By Ambria Hammel
The Catholic Sun
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here’s no telling what a lunchtime meeting twice per month can do for the soul.
The impact on those they pray for during that meeting — their top agenda item — is equally immeasurable. The main order of business: pray for and network with priests, religious and those in discernment.
It’s the core of what Catholic men and women in more than 1,000 chapters across the globe, including three locally, commit to daily as a member of Serra International. Fredd Quiñonez joined the West Valley chapter during its infancy six years ago.
Serra Club re-energized his prayer life. He’s grateful his three 12-hour work shifts don’t conflict with meetings. Quiñonez also loves that its meeting location, Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery, was not only around the corner from his childhood home, but would always remind him of his own earthly mother — Guadalupe — who taught him the value of prayer.
“Yeah, we’re men, but we get a lot of strength from our grandmothers, our mothers, our wives, our granddaughters,” Quiñonez said. “We get a lot of toughness from these women that are around us.”
As a child, Quiñonez joined his mother and grandmother in praying for the souls of the departed. He recalls praying through the Rosary and Stations of the Cross before each Mass at Blessed Sacrament in Tolleson where he was an altar server. He still speaks to grieving family members and friends who gather there for funerals.
Named for St. Junípero Serra, Serra International is an organization of lay Catholics dedicated to promoting vocations. There are 240 Serra Clubs with more than 8,000 members in the United States. Three of those clubs are located within the Diocese of Phoenix
- The Serra Club of Phoenix meets at 12:10 p.m., the first and third Tuesday of the month at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, 400 E. Monroe St., Room 104.
- East Valley Serra Club meets at 12:10 p.m., the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at Native New Yorker, 1837 W. Guadalupe Rd., Mesa.
- West Valley Serra Club meets at noon, the first and third Tuesday of the month at Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery, 8502 W. Pinchot Ave.
Quiñonez remains a West Valley Catholic and a walking parish directory for the area. He quietly jumps at the chance to match Mass times, language and style of music with what best suits a person’s schedule or interest. Serra involvement sparked his own interest in personal prayer time with the Crosier community, Eastern and Latin Rite Catholics — all contacts he met at Serra meetings.
Quiñonez is a charter member of the West Valley Serra Club alongside his wife, Isabel. Two sisters, a brother, a brother-in-law and a grandson also helped the chapter charter, but have since left due to work conflicts.
Like a true Serran, Quiñonez sees St. Junípero Serra’s motto, “Always forward. Never back,” within the text of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s apostolic exhortation, “Into the Breach.” He listened to the audio version, calling it forward-thinking, especially in its ability for the bishop, several priests and peers to reach young Catholic men and for its share-ability. Two Serrans began a men’s group at St. John Vianney around the same time.
He recommended Catholics regularly review “Into the Breach” to remind men to gently evangelize those around them.
“You gotta do it with love. Otherwise, it just does not get through,” Quiñonez said.
Supporting the Serra Club has further encouraged him to answer St. Paul’s call to pray without ceasing. Quiñonez ’s prayers aren’t just for vocations. They’re intercessions for the dead and for Catholics to get married in the Church. They’re also petitions for his own health and offers of thanksgiving for recent strides.
Quiñonez joined the Serra Club while seeking another resource for prayer. Around the same time, he began to recognize in himself the same symptoms of severe rheumatoid arthritis that killed his mother at age 49.
It still afflicts two of his six younger siblings. Quiñonez couldn’t work for three months because of his own pain. On related sleepless nights, the father of two sons, four grandchildren and seven godchildren turned toward the crucifix on his wall.
“When you know someone who’s suffering, you get to connect with them,” Quiñonez said. “Your prayer becomes stronger. Your faith in God becomes stronger.”
Today, Quiñonez’s health is stronger too. He went from 200 pills per week to 70-80 now, half of which are vitamins. Quiñonez plans to live into his 90s, if not become a centenarian, but rests in God’s divine plan. Until then, he spends his time in prayer and encourages others to do the same.
“You do have that down time. You’re driving? Pray,” Quiñonez recommended. Begin and end the day with a little prayer. Spend part of a lunch break in personal prayer or spiritual reading like the Magnificat.