Almost 60 priests and deacons convened for a social hour and dinner last month, courtesy of the Serra Club of Portland. The association of laity — which fosters and supports vocations to priesthood, diaconate and religious life — serves up the annual appreciation. The night has become one of the most lighthearted Catholic events of the year.
One speaker mistakenly referred to Father John Henderson, the club's chaplain, as "Father John Kerns," an error that was good for laughs most of the evening. The two priests are pals who on occasion engage in a mock competition for the limelight.
"I just refer to myself as Father John the Lesser," Father Henderson admitted.
Archbishop Alexander Sample walked over to Father Henderson to check his name tag.
Later, as the archbishop walked to the podium to deliver remarks, his mother Joyce called out, "Keep it short!" The house burst into guffaws, having already watched the mother-son comedy team through the evening. The archbishop, shaking his head and smiling, recalled the time he was delivering an earnest message to a group of confirmation students and out of the corner of his eye saw his mother checking her watch.
Archbishop Sample did eventually get a chance to thank the Serra Club for its service, which includes outreach to seminarians, Sisters and young Catholics at college.
"You are the ones who deserve appreciation for all you do to promote vocations," he said. He remembered that, as a seminarian, he received birthday cards from Serrans in Michigan.
"I give the appreciation back to all of you," the archbishop concluded.
Father Henderson, vocations director for the archdiocese, announced an effort of the club to build vocations clubs in parishes. A dozen new seminarians have come from local parishes, he said. Father Henderson called the Serra Club members inspiring, even if they can't remember his name.