MADISON -- St. Ambrose Academy hosted its third annual Christmas benefit dinner and silent auction on Friday, Dec. 11, at the Bishop O’Connor Center. The evening’s success made the school’s supporters’ spirits bright.
||Guest of Honor Bishop Robert C. Morlino receives a Christmas stocking filled with gifts and a spiritual bouquet of prayers from St. Ambrose students. Catholic Herald photo/Joe Ptak
Paul Matenaer, director of development for St. Ambrose, was delighted by the turnout. “I think it was a huge success,” he said, noting that over 200 people attended. “We were very pleased with the generosity of all those who contributed to the dinner and it gives us great hope for the future of the school.” Matenaer described the evening as one filled with joy, Christmas spirit, and good will toward the school and its mission.
The silent auction was one reflection of the St. Ambrose community’s generosity. Almost 200 items were donated to the auction, ranging from week-long vacations at summer homes to symphony tickets, handmade dresses, a Victorian dollhouse, and religious items. Additional gift baskets for family outings and new parents were raffled at the end of the evening.
Dinner attendees browsing the items enjoyed cocktails, piano music, and Christmas carols sung by the St. Ambrose schola.
The dinner menu showcased Wisconsin cuisine, including cheddar soup, Cornish hens on a bed of wild rice and cranberries, and chocolate fudge cake from a Wisconsin bakery. The table wines featured Wisconsin-grown grapes.
Throughout the evening, attendees were treated to presentations by students, staff, and the clergy. First on stage were Paul Ptak and Maggie Smith, performing a humorous skit written by St. Ambrose students about the age-old struggle between good and evil, as set in a coffee shop, entitled “The Angelic Argument.”
Next, St. Ambrose junior Maeve Cotter was interviewed about her experience testifying before a panel of senators at the state Capitol in opposition to Senate Bill 324.
She and three other St. Ambrose students attended an all-day hearing at the Capitol to speak out against the proposed state health curriculum which would prevent public schools from adopting “abstinence-only” or “abstinence-centered” health programs.
Cotter told senators that the best thing they could do to combat teen pregnancy and STDs is to give teens the “support and encouragement necessary to live a life of chastity and abstinence” and to set a “high bar” for teen behavior.
“We need to be shown that we do have the freedom to save ourselves for marriage,” Cotter asserted, adding that teens need to have their dignity affirmed in schools. She discouraged senators from backing a type of health education that would send the message that “choosing abstinence is the unpopular choice.”
Angela Hineline, a St. Ambrose teacher and parent, was next to speak, giving a moving testimony about her experience of being won over by St. Ambrose after attending a school day. She described watching a teacher “masterfully” teach her class, witnessing prayer permeate the day, and seeing all of the students sit together at lunch “like one big family.”
She thanked community members for “supporting a school that strives for the highest goals, uniting itself with Christ,” and noted that she has chosen St. Ambrose Academy for her own children because there they will be “encouraged to listen for His call and His direction.”
Vocation director speaks
Msgr. Jim Bartylla, director of vocations for the Madison Diocese, spoke next, referring to St. Ambrose as an “academy of vocations” where preparation for the world is matched by preparation for heaven.
“. . . what I find with St. Ambrose,” said Monsignor Bartylla, “is they prepare them for a professional career in a very good way with the academics and so on, but they are also helping them to find their happiness in their vocation.”
He added, “So I’m very grateful for them. It’s not only college prep; it’s holiness prep, and that’s something we very much need in Catholic schools.”
Monsignor Bartylla described St. Ambrose as being “on the front line of vocation work” where future priests, married persons, and consecrated women were being formed. He remarked, “So I think you can kind of call it, at least I call it that, being the director of vocations, an academy of vocations.”
Guest of Honor Bishop Robert C. Morlino was presented with a Christmas stocking full of small gifts and a spiritual bouquet of prayers from St. Ambrose students.
Bishop Morlino said he was especially grateful for the spiritual bouquet. “Those things mean so much to me,” he said. “. . . I will spend some time in prayer going through those very carefully and very thoughtfully” during vacation, he said, praying for those who offered the spiritual gifts and offering a Mass for the entire St. Ambrose community.
“You cannot do better than to support St. Ambrose Academy,” said Bishop Morlino, “except for when I have to rebuild the cathedral.”