David Lee, a seminarian for the Diocese of Nashville, has felt the support of the people of the diocese even as he prepares for the priesthood half a world away in Rome.
“As seminarians, our journey to the priesthood is undertaken with love and support from our family and friends. It is the thought of serving the people of Nashville that inspires me to persevere on the tougher days of seminary formation,” said Lee, who is in his second year of studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. “The support from the people of the Diocese of Nashville has been incredible. Even in Rome, I continue to receive prayer cards and care packages from people back home. It is very encouraging to know of all of the prayers and support for our seminarians.”
That support will be on display at the 13th annual Seminarian Education Dinner, 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville.
Lee’s opportunity to study in Rome is a gift made possible because of the Diocese of Nashville’s Office of Vocations’ Seminarian Education Fund, which helps provide financial support for Lee and the other 19 men currently in formation for ordination to the priesthood, an annual cost of $75,000 per seminarian.
“It is an amazing gift to be able to be devoted full-time to the study of theology,” said Lee.
“Intellectual formation is a significant part of my time in seminary, and I have loved the opportunity to learn the faith of the Church and to learn how to think with the Church,” Lee said. “Theology has ultimately led me to a deeper and more personal encounter with Christ and has changed the way I view the world.”
“The opportunity to study in Rome has also been a great grace,” he added. “You are given a deep awareness of the history and beauty of the faith while studying in a city where so many saints have lived and died in service to God. One of the great joys of studying so far has been thinking about how I can bring what I learn here in Rome to the people of God back in Nashville.”
“From my own experiences in seminary and after hearing the experiences of other seminarians, the Diocese of Nashville is one of the more generous dioceses in supporting their seminarians financially,” Lee said. “The value of this gift cannot be underestimated.”
The Office of Vocations and the Office of Stewardship and Development, with the help of the Serra Club and the Knights of Columbus, are working to raise $225,000 at the Seminarian Education Dinner to add to the diocese’s Seminarian Education Fund so that gift can continue for the next generation of priests.
“It’s so powerful to gather together in person and what better cause than supporting our future priests here in the Diocese of Nashville,” said Jessica Gravagna, diocesan special events coordinator. “I would love for people to leave the event thinking, ‘I didn’t know that about our Office of Vocations, I so enjoyed speaking with that seminarian, and I hope I win that auction item I placed that bid on, what a fun evening.’”
And the sense of celebration will be even bigger knowing it’s the first time the event has been in-person since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our seminarians are really excited to be together and after two years of having to go virtual, I think there is a lot of excitement in having everybody together again,” said Ashley Linville, director of the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. “I think the seminarians have missed interacting with the larger public, and the people who usually attend the dinner miss interacting with the seminarians.”
Lee, a former student of Overbrook School, said he is disappointed that he won’t be able to be in Nashville to attend the dinner, but hopes for its success.
“I hope that the dinner will be a chance for the people of Nashville to see the work that God is accomplishing in the diocese. It is an exciting time for the Catholic Church in Nashville,” Lee said. “The city is growing, and we have the wonderful responsibility of welcoming and serving all of the Catholics that move to this amazing diocese.
“We have a great group of seminarians,” Lee said, “and I hope that everyone will be able to see our appreciation for their support as we continue to discern God’s will.”
Along with dinner catered by the Clean Plate Club, and remarks by Bishop J. Mark Spalding and the Office of Vocation staff, the event will also include an in-person silent auction the evening of the event as well as a virtual auction May 21-25, which will feature items such as unique pieces of art, photography sessions, vacation packages, dinner with Bishop Spalding and Nashville Predators President and Chief Executive Officer Sean Henry, “A Day in Rome with Father Luke Wilgenbusch” and more.
To register for the auction, visit dioceseofnashville.com/seda.
Tickets for the dinner are $125 per person and available at dioceseofnashville.com/seda.