Seminarian Education fundraiser rescheduled as virtual event

Each year, the Seminarian Education Dinner and Auction is one of the biggest and most important fundraisers held in the Diocese of Nashville, typically drawing more than 600 people and generating more than $300,000 to help pay for the formation of the diocese’s future priests.

But the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing restrictions that followed have forced organizers to adopt a new plan.

The 11th annual Seminarian Education Event and Auction will move online as a virtual event at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 28.

“We’re excited to still be able to have this event and we’re eager to see how it comes across as a virtual event because we’ve never done this before,” said Ashley Linville, diocesan stewardship director.

The dinner and auction were originally scheduled for May 19 at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville. “It’s typically been an event that’s sold out and completely packed,” Linville said.

The event had to be moved online because of the pandemic. “We still want people to participate in a safe manner, and we felt this was the best way to do it,” Linville said.

An online auction will open a few days before the event, he added.

The evening of July 28 will include a livestreamed Mass and presentations from Bishop J. Mark Spalding; the diocesan Director of Vocations Father Austin Gilstrap; one of the diocese’s current seminarians; Father Mark Simpson, who was ordained in 2019; and transitional Deacon Javier Suarez who will be ordained as a priest on Aug. 15.

“We’ll also highlight our seminarians and of course our sponsors who have been part of the event,” Linville said. “It’s encouraging to see sponsors continue to support our seminarians. We’ve even picked up some new sponsors.”

The Serra Clubs of Williamson County and Nashville and the Knights of Columbus have once again taken the lead in organizing the event.

A mailing with more information about the event will be sent to the people of the diocese in mid- to late June, and a website will be set up where people can get more information, Linville said. Organizers also plan to spread the word about the event through e-mail and social media.

During the event, people will be asked to make a donation to support the education of the diocese’s seminarians.

“The money is completely tax deductible, whereas if there were a dinner, it wouldn’t be 100 percent tax deductible,” Linville said.

The 2019 event raised $325,000 for seminarian education, which costs the diocese a total of about $1.4 million a year.

“We’ve had a strong seminarian program for the last 10-plus years. Bishop Spalding is committed to its continued growth,” Linville said.