Nurturing vocations and honoring devotion at Serra Club of Erie's annual Installation Mass and dinner

By Melanie Sisinni

               The Serra Club of Erie is a dedicated group of individuals focused on promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Named for its patron saint, St. Junipero Serra, the group aims to embody his values of Christian charity, love, and zeal for the salvation of souls. Members of the group are committed to praying the Serran prayer for vocations daily, attending Mass on a specific day each month to pray for the success of Serra, are called to pray for their seminarian or novice “prayer partner,” and attend special activities throughout the year that focus on spiritual growth.

               On June 4, Erie Serrans joined at the Mary, Seat of Wisdom Chapel for an installation Mass celebrated by the club chaplain, Father Scott Jabo, assisted by Father David Renne, Father Nicholas Rouch, Deacon Jerome Peterson and Deacon Tom McAraw. Both Father Rouch and Deacon Peterson were honored later in the evening as priest and deacon of the year, respectively.

               Father Jabo addressed the Serrans directly before the start of the Mass.

Honorees (from left to right): Sister Carol Morehouse, SSJ;
Father Nicholas Rouch; William M. Hilbert Jr.; Deacon Jerome
Peterson and 2024-2025 Serra Club of Erie President Mike Elia
pose for a photo prior to dinner at Gannon University Yehl Alumni Ballroom.
Photo/Melanie Sisinni

“Your prayers, your invocation, your example inspire men and women to seek their own vocation, so we are grateful for all that the Serrans do,” said Father Jabo.

               After the Mass, roughly 100 men and women walked across the street to enjoy dinner, the installation of new officers and the award ceremony at Gannon University’s Yehl Alumni Ballroom.

               Outgoing President Charlie Rutkowski introduced new members, including the now-current president, Mike Elia. Elia took over emcee duties for the evening, crediting Rutkowski with a set-up for success.

               “Everything I need to say is in this binder,” said Elia, “Charlie even highlighted my parts.”

               Though there were comedic moments throughout the evening, the discussion of vocations took a more serious tone. Elia recalled the joy of Father Luke Dagir, Deacon Michael Scanga and Deacon Brandon Feikles' recent ordinations.

               “The sobering point is that these men will be the last men to be ordained priests in our diocese for the next three years,” said Elia.

               The room became noticeably reverent and somber when Elia mentioned Father Christopher Barnes’s recent passing. Father Barnes, who was the pastor of St. Titus Parish, Titusville, passed away on August 16 at the age of 52.

               “We remember Father Christopher… and he will be missed by our diocese,” said Elia.

               Elia underscored the importance of the Serra Club’s prayers for vocations during this difficult time.

               “As Serrans, our main calling is to keep praying for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life and also encouraging people in our lives, or those that we meet, to a life of vocation,” said Elia.

Bishop Lawrence Persico addresses the Serrans at the end 
of the annual Installation Mass and dinner.
Photo/Melanie Sisinni

               After Elia’s speech, awards were given to outstanding members of the Serra Club of Erie. William Hilbert Jr. was honored as Outstanding Layperson of the Year. Sister Carol Morehouse, SSJ, was honored as Religious of the Year. Deacon Jerome Peterson was honored as Deacon of the Year, and Father Nicholas Rouch was honored as Priest of the Year.

               After the awards were received and speeches were made, Bishop Lawrence Persico addressed the Serrans and gave the closing blessing for the evening. He discussed the need for vocations in the diocese and expressed his gratitude for all that the Serrans do for the Diocese of Erie.

               “We ordained one priest, and we lost one priest,” said Bishop Persico, pausing to wipe tears away from his eyes in an unusual display of emotion. “The numbers aren’t that good, and that’s the importance of praying for vocations.”

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               For more information on the Serra Club of Erie or to submit an application to join, visit: