The objectives and purposes of The Serra International Foundation are:
- to fund programs that foster and promote vocations to the ministerial priesthood of the Catholic Church as a particular vocation to service; and
- to fund programs of formation for men and women in consecrated religious life in the Catholic Church; and
- to enhance the recognition of Serra International as the global lay apostolate for vocations in the Catholic Church.
The History of The Serra International Foundation
The Serra International Foundation was founded in 1951 to assist Serra in fulfilling its objectives of fostering and promoting vocations in the Catholic Church. Since that time, the Foundation has funded a wide range of programs for the formation and training of priests and consecrated religious.
Serra International is not a fundraising organization. Its primary methods are prayer and action. The Foundation’s role is to support and complement those methods, not to eclipse them. Nevertheless, the importance of the Foundation’s role has never been greater.
Urgent Need - Vocations to Priestly Ministry and Consecrated Religious Life
Since 1967 - the beginning of the downturn in vocations - the Foundation’s role has increased in significance and importance. Since then, in the United States, there has been an estimated 20% decrease in the number of active priests. Some projections that take into account the numbers of retired priests who remain in service estimate that the decrease is closer to 35%.
During this same period, the Catholic population has grown, causing the number of Catholics per active priest to increase by about 60%. Moreover, it is estimated that within the next fifteen years, half of all priests serving today will have retired.
Turning the Tide
The Serra International Foundation is supporting an apostolate that is based on hope. And, while this hope is supernatural, it is confirmed by recent trends and developments:
- Worldwide, the number of seminarians recently increased over 30% in the last 20 years.
- In the United States, vocations to the priesthood have also increased overall in recent years.
- Certain dioceses and religious orders have seen significant increases in vocations.
- Correspondingly, many programs, projects, and initiatives have achieved notable success in promoting vocations.
The Need for the Serra Vocations Apostolate
At the 63rd Serra Convention in Bangkok, Thailand, His Eminence Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education declared:
"Another reason why I am happy is that I deeply appreciate Serra for its beneficial contribution to the life of the Church. This meeting gives me the opportunity to say publicly and very warmly, first of all in the name of the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations, but also in the name of the Congregation for Catholic Education and in my own name, that I highly appreciate all the activities of Serra and I want to say a sincere thank you to all Serrans, scattered the world over, for all that they do for the sake of priestly vocations, with their prayer, help and various kinds of support, and for all they do to be close to their bishops and to the priests in their pastoral commitment."
In particular, Serrans are in a position to provide three potent elements that will be crucial for a new era of growth for vocations:
- Prayer - If one asks any successful Vocation Director to identify the most crucial element for success, prayer is almost always mentioned first.
- Lay Involvement - The laity must join in the effort by giving of their time, by inviting people to discern their vocations and by creating a climate and culture in which vocations can flourish.
- Financial Support - Promising new ideas need a chance to be tried, proven methods need to be continued and replicated and Serra’s outreach must be extended.
These combined elements enable Serra to grow in effectiveness as a global lay apostolate at the service of the universal Church, as Saint John Paul II challenged us to be.