Archdiocese Local

JoCo Serrans celebrate silver anniversary

Father Scott Wallisch, chaplain of the Johnson County Serra Club, celebrates the club’s 25th anniversary Mass on May 2 at Curé of Ars Church in Leawood. Joining him are past Serra Club chaplains — Father Gary Pennings (left) and Father Bill Porter (right). LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

by Joe Bollig

LEAWOOD — The Johnson County Serra Club’s 25th anniversary may seem like a modest milestone — unless one considers the accomplishments in addition to counting the years.

The Johnson County Serrans did both during a Mass on May 2 at Curé of Ars Church in Leawood, followed by a dinner at nearby O’Neill’s Restaurant and Bar.

Serra Clubs are named in honor of early Spanish Franciscan missionary Father Junipero Serra, OFM, who established missions throughout California.

Serra Clubs throughout the United States support vocations to the consecrated life and the priesthood by assisting seminarians,  priests and Sisters through various activities.

There was already a Serra Club in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas in the late 1990s — but it was all male.

Then-Archbishop James P. Keleher thought not only could the archdiocese use another one, but it would feature one important difference, said Father Bill Porter, first chaplain for the Johnson County Serra Club.

“Archbishop Keleher asked me to be the person to pull it together, to found a Johnson County Serra Club,” said Father Porter, now retired. “He wanted to have a club with males and females. . . . He wanted young couples from every parish in Johnson County. He was looking at a different demographic supporting vocations.”

New Serra Club officers for the coming year thake their oaths during a Mass at Curé of Ars Church in Leawood. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Archbishop Keleher asked Father Porter to approach Mark and Lisa Ledom of Curé of Ars to be presidents, although only Mark is listed as first president, along with Father Porter as first chaplain.

Ledom was already a member of the Wyandotte County Serra Club, then one of the largest in the United States, but he enthusiastically answered the call.

“I started putting together people and friends I knew at [my parish] Curé of Ars,” said Ledom. “We did all the paperwork. . . . Our goal was to be the largest Serra Club in the United States. We just missed it by 10 people. Our goal was 99 members in 1999.’”

The charter Mass for the Johnson County Serra Club was held on April 26, 1999.

Dee [Herbert] Green, then a member of St. Pius X Parish in Mission, became the first female president in 2002. Green, now living in Lafayette, Louisiana, became a charter treasurer-elect of the club when founded.

“One of the things we did . . . was visit the seminarians at Conception Abbey, Mundelein [near Chicago]and Kenrick-Glennon [in St. Louis],” she said.

“Conception would be a day trip, and Kenrick-Glennon would be overnight,” she continued. “We’d share in Mass, morning prayer and meals, and get to know the seminarians. We’d take them out for dinner. It was a real bonding with them.

“It was very touching that seminarians from other dioceses would come up and thank us for being present and showing that the church cared about them and their vocations.”

Rose Cordry grabs a plate of food at O’Neil’s Restaurant and Bar in Leawood following Mass at Curé of Ars Church in Leawood. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Dale Romme, of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, is the current president of the Serra Club. His term runs until April 2025.

“I was honored to be asked to be president of the club,” said Romme. “I strongly believe in our Catholic faith as a way of life. . . . It’s best when we have priests who are leading us through the sacraments and challenging our spiritual path in life, helping us to be better persons.”

“I’ve always had a fondness for priests and have appreciated them,” Romme continued. “They’re godly men. If I can help the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to recruit and retain our seminarians, and support our priests, that’s something I want to do.”

Romme hopes that others share his convictions and consider joining the Serrans.

“I’d like to invite Johnson County Catholics to explore what Serra is. We meet at 6:30 p.m. on the first Thursdays of each month at Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood,” he said.

“Explore what Serra is,” he continued. “If they feel a call to support seminarians, priests and women who have a calling to consecrated life, and want to foster holiness in their lives, they should join Serra.”

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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