When Charles and Erica Page were students at Vanderbilt University, Charles was exploring the Catholic faith and the possibility of converting.
“I was pretty anti-Catholic,” Erica recalled.
But through their involvement with the campus ministry Vandy Catholic, which later became University Catholic, and their friendship with the chaplain, Father John Sims Baker, they both found their way to the Catholic faith.
The community they found in the campus ministry helped nurture their faith. “It was great to have people support you in your faith and share your faith and core values,” Erica said.
The Pages are just two of the many college students in Nashville who have had their faith strengthened and their lives impacted through their involvement with University Catholic. They are enthusiastically supporting the gala to celebrate the 15th anniversary of University Catholic on Saturday, April 10, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation’s Fleming Center. The evening will begin with Mass at the Cathedral with Bishop J. Mark Spalding at 5 p.m., followed by a cocktail social at 6:15 p.m. and the gala dinner and presentation at 7 p.m.
“We would hope it would be at least as beneficial for today’s college students as it was for us,” Charles said of University Catholic. “It is a place for one to grow in their faith and see their vocation very clearly.”
University Catholic “did such a good job of presenting the truth and making it attractive and supporting us while we were there,” Erica added.
Growing up in Alabama, Charles said, he was struck by the divisions among the Christian denominations, despite St. Paul’s urging in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.”
When he got to Vanderbilt, he decided, “Let’s just see what the Catholic Church has to say about all these things.”
That’s when he met Father Baker. “He was really rejuvenating the Catholic community on campus,” Charles said. “His little sparks really set off a wildfire.”
Father Baker was also instrumental in Charles’ conversion. “You could tell he was really in love with Jesus, and that was really attractive to someone who was just learning to be in love with Jesus,” Charles said.
He entered the Church on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2007.
Erica wasn’t yet ready to follow him into the Church. “I was pretty convinced that Charles would convert to Catholicism and would realize it was a dead, man-made institution,” she said. “That didn’t happen. That piqued my interest.”
She started attending Mass with Charles. “I was struck by how beautiful it was,” Erica said. “It was the way Father Baker said Mass. He said it so reverently.”
Erica became more involved with Vandy Catholic, going through the RCIA program and entering the Church at the Easter Vigil in 2009.
A year later, Vandy Catholic and the Frassati House next to the Cathedral where it is headquartered, became an even more important part of the Pages’ personal story. During a gathering to celebrate several students entering the Church at the Easter Vigil in 2010, Charles found an excuse to invite Erica to the chapel at the Frassati House. There he proposed.
They were married later that year at St. Henry Church with Father Baker the celebrant. The Pages and their three daughters, Natalie, 9, Eleanor, 7, and Judith 5, still live in the Nashville area and are parishioners at St. Mary’s Church in downtown Nashville.
Dr. Kwame Frimpong also found a supportive community at University Catholic during his journey to the Catholic faith.
As a student at a Canadian college, Frimpong said, “I decided Catholicism was the truest faith based on reading the Church Fathers.”
As a student at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Frimpong joined the RCIA program at the Cathedral, and came into the Church in 2013. Along the way, he was introduced to University Catholic.
While converting to Catholicism, he met his wife, Mallory, a fellow medical student at Meharry. As a cradle Catholic, she was looking for other Catholics trying to live the faith every day, Frimpong said.
“Once she met me and got exposed to University Catholic, she realized there were a whole group of people out there trying to live their faith.”
Father Baker, and later Father Michael Fye, his successor as the University Catholic chaplain, played important roles in Frimpong’s conversion, he said. “My faith just kind of blew up,” he said. “It was life changing.”
Dr. Frimpong and his wife are both primary care physicians in Clarksville and parishioners at Immaculate Conception Church there. They both found a supportive community at University Catholic that strengthened their faith. “We all lift each other up as we go through this pilgrimage on earth,” he said.
Supporting University Catholic is important, Erica Page said.
“The work they do at University Catholic is very necessary right now because they do such a good job of presenting the truth to college students that they don’t get anywhere else,” she said. “Nashville would be such a different place if this apostolate wasn’t there. It’s important to keep supporting them.”
The gala will showcase the impact University Catholic has had and continues to play in the lives of college students, as well as pay tribute to each of the three priests who have served as chaplain of the college ministry: Father Baker (2006-2016), currently pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Murfreesboro; Father Fye (2015-2019), currently pastor of St. Ann Church in Nashville; and Father Gervan Menezes (2019-present).
Tickets for the gala are available at universitycatholic.org/gala.