CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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World president of Serra visits Hong Kong

HONG KONG (SE): Dante Vannini, the president of Serra International, a worldwide organisation that works to keep the issue of religious vocation on the agenda in local Churches, told the Kung Kao Po on January 19 that the development of religious vocation lies in family, Church life and witness in society.

Vannini shared his insights into the difficulties involved in promoting vocation and supporting priestly ministries. He pointed out that the challenges come from secularism and the cultural differences.

Vannini, an Italian-born entrepreneur, is an engineer with the experience of working in many countries, experiences which have enabled him to accept and be comfortable with cultural diversity.

He recalled difficult moments with some cultural practices and customs. In Egypt he wanted Sundays off to go to Mass, but the religious holiday in Islamic countries is traditionally on Fridays and Sunday is a workday.

He spoke strongly about the work of the Serra Club, saying that the big challenge is to support seminarians both spiritually and psychologically, and especially financially.

The club needs a public face in the Church and this is mostly achieved through sponsoring prayer movements for vocations.

However, he stressed that promoting vocation is not just a matter of prayer, but also requires concrete action, providing information and working to keep it on the agenda in Catholic circles.

Speaking as the leader of Serra International, he said that vocation formation work and coordinating projects is a big challenge among dioceses and parishes.

He described it as a full time commitment, which meant that he had to give up his regular job, but insisted it would not occur to him to refuse taking on the responsibility.

He put his enthusiasm down to his solid foundation in Church life during his childhood—playing at the church, knowing God through the rosary and the Mass.

Vannini then recalled that when he was invited to join Serra in the first place, he felt Jesus calling him in much the same way he imagines he called Lazarus from the dead.

Vannini believes that the family is the first seminary of religious formation, as it is the first place where children can learn about the priesthood. He said he is always happy to see young people going to the seminary, as it represents a seed that was sown by the group blossoming.

But he added that the credit should not be given to the club, as the development of the seeds it sows depends on many factors.

Vannini has been a member of the Serra Club for over 20 years. In the early days of his term as international president, he focussed on communities in the United States of America, the birth place of Serra, and although his time runs out in the middle of this year, he will remain on the board of directors as a former president.

He expressed the opinion that vocation formation does not take place only in Churches or families, but also outside these boundaries. He believes that the ministry of priests in society, especially their service in hospitals or public organisations can move young people and create an interest in them.

Vannini met Pope Francis on his 80th birthday on October 21 last year and invited him to be present at the international conference of Serra International to be held in Rome on June 23 this year.

The theme will be on how to keep improving formation for the religious life. The Serra Club in Hong Kong was the first to be set up in Asia, celebrating its golden jubilee in 2013.

“It has also been a trail blazer, as other clubs around Asia took their initiative from Hong Kong and it has played a significant role in breaking Serra’s traditional identity as a western, English-speaking organisation, as it has effectively been filled up with Chinese members,” John Woodward, a former international president from Australia, told the Sunday Examiner at the time.

Thomas Wong Sze-pok, from Hong Kong, was the worldwide president of the club and another one from Asia was Sean Yeo, from Singapore.

In emphasising the importance of praying for vocations, Yeo told the Sunday Examiner he believes that without prayer, we run the risk of resorting to our own devices and substitute God’s work with our own agenda.

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