Serra International News
Serra Meets with David Rinaldi - President of NET Ministries
Closing Mass Celebrated by His Eminence Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak KOVITVANICH

The Power of Christian Friendship

Oct 6, 2023

Spotlight on John Short, Serra Club of Melbourne

“When I commit myself to something, I really pour myself into it,” said John Short. This sentiment certainly rings true when it comes to his involvement with Serra. Ever since joining the Serra Club of Melbourne in 2014, John has actively participated in numerous vocation events and served as the club’s president for the past six years, while also chairing the Serra Australia Foundation.

Growing up in a devout Catholic family, John developed a deep connection with the Church from an early age. He attended Catholic school and served as an altar boy, lector, and extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. Professionally, John has been a financial planner for 30 years and has run his own business for 13 years, assisting individuals and organizations in managing their finances wisely.

For a significant portion of his adult life, John dedicated himself to being the primary caregiver for his aging parents, which consumed nearly all of his free time. After their passing, he found himself searching for new avenues of service. “Kathy Hollier was the one who introduced me to Serra,” John recalled. “We had served together as lectors at our parish, and she had been inviting me for a few years.” Finally, the time had come for him to accept her invitation.

“Once I joined the club, I wholeheartedly dedicated myself to Serra. I love our mission and the work we do. To me, Serra is about friendship—the friendship among Serrans, of course, but also with our clergy and religious.”

The Serra Club of Melbourne organizes an impressive array of events and programs (see sidebar). Despite having approximately 15 active members, their influence throughout the diocese is far-reaching. “The key is to involve new members right from the start, entrusting them with various responsibilities. Those who have meaningful tasks tend to remain engaged,” John explained.

The aspect of Serra’s work that holds a special place in John’s heart is the club’s affirmation of elderly priests and religious. His experience as a long-term caregiver has instilled in him a profound love for the elderly, and he understands how essential it is for them to remain connected to the Church’s life, regardless of their health or mobility limitations.

In particular, John shares a close friendship with club chaplain Father Gerard Dowling, often accompanying him to club meetings and other church functions. Father Dowling is renowned in Australia for hosting the country’s longest-running radio program, where he has provided fatherly advice to callers for over 50 years. John cherishes the opportunity to serve as chauffeur to one of the “Fathers of Catholicism” in Australia.

“One of the joys of life is being around lovely people,” said John with emotion in his voice. “The goodness of Serra is building friendships—with Serrans, but also with so many priests and religious. It helps people focus on what is really important.”

Serra Chaplain Fr. Gerard Dowling with his beloved Football Club

Melbourne Club Chaplain Fr. Gerard Dowling, DE, OAM, celebrates with friends from the North Melbourne Australian Rules Football Club on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Fr. Gerard has served as chaplain for around 20 years. He is seated at the front right side with his longtime friend Ron Joseph, North Melbourne past President and administrator, who sadly died in March of 2023. Past players of the North Melbourne football club are standing behind them. Fr. Gerard has written a history of the North Melbourne Football Club.

Serra Club of Melbourne Events and Activities

It’s often useful to see what other clubs are doing, to get inspiration for your own club’s efforts. Below aremany highlights of the heroic efforts of the Melbourne club!

Annual visit to Corpus Christ College

This is the regional seminary for Victoria and Tasmania. Mass followed by lunch with the seminary staff and seminarians. Members from all 4 Serra Clubs in the State of Victoria attend this annual visit.

Saturday morning Vocation Masses

Each month we join one of the 12 churches in the region for their Saturday morning Mass to pray for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. These Masses support and complement the vocation related activities at each parish.

Archbishop’s Priests Support and Education Fund Dinner

We take a table at this annual event, which raises funds to support our Bishops with the education of clergy and seminarians and the Australian Military Ordinariate. It has raised over $AUD1.3 million since inception and is attended by around 400 people each year.

Religious Anniversaries

We contact all local religious communities to obtain a list of anniversaries that occur that year. We then send around 250 anniversary cards to priests and consecrated men and women throughout the Australian, New Zealand and South Pacific region (SCANZSPAC). Many of the recipients express their thanks for our prayers and thoughts and are pleasantly surprised to receive the congratulations.

Annual luncheon for priests and consecrated men and women

This luncheon expresses our gratitude for the wonderful service they provide, often in a quiet and unassuming manner; for the sacrifices they make and to reaffirm to them the vital importance of their vocation.

Annual Serra Club Retreat

In the past this has been held for the spiritual enrichment of our members. Members from all 4 Serra Clubs in the State of Victoria attend this retreat. We are currently seeking a new venue given that the past venue became too expensive.

Annual Mass for Consecrated Life

This is an annual Mass with the Archbishop as the principal celebrant, followed by morning tea. It has been a special day for the 250 to 300 priests and consecrated men and women in attendance to honour their service to God and the community and to renew friendships

Annual Mass for the parents, families and friends of priests and consecrated men and women

This Mass was a wonderful opportunity to thank those parents, families and friends for helping to create an environment where vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life can flourish and for their encouragement and support. It was also a great opportunity for families to meet and renew acquaintances.

Serra Australia Foundation funds “Discernment Camino”

Prior to Covid, the Serra Australia Foundation provided some financial assistance to the Vocations Office to help fund Fr. Nicholas Pearce and a group of around 13 young men to undertake the Camino de Santiago walk in Spain as part of their process of discerning a vocation to the priesthood (2017, 2018).