In honor of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Serra Club of Buffalo is sponsoring two events at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora to show support for the future religious leaders and priests of the diocese. A family Mass and brunch for seminarians will take place on Sunday, April 26, at 10:30 a.m., followed by a Eucharistic Holy Hour in the main chapel at 2 p.m.
At the Mass and the brunch, in the seminary's main chapel and dining hall, respectively, the seminarians and their families will be able to enjoy a meal and watch a PowerPoint presentation recapping the year's events on campus. During the subsequent Holy Hour, Father William Quinlivan, pastor of Blessed Sacrament in Tonawanda who has released many CDs of his own original music, will be performing as he celebrates the 20th anniversary of his ordination. Only the Holy Hour will be open to the public.
"The family Mass and brunch are not open to the public. It's just for the seminarians and their families," Serra Club president Susan Santandreu said. "If these family members want to stay, they can, but then anybody from the diocese can come from 2-3 p.m., to Christ the King, in the main chapel."
Santandreu said Father Quinlivan hopes to draw attention to Christ the King Seminary. She added, "It's such a great place, and I think so few people have ever been there or even know about it. It's a great opportunity to have people come out and experience the seminary, and also pray for vocations."
According to Santandreu, the Serra Club has hosted the Mass and brunch for the last five years, and the goal was to have an event similar to the "parents' weekend" many other colleges often host on their campuses, in which families can connect with each other through common experience.
"(The seminarians) can show their parents the campus. For a lot of them, this is grad school, so their parents might not have even come and helped them move in like you would your son for college," Santandreu added. "This is a nice thing where they're all invited, and the seminarians put together a PowerPoint presentation of the things that they've done during the year, like pictures from the March for Life. This year, they were in a basketball tournament in another seminary."
The Serra Club is an international organization, including 255 American Serra Clubs and additional ones in a total of 40 countries, that promotes vocations to Catholic priesthood and religious life. It is named for Blessed Father Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan who established missions in California. Santandreu said the Serra Club of Buffalo meets monthly at the seminary and also works with Father Walter Szczesny, the Director of Vocations of the Diocese of Buffalo, to accomplish their goal.
"He kind of gives us ideas about what might be coming up," she commented. "When new guys enter the seminary, we give them all breveries to pray from. Whoever doesn't have one, we provide them with one. Within the club, we know all their birthdays, and so we've divided it up among a few of the members to send them a birthday card. We usually put a $20 bill in each birthday card."
According to Father Szczesny, the diocese has always put a great deal of focus on prayer for vocations, and has had programs, projects, brochures, posters and other means to get the word out. For men who are considering becoming priests, it has always been a big decision, and Father Szczesny said it is typical for the seminarians to have some doubts and concerns about pursuing ordination.
"They've made a big decision. None of them have said, 'Okay, I'm 100 percent sure about this.' They are taking a leap of faith," Father Szczesny commented. "For people to say 'Thank you for making that decision, that faith leap, but we're praying for you as you continue on this journey,' they need to hear that because some days, like anybody else in any other career, they have a bad day."
Santandreu said she believes it means a lot for the seminarians to get this support, and it is important to support the seminarians because the process of becoming a priest includes joyful moments, but also a lot of pressure. The more seminarians feel the people they have dedicated themselves to serve are supporting them, "the better off life will be for them, and the more comfortable they'll feel."
"It's just a great thing. The more exposure that people get to Christ the King Seminary and what it takes to get through there, study there and be ordained into the priesthood, the closer they'll feel to the priests, and the more knowledge they'll have about the whole process," Santandreu concluded. "We're always looking for new members in the Serra Club, more help and more people to get involved."
Father Szczesny called the Serra Club an "incredible" organization of "great people," who work hand-in-hand with the vocation office" to facilitate his own ministry and mission.
"We do have our monthly meetings at the seminary, well-attended. They meet at the seminary, stay for Mass and come for dinner, mingling with the seminarians. They're not like a secret organization, meeting behind closed doors. All of a sudden, the seminarians know who they are. They can come up to the seminarians and talk to them, and they can identify with the seminarians. They send them birthday cards, know them by name, and they're a big help to the vocation office," Father Szczesny said.
For further information, call 716-649-2058 or "like" the Serra Club of Buffalo's page on Facebook.