How do you say “We love you” to 100 Sacred Heart seminarians? How about baking each one of them a bag of cookies for Valentine’s Day?This sweet idea came to Bob Barrett about three years ago. At the time, Mr. Barrett was past president of the Detroit-Oakland Serra Club, whose members pray for and work for an increase in vocations to the Catholic priesthood and religious life (he is now a Serra International district governor). Mr. Barrett proposed the cookie-making venture to the club members, and they embraced it with joy.
“We wanted to show Sacred Heart’s seminarians that we are thinking of them and supporting them,” says Karen Hejka, a member of the Detroit-Oakland Serra Club and parishioner at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Parish in Royal Oak. “Using the occasion of Valentine’s Day seemed like a great way to show them they are cared for.”
Mrs. Hejka and her husband Tom, daughters Theresa, 13, Angela, 10, and son Scott, 23, adopted the cookie-gifting gesture as a family project, beginning for Valentine’s Day 2015. It works like this: participating club members volunteer to bake four or five dozen cookies each, with some members donating money to support the cause. A few days before Valentine’s Day, volunteers bring their freshly-baked cookies to a club meeting or directly to the Hejka home. The Hejka crew then goes to work—counting and bagging the cookies (usually six cookies to a bag, depending on donation amounts), boxing up the bags, and delivering the crunchy cargo to the seminary.
Seminarians help to unload the bags and distribute them to the rooms of each grateful seminarian. For this Valentine’s Day, seminarian John Carlin organized the cookie distribution, helped by seminarians James Bird and Charles Giroux. Mr. Barrett joined in the delivery effort this year, bringing along Serra Club “Prayers for Vocations” booklets to accompany each bag.
“It feels like it is an honor to do it,” Mrs. Hejka says. “Everybody loves cookies, especially homemade cookies. It’s a labor of love.”
Serra Club members like to kid Theresa and Angela. “‘No sneaking the cookies!’ they joke with the girls,” laughs Mrs. Hejka. “The girls like bagging the cookies—they’re allowed to eat the broken ones.”
With a little help from their mother, Theresa and Angela baked up a batch of s’mores this year for the seminarians. “I like to make the cookies,” Angela says, “because it’s fun.”
Mrs. Hejka hopes the cookie-making ministry will continue to be an annual event for the Detroit-Oakland Serra Club. The club organizes a number of programs throughout the year to support the priesthood. These include daily Eucharistic Adoration for vocations; reaching out to young people, inviting them to consider the priesthood and religious life; sending “Thinking of you” cards to groups of seminarians after each monthly Serra Club meeting, signed by club members; and sponsoring a Desert Meal.
Attendees at a Serra Club Desert Meal enjoy a simple potluck dinner held in the Shrine’s grade school gymnasium and hear a presentation by a Sacred Heart seminarian. Freewill donations generated by the meal help the seminary cover the cost of sending second-year theology seminarians each spring on the Desert Formation Experience, a thirty-day spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Rome. (Consider hosting your own Desert Meal at your parish.)
Mrs. Hejka says the Detroit-Oakland Serra Club is always looking for new members. Learn more about the organization: 313-596-7408, firstname.lastname@example.org, or serraus.org.