Fr. Donlon Vocations Dinner cooks up $2.5 million in 27 years for seminarians
WICHITA FALLS — This year marks the 27th year for the Father Donlon Memorial Vocations Dinner in Wichita Falls, and Knights of Columbus Council 1473, along with the city’s Catholic community, continues to show tremendous support for vocations in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
“I have written in every letter [about this dinner] that we’ve been investing in the future of our diocese,” said Mike Brown, chairman of the dinner since its inception in 1992.
“Look where we’re at today. You all have raised more than $2.5 million. I have written over 800 checks to different seminarians,” said Brown, who is a trustee of Knights of Columbus Council 1473, based out of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Wichita Falls.
The Feb. 17 dinner, like others over the years, was sponsored by Council 1473 and raised money during a live and silent auction as well as through a raffle. Members of the community donate auction items such as antique rosaries, art, quilts, a cruise, and a trip to Las Vegas. Fundraising for the Father Donlon Vocations Dinner also takes place throughout the year by members of the council and at another event called Harvest Moon.
“We come every year,” said Judy Malone who sponsored a table at the dinner with her husband Michael. “We think the event is wonderful in raising money for the seminarians,” she said.
Malone called the support the event gives seminarians “priceless” and talked about Brown’s dedication to the event.
“He started it with Fr. Donlon, but after Fr. Donlon passed, he does it in honor of Fr. Donlon. He works very hard at it,” she said.
In 1991, Irish priest Fr. Aidan Donlon, SAC, and his good friend Father Severius Blank, former pastor of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Burkburnett, told the members of Council 1473 they should think about doing more for vocations.
Fr. Donlon served 31 years as chaplain of Bethania Hospital in Wichita Falls, now known as United Regional Health Care Center. He also served as the council’s chaplain from 1980 until his death in January 2009. Fr. Blank died in January 2011.
In its first year, 1992, the dinner raised $3,822 for vocations in the diocese and the amount they have raised each year has increased. This year they raised $142,000, which brings the total of 27 years to more than $2.5 million.
When Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth Michael Olson attended the dinner in 2014, he said that he attended the very first Fr. Donlon dinner as a seminarian. Brown said Olson was one of the seven seminarians in the diocese at the time.
This year the diocese has 26 seminarians.
“We thank you all for your generosity for the seminarians and all your help for us in the Vocations Office,” said Father Keith Hathaway, one of the diocese’s vocations liaisons and chaplain for Notre Dame Catholic School in Wichita Falls. “Promoting and fostering vocations is really the work of the entire Church. All of us who respond to God’s call to holiness must pray for priests and pray for seminarians.
“So, thank you for your financial support but please also pray for seminarians and pray for them by name,” Fr. Hathaway said. “Think of young men in your families, schools and parishes who will make good priests, and when you pray, pray for them to be a priest. Pray that God will give them that vocation — that gift of a calling and the grace to respond to it.”