Serra was founded in 1935 in Seattle, Washington, as a Catholic laymen’s luncheon club for the purpose of furthering Catholicism through association and friendship among Catholic businessmen. It adopted Father Junipero Serra, the heroic eighteenth century missionary of California, as its patron and was soon encouraged by the local bishop to adopt as its primary objective the fostering of vocations to the diocesan priesthood.
Because Serra filled a need, it expanded in four years to five other west coast cities, and at its first convention in 1938 the clubs joined together as Serra International. In 1947, international headquarters was established in Chicago, and the late Cardinal Samuel Stritch was asked to be episcopal advisor.
With the encouragement of Archbishop John Mark Gannon, and under the leadership of E.J. Stinneford and Father James W. Peterson, the Serra Club of Erie organized in January of 1959; applied for a charter in May of that year; was accepted to become club number 193 in June 1959; and received its charter at a dinner at St. Mark Seminary on February 24, 1960.
There are now over 498 Serra Clubs in 46 countries, with over 14,940 members. The objective was expanded to include fostering vocations to the religious life for both men and women, and women have been admitted to membership since 1986.
Though Serra has grown, its objectives have not changed. Serrans believe that through prayer, study and example, they may encourage young men and women to consider whether they are called to a religious vocation. The Serra Chapter in Erie is very attuned to improvement, growth and upholding the standard of excellence set by other Serra clubs throughout the world.