Serra International has special recognition from the Vatican – it is aggregated to the Pontifical Work for Vocations to the Priesthood within the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy. Almost 1,100 Serra Clubs have been chartered in 44 Countries since the formation of Serra in the Unites States of America in 1935. Membership of Serra exceeds 15,000 and is open to Catholic laymen, laywomen and to Permanent Deacons.
Serra is named after Father (“Fray”) Junipero Serra, the noted Spanish Franciscan missionary priest who played a leading part in early missionary work in Mexico and California.
Early History of Serra
The Serra Apostolate had its beginnings in America during 1934 and 1935. Four Catholic businessmen in Seattle, Washington USA, organised luncheon meetings for business and professional men to exchange ideas on Catholic thought. During these informal meetings, they became aware of the need to set up an organisation that encouraged knowledge, and the spreading, of Catholicism in modern society. In this way, the first Serra Club was born. The official date for the start of Serra was 27th February 1935.
The Serra Apostolate extended rapidly to the whole of North America. On 2nd July 1938, Serra became a world-wide body with the formation of Serra International. With its continued expansion, a central office of Serra was opened in Chicago in 1947.
Serra in Australia and New Zealand
The possibility of having Serra Clubs in Australia was raised in 1964 when Australian businessman Frank James met with an American Serran, Paul Mariani Jnr, in Cupertino, California On his return to Melbourne, Frank discussed the introduction of Serra with the then Father (later Archbishop) Frank Little whose support was unequivocal. Paul came to Australia in 1965 and approached Prelates in the Archdioceses of Sydney, Canberra/Goulburn, Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart. All agreed with the need to promote Vocations and indicated their support for Serra.
Serra Clubs can only operate with the permission of the Bishop of a Diocese. Paul and Frank approached the Melbourne Vocations Director, Fr. James Wall and, together, they sought permission from the Archbishop to introduce Serra into the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Unfortunately, they were unable to obtain that permission. .
Following the appointment of Archbishop (later Cardinal) James Knox as Archbishop of Melbourne in 1967, Frank and the Vocations Director at that time, Fr. Michael Fitzpatrick, made an approach that was successful. His Grace told them to proceed “slowly and quietly”. This proved to be sound advice.
The first meeting was held on 24th November 1967 at the home of Frank James and was attended by Fr. Fitzpatrick, Judge Arthur Adams, Joe Stewart, Bill Pringle and Dr. Clarke. The decision was taken to launch Serra and these men became active and enthusiastic Serrans. The first dinner meeting was held in Melbourne on 28th February 1968 at the Elizabeth Hotel following a Mass at St. Francis Church.
Serra was officially introduced into Australia in 1970. The Serra Club of Sydney, with Kevin Lynch as President, was chartered on 27th January 1970. The Serra Club of Melbourne, with Frank James as President, was chartered on 28th January 1970.
Other Clubs followed – Melbourne North, Liverpool, Ballarat, Yarra Valley, Canberra, Brisbane, Toowoomba, Sale, Hobart, Melbourne Eastern Districts, Wagga Wagga, Auckland (New Zealand), North Shore (Diocese of Broken Bay), Bendigo, Illawarra, Geelong, Sydney Inner West, Latrobe Valley, Melbourne City and Oakleigh Deanery.
Given the need for vocations, it is unfortunate that some Clubs – having done such great work – have closed but the Serra Apostolate is always seeking opportunities to charter new Clubs.
Should you be interested in finding out more about the Serra Apostolate, please use our “Contact” Page.