Blessed Junipero Serra to be canonized this year!
Serra International - Its Humble Beginning
In 1749, at the age of 36, Father Junipero Serra set sail for the new world as a missionary. He founded nine missions in California between 1769 and 1782 and was honoured as "the Missionary of California" by U.S.A. President Coolidge in 1927. This humble Franciscan missionary of the New World was chosen as the Patron of a new Catholic laity movement in 1935, the Serra Club International. Which also adopted his motto "Siempre Adelante, nunca retroceder" (Always go forward, never retreat) as the guiding principle of the association.
In 1935, four devoted Catholic businessmen in Seatle, U.S.A., gathered and changed Catholic history under the guidance of their bishop, the Most Reverend Gerald Shaughnessy, Unlike other business meetings for lunch, Leo Shankey, Harold Haber le, Richard Ward and Daniel Rooney wanted to add a spiritual dimension to their luncheon meetings. Guided by Bishop Gerald Shaughnessy, Serra's founders decided that the primary purpose of their new organization would be to foster vocations to the priesthood and to aid in financing the education of seminarians. Little would they know that their organization would one day turn into a worldwide movement of apostolate zeal to promote priestly and religious vocations.
After several months, one of the four mentioned that a priest friend of his had said the local seminar y needed a new building but was shor t of funds. The four decided to do what they could to help. They found that helping the seminary gave them a good feeling and that it also gave them a focus---- they decided to form themselves into a club, a club devoted to fostering priestly and religious vocations. Around that time, the movement for the sainthood of Father Junipero Serra was just getting under way. The four friends thought that Junipero Serra, being a missionary and a keen promotor of priestly vocations, would be the ideal patron for their club. The Serra International today is a global effort by Catholic men and women to carry on the same work as these four founders in 1935. This was long before Vatican Council II when the laity was called to share the duties of evangelization.
Of the four founders, only Daniel Rooney served as the International President from 1941 to 1946. In 1952, Daniel Rooney was granted the honour 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.
Blessed Juipero Serra (1713-1784) - Patron of Serra Clubs
Miguel Jusef Serra (later Junipero Serra) was born in Petra, a small village in the island of Mallorca, Spain, on Nov. 24, 1713. On Sept.13, 1730, as he was about to turn 17 year s old, he entered the Convent of San Francisco to study philosophy. He was ordained a priest and obtained a "Catedra de Prime" from Juliano de Mallorca College in 1737. Miguel Jusef took his vows and changed his name to Junipero in honour of the lowly and most humble of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. Father Serra was known to say "my wish is to imitate the saints."
After his ordination in 1737, Father Serra served as a Professor of Theology at the Lullian University in Palma for eleven years. He had always wanted to follow the footsteps of St. Francis Solano, who had gone to Per u, Chile and Argentina as a missionary. Originally told that there was no room for him and his companions, Father Serra was the beneficiary of an unexpected set of circumstances: several of the brothers set to go to the Americas decided at the last minute that they did not want to brave the ocean-spanning trip. In 1749 he was sent to Mexico with a band of Franciscan missionaries and landed at Veracr uz on Dec.7, 1749. Upon arriving, Father Serra requested author ization to make the journey to Mexico City by foot. They arrived there on Jan.1, 1750, at the Convent of St. Ferdinand. It was on this trip that one of his legs was bitten by a scorpion and became infected and he was partly crippled for life. In spite of this handicap, he was to travel over 24,000miles doing missionary work during the following 35 years.
When Charles III, King of Spain, banished the Jesuits from his dominions, the Franciscans were ordered to take over the mission. In 1769, Father Serra was put in charge of a group of Franciscans, traveling 750miles by saddle horses and pack mules to Port of San Blas on Mexico's west coast.
The next year Father Serra reached Port of Lorreta in Lower California, finding the former Jesuit missions looted. The King then ordered Father Serra to found new missions in California. Father Serra was named Padre Presidente (Superior) of Lower and Upper California. While the Spanish military governor claimed all the territory for Spain, Father Serra claimed all the souls for God.
Father Serra had been called "the Missionary of California" and he established nine missions along the "El Camino Real" (the King's Highway). In turn he founded:
- San Diego de Alcala, in July 16, 1769
All these missions were star ted by Father Serra or under his super vision, each 50 miles apart (one day's ride by horse back), each with its own church, mission bell, instruction room, farms where Indians were taught to toil the land and raise cattle and women were shown how to weave, cook and sew.
By 1784, Father Serra had visited all his missions again, despite leg and chest pains (from asthma). At San Carlo mission he conducted vespers on the day before he died and spent most of the night on his knees in his cell.
On August 28, 1784, he walked to his bed of two rough planks, blanket and pillow, placed his large wooden crucifix in his arms and closed his eyes to the world. His last words were "Now I must take some rest." He quietly passed away after 32 years in the mission and 53 years as a Religious at age 71.
Following Father Serra's death in 1784, twelve new missions were added. Altogether, there are 21 missions founded along the coast of California, U.S.A.
In 1927, he was honoured by U.S.A. President Coolidge as one of Califor nia's greatest heroes- this "Missionary of California", and a 7 feet bronze statue was placed in the Statuary Hall in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
On May 9, 1985, Cardinal Pietro Palazzini presented a petition to have Father Junipero Serra declared venerable to his Holiness Pope John Paul II, who subsequently beatified him in a ceremony in St. Peter's Square on Sunday Sept, 25, 1988.
The Serran Movement – A Pilgrim's Progress
In 1935, founders Dan Rooney, Leo Sharkey, Richard Ward and Harold Haberle organized luncheon meetings for business and professional men to exchange ideas on Catholic thought. The primary objective was to encourage priestly vocations, thanks to the wise counsel of Bishop Gerald Shaughnessy, the first Serra Chaplain. And Bishop of Seattle. John Bray suggested naming the club after Padre Junipero Serra.
Prayer for Vocations added to club's objectives of fellowship and Catholic discussion. Objective expanded to include religious vocations.
At the first constitutional convention in 1938, Serra International was organized. "University of Christian Principles" urged by Samuel Cardinal Stritch, who was appointed Serra's first Episcopal Adviser in 1945.
In 1947, Serra International established Office Headquarters in Chicago.
Serra International Foundation established. Serra extended to Canada, Mexico, Peru, England and Italy. Aggregated to the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations in 1951. (then known as the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities).
Serra extended to Spain, Venezuela, Brazil, Hong Kong, The Philippines and Australia. Fir st International Vocation Congress in Rome in 1962.
The Serra Club of Hong Kong was formed in 1960 and char tered on 25th Februar y, 1963 with Father (later Bishop) Francis Chen- Ping Hsu and Father Joseph Carra, PIME as chaplains (Club No.232 Distinct 90). Colonel Ralph Havenstein brought the Serra Bell to Hong Kong himself at the char ter ceremony. He was elected Serra International President in 1960.
National Council of Great Br itain and Brazil established Serra became a member organization of the U.S. National Vocation Conference. On March 19, 1978 on the Feast of St. Joseph, the Serra Club of Macau was chartered (Club NO.485 in District No.90).
Serra extended to New Zealand, Ghana, Nigeria, Thailand and Switzerland. In 1981, Serra par ticipated in the Second International Vocation Congress. In 1986, women were admitted as members. The National Councils of Spain, Italy, Mexico and the Philippines established. In May, 1982, The Immaculate Conception Club in Bangkok was char tered as the fir st Serra Club in Thailand through the introduction of Father Joseph Carra PIME. It was initially part of District No. 90, but became District No.140 in 1987.
US/Canada Council formed. Downtown Chicago Serra Office Headquarters moved from Monroe Street to WackerPlace. Serrans became the "Vocation Arm of the Church".
On Dec. 6-8, 2000, The Holy Father met with 1500 Serran pilgrims in St. Peter's Basilica at the Serra International Great Jubilee Pilgrimage. On Feb. 25, 2003, the Serra Club of Hong Kong celebrated its 40th Anniversary of its Charter. On Oct. 25, 2004, the club received approval of the Holy See for use in promoting vocations within and outside Serra the invocation: "Mary, Mother of Vocations, pray for us."
Dr. Thomas A. Wong of Hong Kong Serra Club, was elected Serra International President in 2011. He was the first Chinese to serve in that post.
On 24th February, 2013, the Serra Club of Hong Kong celebrated its 50th Anniversary of its Charter.
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