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New Serra Club for Hispanics Launched in Seattle Archdiocese
Terry McGuire
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Sunday, July 26, 2009
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SEATTLE (CNS)—When Father Gary Zender announced during a Sunday Mass at St. Anthony Church in Renton that a pioneering Serra Club for Spanish-speaking members was being formed, parishioner Raul Silva was among those listening with interest.

Silva, a married man with three children, had once considered becoming a priest. The idea of a Serra Club promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life within his own Hispanic community appealed to him and others.

"We are in need of many Spanish-speaking priests," said Silva, who works as a branch manager for a maintenance company. "For example, in St. Anthony's the only person who speaks English and Spanish is Father Gary (the pastor) ... so we can see the need of more Hispanic priests right here in our parish, and that (need) is everywhere, with our Hispanic communities growing and growing."

Silva was elected president of the fledging group, believed to be the nation's first totally Spanish-speaking Serra Club; one or two Spanish-speaking clubs in Texas are bilingual. About a decade ago a Spanish-speaking club in the Los Angeles area received a charter but didn't get off the ground, according to Serra International.

The Washington group, known as the Hispanic Serra Club of Renton on its charter application, hoped to receive its charter soon from the Chicago-based Serra International.
Seattle Archbishop Alex J. Brunett and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, vicar for Hispanic ministry and vocations, are to celebrate the charter at a Mass Sept. 9 at St. Anthony Church.

The new club has 26 members to date, most of them couples from St. Anthony, with others coming from neighboring Bellevue and Kent.

It won't be any different from any other Serra, Silva said, other than the fact that its focus will be on the Spanish-speaking community, and the meetings and promotional materials will be done in that language.

"Everyone's going to be watching how we do," he told The Catholic Northwest Progress, newspaper of the Seattle Archdiocese. "The main idea is not to have only one Spanish-speaking Serra Club. We'd like to have as many clubs as we can."

Data released in April from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington shows the need. While Caucasians and Asian-Americans were overrepresented in this year's priestly ordination class when compared to their overall percentages in the church, the Hispanic/Latino population was the most underrepresented, with only 12 percent in a population that makes up approximately 34 percent of U.S. Catholics.

The new Hispanic Serra Club has "great potential" in bringing vocations to the forefront, said Father Zender, the club's chaplain.

"I think it will be an opportunity for this group of people to both grow in their own spirituality —our baptismal call ... to share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, and then to have a better understanding of how to promote vocations, especially among the Hispanic community," he said.

The idea for the club started when Jack Robinson of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Bothell tried to draw the parish's Hispanic members to the Serra Club he headed as founding president.

"I tried hard to get Hispanics at our church to attend our meetings, and failed miserably," he said. "I chatted with other officers in the area and they had similar success."

Robinson blamed the lack of response on the language barrier and educational differences. Why join an Anglo Serra Club, he asked, if you can't understand what's going on?

Robinson explored the possibility of a Hispanic Serra Club and bounced the idea off Bishop Elizondo, whom he said was supportive and suggested some parishes to contact.

The bishop translated the club's bylaws and prayers into Spanish. He noted in the archdiocesan Hispanic ministry newsletter that Hispanic vocations "are very hard to cultivate, and without the support and resources of key organizations like the Serra Club, it would prove to be even more challenging.

"We have much to improve with regard to the fostering of Hispanic vocations in Seattle," Bishop Elizondo said, "but with this new initiative we hope that Hispanics throughout the archdiocese will join, support and make fruitful this blessing."

When Robinson contacted Father Zender about starting a club there, the priest told him the head of a Hispanic charismatic prayer group had asked him that same week about what they could do to formally support the priesthood. It was more than a happy coincidence, said Robinson, who's long been involved in the Catholic charismatic renewal movement.

"When the guy upstairs wants something to happen," it does, he said.

Now governor-elect of the Serra Club district that extends from Seattle to Everett, Robinson especially likes the youthful vitality the new club will bring. Members range in age from 25 to 30 years old -- they are about half as old as members of other clubs in the archdiocese, he said.

Still, prayer is the most powerful tool in promoting vocations, he added. "Without prayer, it's not going to happen."

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