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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 2020

For the first time since its inception, the Serra Club of Erie was unable to hold its annual Installation Mass and Dinner at which awards are given to the priest, religious sister, deacon and layperson of the year. The winners are chosen by the board of directors of the Serra Club of Erie and recognized for their achievements at the annual dinner.

The Serra chapter had four worthy recipients this year: Msgr. Dan Arnold, priest of the year; Sister Anne Wambach, OSB, religious sister of the year; Deacon Nick Cirell, deacon of the year; and Tom Guelcher, layperson of the year.

Since the award winners were unable to be recognized at our event this year due to the Covid-19 stay-at-home order and cancellation of the dinner, Dennis Deiner, president of the Serra Club of Erie, and Dave Wayman, VP of communications, met with each winner and gave them their award. The awards also included a donation of $100 from the Serra Club to a charity designated by each recipient.

Msgr. Arnold passed away on March 20th of this year and his award was received by his surviving six siblings who were most grateful to receive it on his behalf. “Our brother loved everything about being a priest,” said Heidi Arnold. “He was also a simple man, preferring to be called by his first name instead of a title, who loved God, his family and his friends, and took great joy in spending time with them. We are thrilled to accept this prestigious honor in his name.”

Msgr. Dan’s family felt that the $100 donation that was included should go to the Erie Diocesan Cursillo Movement, a ministry near and dear to their brother’s heart. He was the diocesan spiritual director for the Cursillo movement since 2011, in addition to his parish assignments and other duties.

Sister Anne Wambach, OSB, was chosen as religious sister of the year because of her leadership as prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie since 2010, as well as her work in education, the arts and music, and the heart she has for inner city youth through her work as executive and program director at the Neighborhood Art House in Erie.

“Sister Anne has been a blessing to our Erie community in many ways,” said Denny Deiner, club president. “She exercises a charism for social justice and meeting the needs of the poor.”

Sister Anne is grateful to her community of sisters who “have called forth the best in me. They have helped me become the religious woman I am today, and I share this honor with them,” she said.

Sister Anne specified that the donation for her award be given to the Inner-City Neighborhood Art House.

Deacon Nick Cirell has an impressive background in the professional services industry and degrees in law and accounting. He has been married to Elise Cirell for 39 years and they have two sons and three grandchildren.

He was ordained a permanent deacon for the diocese of Erie in 2015 and is assigned to St. Michael the Archangel parish in Emlenton. He also has ministerial assignments at the Prince of Peace Center in Farrell and is a member of the Shenango Valley Catholic Schools Board in Hermitage.

Deacon Nick is active in a variety of local and regional charities and is on the core committee involved in planning the 22:32 Catholic Men’s conferences held annually in Erie.

Deacon Nick thanked the Serra Club for the work they do in promoting vocations in the church. “I’m humbled to accept this award, not only for myself, but also for my brother deacons and the whole deaconate program,” he said.

He requested that his award be given to a local organization, Charitable Deeds & Services of Knox, Pennsylvania.

Layperson of the year for 2020 was awarded to someone very familiar to the Serra Club of Erie: board member and club secretary, Tom Guelcher. Tom has been a member of the club for 33 years!

Tom is being recognized not only for his many years of service to the Serra Club of Erie, during which time he was president (1997-98) and held a variety of different positions on the board of directors, but also for his outstanding service to the diocese of Erie and the Erie community at large.

He is currently a board member of Gannon University and Mercyhurst Prep; and a member of the Diocesan Finance Council, Retirement Fund for Religious Committee, Diocesan Investment Committee, Priests Retirement Committee, and Mercy Investment Services Investment Committee. He was a member of the founding boards of both Erie Independence House and Community Resources for Independence and served on both for several years. He also served as a member of the WQLN (PBS) and the Mercy Terrace Apartments boards.

Tom was unanimously chosen to receive the layperson of the year award by the Serra Club of Erie board of directors.

“To me Serra means two things: my spiritual life is at a different level since I became a Serran,” said Tom. “And the other thing is that it is a great place to meet and make new friends. I really appreciate being given this award. But, I think there are a lot of people more deserving of it than me.”

Tom designated that his award donation be given to the Mercy Center for Women.


Top Left: Accepting the award for Msgr. Dan Arnold as priest of the year for 2020 are his siblings, foreground: Heidi Arnold receiving the award from Dennis Deiner, club president; then from left: his sister-in-law Sherry and brother Doug Arnold; sisters Claudia Schneider and Chris Green and his brother, Pat Arnold. Not able to be present for the photo was brother Dennis Arnold and brother-in-law Norm Green. Top Right: Sister Anne Wambach, OSB, is given the Serra Club of Erie’s Religious Sister of the Year award by club president, Dennis Deiner. Bottom Left: Deacon Nick Cirell of the diocese of Erie, is given the Serra Club of Erie’s Deacon of the Year award by club president, Dennis Deiner. Bottom Right: Tom Guelcher, a member of the Serra Club of Erie for 33 years, receives the Layperson of the Year award from club president, Dennis Deiner.


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