Fourteen years ago, Serra Club of Williamson County member Lloyd Crockett and his wife Elizabeth Crockett attended a Serra International Convention. There he met two Serra Club members from Dallas who told him about an annual fundraiser their club put on for their seminarians.
“It rang a bell with me, and I thought about coming back, (the late) Bishop (David) Choby was now our new bishop, the number of seminarians was growing, so the idea was planted there,” explained Lloyd Crockett, a parishioner of St. Philip the Apostle Church in Franklin, in a video produced by the Diocese of Nashville about supporting seminarian education.
When he came back and started talking about the idea with his fellow Serra Club of Williamson County members, the members of the Nashville Serra Club, and Bishop Choby, it didn’t take long for everyone to get on board.
Bishop Choby “was overjoyed that we could help the diocese financially with a fundraiser,” Lloyd Crockett said.
Thus, the Seminarian Education Dinner was born, raising $6,000 in its first year.
This humble effort has only continued to grow as this year’s Seminarian Education Dinner and Auction, set for 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, at Holy Family Church in Brentwood, hopes to raise $300,000 for the Diocese of Nashville’s Office of Vocations Seminarian Education Fund. The fund helps provide financial support for the 21 men currently in formation for ordination to the priesthood, an annual cost of $75,000 per seminarian.
“I am blessed to be a seminarian for the diocese, and know this is possible through your contributions,” said seminarian Juan Hernandez, who is currently studying at the St. Joseph Seminary College in Saint Benedict, Louisiana. “As a result, I can focus on my formation and studies, something I could not do before due to the lack of resources.
“Before entering seminary, I worked to pay for my two-year degree, which became three years, because I could not afford school in two semesters,” he said. “So, let me tell you all that I do appreciate your help very much, and also, I am grateful for not having to extend my time in formation for this reason.”
The event, which is being put on the by the Office of Vocations and the Office of Stewardship and Development, with the help of the Serra Club and the Knights of Columbus, will include opportunities to meet and interact with the current seminarians, hear from Bishop J. Mark Spalding and Father Luke Wilgenbusch, director of vocations, and enjoy a meal catered by Bacon and Caviar Gourmet Catering.
There will also be a silent auction and, back by popular demand, a live auction. The auctions will include opportunities to bid on items such as vacation homes, artwork, memorabilia from major Nashville sports teams, and more.
The Seminarian Education Dinner and Auction “is an opportunity for the Middle Tennessee community to gather around our seminarians and show our support,” said Jessica Gravagna, special events coordinator for the Office of Stewardship and Development. “It’s important as a community and as a diocese that we show our support to these men who have said ‘yes’ to the call to serve the Lord.”
“The importance of supporting seminarians is that we are giving God a vessel through which he can express his immense love to humanity. He shares his forgiveness through reconciliation, affirmation of love and accompaniment through the anointing of the sick, and unity with us in the Holy Eucharist,” Hernandez added. “Without the priest, all these things are impossible, so, if we think about it, priesthood is God’s gift to us.”
Lloyd Crockett, who, along with his wife is still regularly involved in the effort, said it’s what Serra is all about.
“One of the noblest things men can do is to plant a small tree that one day will give shade to people we will never know,” he said, referencing an old story he loves. “To me, that is what Serra is all about, is the helping to plant the seed in a young man or a young woman to become a priest or religious, and one day to give shade to people. That’s what the role of the priest and religious is all about.
“To support them, monies have to be involved,” Crockett added. “There is a responsibility to support those seminarians and fund their education, and to me this fundraiser that we’re helping the diocese do falls directly into that role.”
Tickets are on sale now at dioceseofnashville.com/seda. The cost is $125 per person and must be purchased by Wednesday, May 10.
There are also sponsorship opportunities available until Monday, May 1.
As of Monday, April 17, sponsors include Mary, Queen of Angels Assisted Living Facility, Villa Maria Manor, Mark Le Clair of State Farm, Copy Solutions, Don and Sue Stacy of Nashville Realty Group, Athens Distributing Company, and the Crocketts.
“We are still very passionate and very excited for it every year,” said Elizabeth Crockett, who has also been vital in helping obtain donations for this year’s auctions.
They support seminarians “for our children, our grandchildren,” she added. “We want them to have what we’ve had. A beautiful church, beautiful priests to be there for us. … This is our Church.”
To become a sponsor, visit https://e.givesmart.com/events/vxv/.
For more information, email email@example.com.
“If this is your 14th year coming, we’re grateful for your loyalty and steadfast support,” Gravagna said. “If this is your first year to attend, we welcome you with open arms and are excited for you to join us.”