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Serra Erie Blog

The word that best describes Saint Junipero Serra is "Zeal". It was a spirit that came from his deep prayer and dauntless will.

Annual Award Winners 2021

The Serra Club of Erie held their annual Installation Mass and Dinner on Tuesday June 8th. The evening began with a Mass Celebrated by our Chaplains Father Michael Kesicki and Father Scott Jabo along with, this year’s Priest of the Year, Father Rich Toohey.

The rest of the event took place in the Yehl Room at Gannon University. Fr. Michael Kesicki offered the opening prayer followed by a buffet-style dinner served by The Gannon Food Service Staff.

The event provided participants the opportunity to enjoy the presentation of annual awards, the installation of new serra members, the voting in of the serra board, and the celebration of milestone years of service by long-standing members of the Serra Club of Erie.

The following award recipients were honored this year: Father Rich Toohey, priest of the year; Sister Patricia Whalen, RSM, religious sister of the year; Deacon Jerome Sobrowski, deacon of the year; and June Klins, layperson of the year. On behalf of the Serra Board, Dave Wayman, VP of Communications, introduced each of the winners and presented them with their awards.

Priest of the Year – Father Rich Toohey

Father Rich Toohey was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Erie in 2001 and has been assigned to Our Lady of Peace Parish since 2017. Our Lady of Peace Parish was nominated for the National Parish Excellence Award and was awarded first-place for Adult Faith Formation via Technology. The organizers stated that Father Toohey and his staff did an amazing job creating videos to engage the parish. The award presentation concluded with a testament to the amazing job Father Toohey did in letting the parishioners know they were valued and loved.

Religious of the Year – Sister Patricia Whalen

Sister Patricia Whalen, a Sister of Mercy, will celebrate her 60th Jubilee in 2022. She taught elementary school in Erie Catholic Schools and taught in the Education Department of Mercyhurst College. She supervised the Cadet Teacher Program from 1970 through the conclusion of the program in 1999. She held the positions of Assistant Academic Dean for 3 years and Registrar for 19 years at Mercyhurst College. She has also served on numerous boards and committees for the Sisters of Mercy Ministries. She is always an energetic and humble servant of the people of God.

Deacon of the Year – Jerome Sobrowski

Jerome is held in high esteem for his friendly and reliable personality and his ability to be a great communicator. Father Gerry Koos, of Our Lady of Sorrows, speaks highly of him as does Deacon Denis Coan who noted his leadership skills within the deacon community and his long and outstanding service to the Erie Diocese. Jerome heads the Board of Deacons in an advisory role, has a military background and an outstanding career as an engineer with Lord Corporation.

Layperson of the Year – June Klins

June Klins, previously a teacher, answered the request of Joan Wieszczyk and the call of God to fulfill the role of editing and publishing the Spirit of Medjugorje Newsletter. June agreed, in 2002, to take on the challenging task of writing, editing, laying out, printing, and bulk mailing approximately 5,000 copies of this eight-page newsletter. June spends countless hours praying and discerning as to the miracles of Medjugorje that she is called to publish each month. She has never once missed publishing an issue. June is spirit-filled and amazing in her tireless work on this project.

Each award winner received a $200 donation made by the Serra Club of Erie to the charity of their choice. The names of the charities chosen are listed below in bold and when clicked on will take you to the website for each charity.

The St. Martin Center was the charity that Fr. Rich Toohey supported, Sr. Patricia Whalen remembered the House of Mercy with her award, Deacon Jerome Sobrowski designated his award to St. Patrick's Haven, and Mary Mission, Inc. is chosen to receive the award given to June Klins.


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