‘They say that home is somewhere that if you knock on the door, they have to let you in,’ the Very Rev Dr Cameron Forbes said to those gathered at Corpus Christi College (the Catholic seminary for Victoria and Tasmania) on the evening of Wednesday 8 May.

‘You’ve knocked on our door tonight and we’ve very gladly let you in,’ he said, adding that they had also ‘let in 10 new seminarians at the beginning of the year’.

Fr Forbes, Rector of the college, was speaking to about 85 dinner guests who had come together for the official launch of the Archbishop’s Dinner, the main fundraising and social event organised each year by the Knights of the Southern Cross for their Priests Support and Education Fund.

‘As it turns out,’ Fr Forbes said, ‘there are 10 rooms in the first-year block. So the only problem that a rector and a staff want to have is to not have enough rooms in the seminary for first year. So we thank you so much for the work that is done here amongst you all to promote general vocations, and your generosity.’

Describing the Archbishop’s Dinner as ‘a very proud venture that’s raised a lot of money and been going for many years’, Fr Forbes thanked the Knights of the Southern Cross and their supporters.

‘The staff and the students here tonight, and myself included, are so grateful for everything you do for us,’ he said. ‘Many of the seminarians have commented before how affirming this evening and the dinner itself and your support is for their and our vocations as well. So thank you very much for that.’

The only problem that a rector and a staff want to have is to not have enough rooms in the seminary for first year.

Before dinner, guests gathered at a 6pm service of evening prayer, of Solemn Vespers, in the seminary chapel, led by Vice Rector Fr Brian Nichols, before making their way to the dining room for dinner and the official launch.

The Archbishop’s Dinner—which over the years has raised in excess of $1.5 million to support seminarians—will take place this year on Friday 30 August at Moonee Valley Racing Club and will feature guest speaker and prominent palliative care physician Associate Professor Natasha Michael, who was also at the launch dinner.

Following the main course, Fr Forbes introduced Carmine Miranda, chairman of the fund committee, describing him as ‘someone who is larger than life in so many wonderful ways and a most dedicated servant of this wonderful occasion and event’.

After thanking Fr Forbes and the staff and seminarians for hosting the launch dinner, Mr Miranda paid tribute to the generosity of the many sponsors who make the Archbishop’s Dinner possible each year, pointing out that even when the dinner could not be held for two years during the COVID pandemic, the Knights of the Southern Cross were still able to pass a cheque for $60,000 on to the Archbishop to support seminarians, thanks to the generosity of the Knights’ sponsors.

The 2023 Archbishop’s Dinner attracted 450 dinner guests and raised $77,000 for seminarians.

Mr Miranda encouraged the assembled dinner guests to assist in the task of finding more sponsors to support the dinner—‘a great cause’—as cost pressures contribute to rising expenses for the dinner.

After thanking Prof Michael for agreeing to be the guest speaker in August and for her presence at the launch, Mr Miranda hinted that, after last year’s appearance by Carlton footballer Matt Kennedy, the Archbishop’s Dinner this year would also feature an appearance by a prominent racing identity, although he couldn’t ‘mention any names yet’.

The 2023 dinner, which featured Fr Forbes as guest speaker, attracted 450 dinner guests and raised $77,000 for seminarians, Mr Miranda said, following up on their record of $87,000 raised in 2022, at the first dinner after the COVID lockdowns.

Mr Miranda concluded by introducing and thanking each member of the fund committee, whom he described as ‘the best committee in the Knights’.

Usually at the launch of the Archbishop’s Dinner, bursaries are presented to two seminarians on behalf of the fund and long-time fund patrons and sponsors John and Barbara Ralph, with the bursaries enabling the recipients to travel to the Holy Land as part of their formation. This year, however, the awarding of the bursaries were suspended.

‘At this point of the dinner, there’s normally a great drum roll and there’s a great surprise because two seminarians find out that they’re going to the Holy Land,’ Fr Forbes said, explaining that the two seminarians who were awarded bursaries last year have been unable to make the trip because of the events of 7 October last year.

While those recipients are still waiting, Fr Forbes said, ‘God hears our prayers, so we pray very much for peace in the Holy Land, a special place for all of us and our faith.’

It’s been a great honour to invite you into our home this evening.

Fr Forbes finished by thanking the assembled guests ‘for keeping us all very much in your prayers and for nurturing vocations and supporting our seminarians. Please be assured of our prayers for you all as well. It’s been a great honour to invite you into our home this evening.’

The evening concluded with dessert and coffee provided by the seminarians and staff.

The Knights of the Southern Cross Victoria would like to extend an invitation to the Catholic faithful throughout Victoria to attend the 2024 KSCV Archbishop’s Dinner for the Priests Support and Education Fund, to be held at Moonee Valley Racecourse on Friday 30 August, commencing at 7pm.

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of the Archbishop’s Dinner, please contact Nadia Bolzonello.

All photos by Andrew Vaccaro, courtesy of Knights of the Southern Cross Victoria, unless otherwise indicated.