NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nashville is mourning the loss of beloved former priest, Fr. Charles Strobel, who had a special heart for those experiencing homelessness. Through his organization, Room In The Inn, his legacy expands well beyond parish doors. 

“Since 2005, he has been in a pastoral role, but how he saw that was being with people on their hardest days, so it was sitting down eating with people, making sure that everybody that walked in the door, every evening they were here, he came every single night to welcome them,” Executive Director of Room In The Inn Rachel Hester said.  

The Nashville native attended Father Ryan High School and went on to become a priest, with a special heart for the unhoused. He received his sacraments and said his first Mass at Assumption in Germantown, and later became the pastor at Holy Rosary and Holy Name. That is until 1987, when he went to lead his organization, Room In The Inn, full time. 

“He started Room In The Inn in 1985 when he was a priest in East Nashville,” Hester explained. “He was sleeping in his church rectory, got cold, he couldn’t allow people to sleep in their church parking lot cold, and so his conscious had him bring them in for the night, and he knew when he did that they would stay the rest of his life, and they did.” 

He gave them each a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and those efforts eventually turned into a ministry that now serves 200-400 people daily while providing shelters at churches across the city. 

Perhaps one of Strobel’s greatest marks of mercy was forgiving a man who killed his mother, even advocating against the death penalty in his case.   

“He told every person who walked through our doors that there’s goodness in them and wanted to remind them of that every single day,” Hester explained. “And his feelings about the death penalty didn’t start with his mother’s murder, they started long before that when he asked her what she thought about the death penalty, and she said, ‘Well, I wouldn’t want it to happen to you.’” 

As Strobel passes his torch onto Hester, she remembers him not only as a colleague, but a mentor and friend.   

“We all need somebody in our life who’s going to tell us what we don’t want to hear, who’s going to help us, who’s going to be our person, who’s going to be our first call, and he was always my first call and he was my last call on Friday night, and then he passed away Saturday evening,” she said.  

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The public is invited to attend Strobel’s Celebration of Life at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 11 at First Horizon Park.  

In lieu of flowers, loved ones ask that you consider donating to the Charles Strobel Housing Fund.