Archdiocese Local

Serra Club in support of vocations relaunched in Topeka

The officers of the newly rechartered Serra Club of Topeka were formally installed at the end of a Mass celebrated June 3 at St. Matthew Church in Topeka. The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. After Communion, Mike Downey, president of Serra USA, installed from left, Diana Ortiz as vice president of programs, Andrew and Lien Hecker as trustees, Marie and Brad Miller as co-presidents, Erin Henninger as trustee and Kelly Kmiecik as secretary while the Heckers’ children, Addie and Vincent, watched. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

by Marc and Julie Anderson

TOPEKA — Free pizza.

That was one of the reasons Brad Miller, a member of Christ the King Parish here, said he attended a meeting about a Serra Club last year.

While he admitted it’s not necessarily the best reason, he said it truly was one of the reasons he agreed to accompany his wife Marie to the event.

On June 3, the Serra Club of Topeka celebrated its official relaunch with a Mass, induction and luncheon. Near the end of the Mass celebrated at Topeka’s St. Matthew Church by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, a total of 54 became official members of Serra. Also, the rechartered club’s officers were formally installed.

Archbishop Naumann celebrates Mass with priests of the archdiocese at St. Matthew Church in Topeka. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

On hand to witness both the members’ pledges and those of the officers were Greg Schweitz, president of Serra Club International, and Michael Downey, president of Serra USA.

Formed in 1935, Serra USA began when “a small group of laypeople in Seattle decided to form an organization to promote and foster vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life.” The group chose as its patron St. Junipero Serra, founder of nine of the missions in California, who at the time wasn’t even beatified.

Today, Serra has more than 18,000 members in nearly 40 countries who work with their bishops, dioceses, vocation directors and others to “encourage and support vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life” and “to assist members to recognize and respond in their own lives to God’s call to holiness in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit,” a fact which the archbishop reflected on during the homily.

Serra Clubs, the archbishop said, “help us create a culture for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life, but also a culture in which we try to inculcate to all of our young people that the real question for them and their lives is not what they want to do with their lives,  but rather: “What is God calling me to do with my life?”

And that question is precisely one of the reasons, Marie Miller said, that she and Brad are now serving as presidents.

Archbishop Naumann stands among Serra Club members and their families following Mass at St. Matthew Church in Topeka. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

She belongs to a St. Zelie Bible study group. One of the women in the group had heard about the event from Father Thomas Maddock, associate pastor of Christ the King Parish in Topeka, and shared the flyer.

“I read the flyer, and I saw Father Thomas was the chaplain. I had no idea what it was about. I saw it was for vocations, and I thought it sounded interesting,” Marie said.

So, she asked her husband what he thought. When Brad asked what they’d talk about that night, Marie said, “I really don’t know. I know it’s for vocations, but there’s free pizza.”

Brad agreed. In addition to the pizza, the evening also featured Mass and a talk by Father Maddock who shared his vocation story.

Surveying the crowd that night, the Millers noticed that many people in attendance were what they’d consider amazing examples of Christian marriage and family life.

That night, Father Maddock shared his thoughts on restarting the Topeka club, which had originally been formed in the 1990s, but for a variety of reasons “fizzled out.” He also mentioned how he envisioned the group being led by a married couple serving as co-presidents.

Archbishop Naumann poses for a photo with priests, religious and altar servers following Mass at St. Matthew Church in Topeka. LEAVEN PHOTO BY MARC ANDERSON

A few weeks later over dinner, Father Maddock invited the couple to serve as co-presidents. But the couple didn’t accept the invitation right way.

Father Maddock didn’t give up easily and asked again and again.

Meanwhile, for more than six months, Marie said she’d been asking God how they as a couple could serve the church.

“I was praying one morning. I just had this aha moment of maybe this is God’s way of saying, ‘This is what I’d like for you to do,’” she said.

Last August, the group had 20 members. The Millers were hopeful the Serra Club would once again become active in Topeka, but it takes 25 members to charter a club.

In January, the couple set a goal of 55 members. On the day of the club’s official relaunch, it had 54 members.

That is, until the husband of Diana Ortiz, a member of Mater Dei Parish in Topeka who serves as vice president for programming, joined so the club could meet its goal.

Then, two others who thought they’d joined but somehow hadn’t called the Millers that very day and said they wanted to officially join, bringing the total to 57.

Of the rechartered club, John Caton, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa who serves as the district governor for Serra, said, “We’re so thankful that the Topeka Region has embraced getting the club rechartered, and we know there’s going to be many vocations that are going to come about.”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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