Serra Club helps promote priestly vocations, religious life

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Serra International is an organization founded in 1935 by four friends from Seattle, Washington, who wanted to grow spiritually through prayer and Christian friendships while also fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Today, there are more than 800 Serra Clubs in 37 countries, including one chapter in the Diocese of St. Cloud.

The local Serra Club received its charter in 1955. Hank Kohorst, parishioner of St. Wendelin in Luxemburg, has been a Serra member for 32 years and currently serves as the club’s treasurer.

“The mission of the Serra Club is to support seminarians and those discerning religious life,” he said. “We also make an effort to support priests currently serving in parishes as well as retired priests.”

Offering support

The group consists of about 40 members who meet at noon on the second Thursday of each month at the former St. Anthony School in St. Cloud. While sharing a meal together, the group listens to a guest speaker, hears a message from their chaplain, retired Father Laurn Virnig, and conducts a short business meeting.


Deacon Matthew Langager talks with Serra Club treasurer Hank Kohorst during a dinner for seminarians hosted by the club at the Ace Bar and Grill in St. Cloud Aug. 6. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

Kohorst, who was invited by a friend to join, especially enjoys the guest speakers.

“We have good speakers that reinforce things I already knew or get me interested in learning more about something I didn’t know,” he said. “That’s what first got me interested and has kept me interested all these years.”

Serran Joanne Benson, a member of St. Augustine Parish in St. Cloud, also was invited by a friend to attend a meeting. From then on, she noted, she was “really hooked.”

“When I retired, I decided to direct my energy to four f’s — faith, family, friends and fun,” she said. “Being part of the Serra Club fits in on all those levels.”

Members prays for vocations as a group and individually. And they each spiritually “adopt” a local seminarian every year whom they write to, pray for and invite to special events. They also visit the seminary, host dinners with seminarians and organize a luncheon for retired priests.

“It’s really important to support people while they are discerning, while they are serving and after they retire,” Benson said.

Among other activities, the group sends congratulatory notes and gifts to the newly ordained, contributes financially to support the work of vocations, provides financial and physical assistance for priestly ordination receptions, sends birthday cards and checks to seminarians and sponsors a calendar in The Visitor newspaper to encourage people to pray for a priest each day.

“The more people we have praying and joining in the efforts the better off we will all be,” Benson added.

Everyone benefits

One of the goals the Serra Club has is to have members from each church in the diocese.

“Every church benefits from the work we do to affirm vocations,” Benson said. “We really need the collaboration of many people. It really is a job for all the people who are served, not just for the vocations director.”

The Serra Club will staff a booth at Diocesan Ministry Day Aug. 31 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. Members are planning a luncheon to honor retired priests in September and they are also working on efforts to celebrate locally the canonization of their patron, Franciscan Father Blessed Junipero Serra — the first saint who will be canonized on U.S. soil, Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C.

“I would say to anyone interested, just come to a meeting and see what we are about,” she said. “It really is a way of supporting our own faith but also supports priests, seminarians and religious life. We need those people, or we don’t have a church.”

For more information about the Serra Club, call Benson at 320-654-8386 or Kohorst at 320-251-5304.