A night of good food, fellowship, and fun at the Seminarian Education Dinner and Auction on Tuesday, May 23, at Holy Family Church in Brentwood, resulted in a peak year for the event in its 14th year.
As of Wednesday, June 7, the net total raised from the evening is $325,000. Upon receiving a matching grant, the net total should rise to $350,000, far exceeding the original goal of $300,000, said Ashley Linville, director of the Office of Stewardship and Development.
This total is equivalent to support more than four seminarians for one year, as their formation has an annual cost of $75,000 per seminarian.
“I’m speechless,” Linville said of the number. “I was blown away by the generosity of everyone, and I think people are excited about our vocations program.”
The fact that this year alone saw 12 men ordained to the permanent diaconate, one man ordained to the transitional diaconate as the final step of formation on his journey for the priesthood, and two men ordained to the priesthood, “I think brings a lot of excitement” he added. “And when you look at the quality of the people that are being ordained as deacons and priests, that says a lot about the future of the Church.”
Linville noted the success of the dinner itself, which attracted more than 600 people, as they had the opportunity to interact with the seminarians and priests of the diocese.
“The dinner was truly amazing. We had such a good group of supporters there, and it was definitely a full house,” he said. “It seemed like there were a lot of people excited to be there.”
“It was great to see our seminarians in attendance because I think they’re who most everybody is there to see. They were there to support those young men,” Linville said. “I think they enjoyed seeing our priests, too, because they represent who we hope our seminarians will one day become.”
This year was the first dinner since 2019 to be held at Holy Family, where the dinner started 14 years ago, as well as the first since 2019 to bring back the live auction portion of the event.
“I think there were a lot of people who haven’t attended since 2019, and we had a lot of new attendees as well,” Linville said.
“I was amazed at how popular some of those auction items were,” he continued, noting that the live auction item of Bourbon and Burgers with Bishop J. Mark Spalding, brought in $44,000 alone after four different groups paid $11,000 apiece to have their own meal with the Diocese of Nashville’s shepherd.
“Then, to have 206 Tours be so generous to offer two pilgrimages, which helped us raise an additional $10,000, we’re just so grateful,” Linville said. “They were one of our new sponsors this year, and we so appreciate their sponsorship.
“To have them be a part of our dinner is exciting because they’re a company that supports the faith, and their business is built around the faith and taking people on these pilgrimages,” he said. “And we had so many other generous sponsors and donors. The event would not have been as successful as it was without everyone’s generosity.”
Linville also noted that the success of the evening was thanks to Jessica Gravagna, special events coordinator, who worked with the Office of Vocations to put on the event.
“Jessica really did an excellent job of coordinating everything and all the different groups and bringing everyone together,” he said. Plus, the Serra Clubs of Nashville and Williamson County, as well as the Knights of Columbus, “were instrumental in making the night run smoothly.”
And it was all topped off by Director of Vocations Father Luke Wilgenbusch’s talk at the end of the night.
“He did a tremendous job talking about the need for supporting our seminarians,” Linville said.
That need for support will be even bigger in the coming year, as Father Wilgenbusch announced during the dinner that, thus far, 10 men are in the application process for priestly formation, which would bring the total to 29 men in formation for the 2023-2024 year.
“I don’t recruit. We can’t recruit. It is only God who calls,” Father Wilgenbusch told the crowd the night of the dinner. “All we can do is foster a culture of vocations to make sure that every young man in this diocese can hear when the Lord calls him, and that involves each and every one of us.
“How blessed are we to be in a place where a young man knows how to reach out to a priest, how to ask a question, and be open to God’s call?” he said. “This is not happening everywhere in the world today. That’s not happening everywhere in this country today. We live in a blessed diocese, and you are all part of that.”