.

[2]Thornton, Francis Beauchesne. Our American Princes; the Story of the Seventeen American Cardinals. New York: Putnam, 1963. Print.

[3]“Cardinal to Rome”. TIME Magazine. 1958-03-10.

[4]John, Paul. Pastores Dabo Vobis: Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, March 25, 1992. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1992. Print. 41.

[5] Ibid. 41.

[6]Letter from Pope John Paul II To The North American Congress On Vocations, Appendix B of Pastoral Plan. Vatican, 12 April 2002.

[7]Pascalina Lehnert, Ich durfte Ihm Dienen, Erinnerungen an Papst Pius XII. Naumann, Würzburg, 1986,p. 49 (Pascalina Lehnert, I could serve him, memories of Pope Pius XII. Naumann, Würzburg, 1986, p. 49