The seminarians of the Diocese of Nashville were the main event during the Serra Club of Williamson County’s monthly meeting Thursday, Aug. 4, at the St. Philip the Apostle Church Community Center in Franklin.
For the second year, the Serra Club hosted a dinner for the seminarians, of which 14 of the 21 attended, as a final send-off before they begin their new year of studies. But it’s only the most recent way the group has shown their support for the seminarians and their education.
The Serra Club of Williamson County, chartered in November 2004, was responsible for the first Seminarian Education Dinner in 2009. Charter member Lloyd Crockett got the idea from the Serra Club of Dallas, which had a similar event to support its local seminary.
After receiving permission to move forward with the event from the late Bishop David Choby, the first dinner was held at the Fleming Center at the Cathedral of the Incarnation where they learned a big lesson right away.
“We were flying by the seat of our pants. We didn’t know what we were doing, so we just thought we’d have a cocktail party and stand up. The people didn’t want that at all,” Crockett said. “They wanted to sit down at those tables and meet those seminarians and get to know them. They wanted to get to know the future priests of this diocese. So, we spent half the night bringing out more tables and more chairs, but we learned from that.”
That first year, the Serra Club raised $6,000 for seminarian education.
As the years went on, they continued to raise more and more money, and eventually the event grew to be so big that it has become an annual diocesan-wide event.
“God has blessed it. Bishop Choby was so supportive and endorsed us, and Bishop (J. Mark) Spalding fell right in line after Bishop Choby died. We feel very supported by the diocese and look at what we’ve done,” Crockett said. “We have numbers in the seminary in this little mission diocese that metropolitan dioceses and archdioceses don’t have, and we do it because of our leadership, because of our bishops, and because of their dedication to supporting and praying for and recruiting seminarians.
“What better way is there to support the Church than encouraging, praying for and supporting vocations to the priesthood,” he asked. “Without the priests, we have no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, we have no Church. It’s just that simple.”
The seminarians said they appreciate the support, both spiritually and financially, that they’ve received from the Serra Club.
“Knowing that there are people who support me, above all spiritually with their prayers, but also financially, makes me free to listen to God’s voice and prepare myself the best way possible to become a good shepherd to His people,” said seminarian William Rocha of Brazil, who is entering his propaedeutic, or introductory, year. “Sometimes when we don’t have that, we let the problems of the world block and slow us down on the plans God has for us, so I am more than grateful to have the Serra Club in our lives. I’m looking forward to starting to receive the cards saying they’re praying for me.”
Those cards are just another way the Serra Club supports the seminarians. Along with the financial support, throughout the academic year, members of the Serra Club commit to praying an hour of adoration a month for a seminarian. Afterwards, a card is sent to the seminarian letting them know of that offering. It’s something seminarian James Grossheim said he really appreciates.
“It’s really wonderful because, during the year, sometimes there are really hard moments, and it’s great to have the support of the Serra Club behind us, supporting us in prayer and really just encouraging us,” Grossheim said, who will be entering Theology One at Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology in New Orleans, Louisiana. “It’s always the hard days when you open the mailbox and you find a little card from the Serra Club that says, ‘We’re praying for you,’ and it’s really uplifting.”
“Of all the written responses we get back from the seminarians, most are because of that card,” Crockett said. “That’s God’s plan to tell them that people back home are praying for them. God truly works in mysterious ways.”
During the meeting, the Serra Club acknowledged several special guests who have been part of the support of seminarians over the years, including Msgr. Owen Campion and Bill Whalen, diocesan chief financial officer, to whom they presented an award for his support of the Seminarian Education Dinner and Auction.
For more information about the Serra Club of Williamson County, visit the Serra Club of Williamson County Facebook page. There also is a Serra Club chapter in Nashville. For more information about the Nashville chapter, visit www.nashvilleserra.org.
For more about diocesan vocations, visit nashvocations.org.