DETROIT — How do you say “We love you” to more than 100 seminarians? How about baking each one of them a bag of cookies for Valentine’s Day?

This sweet idea came to Bob Barrett five years ago. Barrett, 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, proposed the cookie-making venture to the club members, who embraced it joyfully as a way to care for Detroit's future priests at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

“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 Basilica in Royal Oak. “Using the occasion of Valentine’s Day seemed like a great way to show them they are cared for.”

Hejka and her husband Tom, daughters Theresa, Angela, and son Scott, adopted the cookie-gifting gesture as a family project, beginning with Valentine’s Day 2015. 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 happy seminarian. 

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,” 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,” laughed 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.”

Hejka is pleased the cookie-making ministry has continued 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 at the Shrine’s grade school gymnasium and hear a presentation by a Sacred Heart seminarian. Free-will 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. 

The Detroit-Oakland Serra Club is always looking for new members. Learn more about the organization: 313-596-7408, scholler.tom@aod.org, or serraus.org. This article was contributed by Tom Scholler, associate director of development and stewardship for the Archdiocese of Detroit and a member of the Detroit-Oakland Serra Club.