Bishop dons chef’s hat for St. Ambrose benefit Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Joan Carey, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008 -- 1:00 AM
You are invited
Second Annual St. Ambrose Christmas Dinner with the Bishop Benefit Dinner & Silent Auction
• Friday, December 19, 2008
6 p.m. Cocktail Hour & Silent Auction
• 7:30 p.m. Dinner prepared by Bishop Morlino and St. Ambrose students
• $75/plate, table of six for $400, or table of seven for $450
$50 of the $75 cost is tax-deductible
• At Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center
702 South High Point Road, Madison, WI
• RSVP by December 12, 2008, to St. Ambrose Academy, 827-5863, or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Auction items will appear at after December 12 for early bidding by those who cannot attend.
MADISON -- St. Ambrose Academy is busily preparing for its biggest fundraiser of the year, a gala Christmas celebration with Bishop Robert C. Morlino, including a festive gourmet dinner and silent auction.

“St. Ambrose Academy continues to do outstanding work in the academic, spiritual, and personal formation of young people,” said Bishop Morlino.

“This event offers us a great opportunity not only to support an excellent, young, Catholic institution, but also to come together to celebrate a great Saint of the Church, and to cheer on some future saints. I welcome all of you to join us for what promises to be another great evening with the ‘chefs’ of St. Ambrose!”

Authentic Italian dinner

This year the bishop will cook one of his favorite entrées, Pork Calabrese, accompanied by several authentic Italian courses.

“We had a wonderful time last year,” said St. Thomas Aquinas parishioner Barbara Harrington, one of the 250 supporters who sold out the dining hall in 2007. “By attending again in 2008, my husband and I are giving a wonderful Christmas gift to ourselves.”

This year the benefit is moving to the O’Connor Center, a larger venue. Guests will enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as they browse through and bid on hundreds of auction items, followed by an elegant dinner served in a beautiful holiday atmosphere, with Christmas carolers regaling guests throughout the evening.

Silent auction

The silent auction offers an opportunity for guests to wrap up their Christmas shopping in a relaxed atmosphere as they bid on a wide variety of auction items at bargain prices.

Auction donations are already beginning to pour in, including original works of art, handicrafts, hand-crafted cabinetry and stained glass, sports memorabilia, spa baskets, gift certificates, household items, gifts for the kids, and vacation home opportunities in the Rockies and at Lake Palmyra.

The benefit dinner is also an opportunity for businesses to share in the fun and the spotlight. “If you donate an item to the auction, your business card will be included in the catalog, which will be distributed to hundreds of people the night of the dinner and viewable online,” said Bridget Yallaly, St. Ambrose coordinator of development.

“Or you can sponsor a table, and your logo will appear on the table card. We strongly encourage our attendees to patronize our donors.”

Those interested in donating a tax-deductible gift or experience or service to the auction are invited to contact the school as soon as possible.

‘John Paul II’s kids’

The dinner draws attention to the many benefits of Catholic education, which at St. Ambrose includes a strong commitment to high-quality classical education and formation in the faith.

“The Holy Father has spoken of the responsibility all Catholics share to make Catholic education possible for all,” Yallaly pointed out. “The benefit dinner is a great opportunity for the community to meet an enormous need while having a lot of fun. We want everyone who desires solid Catholic education to be able to afford St. Ambrose Academy.”

Tuition at St. Ambrose is significantly lower than the national average for Catholic high schools, but still it supplies only a third of the school’s budget. For the rest, Yallaly noted, the school relies on donors, since close to half of St. Ambrose students receive financial assistance. “People who want to make a positive difference in the world can do so here at St. Ambrose,” Yallaly said.

George Larscheid is one such person; a daily communicant at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, he sees the St. Ambrose students every morning at Mass. “As sacristan, I come early to set up Mass. I see teachers and students taking the time voluntarily to visit the chapel and pray before starting their day. It’s so inspiring!” Larscheid said.

“The kids at St. Ambrose are well behaved and well mannered, and they dress so respectfully. It’s impressive to see them come into the sanctuary so reverently, and when they serve and cantor at Mass they show so much poise. This is the future of the Church, right here. These are John Paul II kids,” he said.

A good investment

A retired businessman, Larscheid believes that people seeking a good investment need look no further than St. Ambrose. “These are the kids who will set the pace. We need to get people in here to see how wonderful this place is!

“This kind of education should be not only for the rich kids, but for all. The parents of these kids are making huge sacrifices, and of course St. Ambrose hasn’t been around long enough to have an alumni sending lots of cash back, so the rest of us have to take responsibility to support this school. It needs sources of financial backing!

“I was the corporate manager of a huge company, and St. Ambrose gives me a chance to return what I’ve received,” he said.

St. Ambrose wouldn’t exist without the generous support of people like Larscheid and the broader St. Thomas Aquinas community and its pastor Msgr. Donn Heiar, who provide classroom and office space to the Academy and access to the sacraments.

“St. Ambrose is like family here,” smiled Larscheid. “We have to do everything we can to help them succeed.”

Embracing the truth of faith

Barbara Harrington also attends daily Mass at St. Thomas, and the students’ presence there drew her to the St. Ambrose cause. “They are such an inspiration to me,” she said. “I wish all kids could see the reverence these teens show at Mass.

“By sending them to St. Ambrose, their parents are giving them the objective truth of the Church, and they seem to embrace it all. They are going to be the salt of the earth, bringing Truth to the world, and I think God will call many of them to the priesthood and religious life.”

With one St. Ambrose alumnus in the seminary for the Diocese of Madison and several more seriously discerning the priesthood and religious life, Harrington’s prediction seems already to be coming true.

It’s a lot of work to put on a dinner of this caliber, noted Principal Scott Schmiesing, but it is a perfect venue for inspiring people to support a cause that is truly worthwhile.

“St. Ambrose Academy is not just about providing an excellent education,” said Schmiesing. “It is about creating Christ-centered leaders, young men and women who place their trust in Jesus Christ and are prepared to share that faith with their peers.”