St. Ambrose benefit dinner moves to the Marriott Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Joan Carey, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010 -- 1:00 AM

MADISON -- It’s been called the “event of the season” for Madison Catholics. St. Ambrose Academy once again invites all who value Catholic education to join them for their annual benefit dinner.

You are invited

St. Ambrose Academy Fourth Annual Benefit Dinner

Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010

• 6 p.m. cocktail hour, cash bar

• 7 p.m. dinner

$75/plate, six guests at reduced rate of $400, or table of 10 at reduced rate of $600

NOTE: parties of less than 10 may be seated with other parties

$45 of the $75 cost is tax-deductible

At Madison Marriott West, Michigan Room, 1313 John Q. Hammons Drive, Middleton

RSVP by December 11 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

To purchase raffle tickets ahead of time, contact the school; they are $5 each. The drawing will be held at the end of the evening. You need not be present to win.

“We’ve got a new look and a new location this year,” said St. Ambrose Board president David Stiennon. “We loved being at the O’Connor Center, but we’ve reached their seating capacity two years running. At the Marriott, we can welcome many more guests.”

Opportunity for other groups

St. Ambrose Director of Development Constance Nielsen noted that the event can now expand to give other Madison Catholic groups the opportunity to “mix and mingle.”

The Catholic Multicultural Center, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Divine Mercy, Our Lady of Hope Clinic, Schoenstatt, Relevant Radio, Adoration Chapel, the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, and other groups will have informational tables and representatives present to share their various missions.

“We’re thrilled to pull all these groups together in solidarity to help spread the Gospel in our Diocese, not to mention to give our own community of families and supporters the chance to find new ways to serve the work of the Church,” Dr. Nielsen said.

Special raffle

In order to focus exclusively on the school’s mission of Catholic education, the benefit dinner will no longer include a silent auction. Instead, there will be a raffle of a few very special items, including a gaming console, a signed Packers football, and a unique icon from local iconographer Claudia Daniel, one of 10 prints, framed by the artist.

The icon, Axion Ecti, depicts a tender moment of the Blessed Mother sharing Scripture with her Son Jesus via a scroll in the child’s hand. “There can be many interpretations for the scroll,” commented Daniel. “One could say that Jesus is handing on the Faith or the Word of God to Mary.”

When asked whether the print would be signed, Daniel smiled and noted that iconographers don’t sign their work, because an icon is meant “to become a window for the viewer only.

“Icons are called a ‘window into heaven,’ and when one contemplates the icon, it is meant to have no resemblance to a living person, nor even suggest the writer of the icon. It is meant to inspire prayer and holy contemplation, leaving the earthly ego behind!”

Honored guest

Bishop Robert C. Morlino will once again attend the dinner, but this year he won’t be in the kitchen cooking as he has done at some previous dinners. Instead, he’ll be welcomed as the newest faculty member of St. Ambrose Academy.

Of course, Bishop Morlino has a “day job,” but every other Tuesday he can be found at St. Ambrose teaching two high school classes: one for the girls and one for the boys.

“I absolutely love being with those kids,” said Bishop Morlino when asked how it was going. The bishop, a natural teacher, thrives on working with youth. His wide-ranging course touches on theological topics that will form the teens to stay close to Christ all their lives.

Past, present, and future

This year’s benefit dinner celebrates the past, vibrant present, and promising future of St. Ambrose Academy.

In April, the Academy threw a “reunion picnic” that brought together families of graduates and current families with families on the waiting list, giving future Ambrosians the chance to meet one another and participate in the Catholic community that is here to assist them with the middle school and high school education of their children.

“We marveled at the strong faith and values that St. Ambrose cultivates in the students,” said prospective parent Laura Karlen, mother of a three-year-old son, high school class of 2025.

PAST: St. Ambrose Academy in its short seven-year existence has sent two young men to the seminary for the Diocese of Madison, and several female graduates are discerning vocations to the religious life at Catholic colleges.

Other St. Ambrose graduates are proving to be leaders in spreading the faith at their colleges and universities. An Ambrosian now at Princeton University runs a weekly theology study group and is outreach chair for a society dedicated to promoting the importance of marriage and the family.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, St. Ambrose graduates serve in a variety of capacities: on the staff of Badger Catholic (the UW student organization whose mission is to spur a campus-wide discussion about the faith), serving campus Masses and as peer ministers and retreat leaders, representing Catholicism in campus discussions about faith, serving underprivileged kids, and leading Bible and faith studies.

PRESENT: The number of families at St. Ambrose took a big leap this fall with a 25 percent increase. In no time the new families were integrating their students into the community, finding ways to volunteer, getting used to the snappy school uniform, and adjusting to a Socratic learning style and reading list.

New parent Denise Heim says that after just two weeks she already saw a change in her daughter. “She’s different,” said Heim. “She’s happy. She has a goal every morning. She comes home happy. She loves it.”

Incoming families have been delighted by the peer group their children are now mixing with; one related how she asked a current Ambrose student about her plans for the future. Her response? “Simply to do God’s will.”

FUTURE: Shelly Fox, an attorney, has a son who is only two years old, but already she volunteers as a class coordinator for the St. Ambrose Class of 2026. Shelly and her husband Michael heard about St. Ambrose Academy from a flyer at their parish in Sun Prairie, St. Albert the Great.

On the day of the Ambrose open house during Catholic Schools Week in January, they happened to be on Madison’s west side following up on a worrisome medical evaluation of their son. They were so joyful to receive the news that their son was going to be okay that they decided to celebrate by stopping in at the Ambrose open house just down the road.

“We were so excited about the future for our son that we went to take a look at the future — at St. Ambrose,” laughed Shelly. While browsing through the displays on classical education and talking to the faculty, all Shelly could think was, “This is the school I would have loved to have gone to when I was a teen.”

Particularly compelling was the focus on liberal arts and the opportunity to treat religion and the Church as a valid subject of academic study. Shelly, who has worked as an attorney with teens in juvenile court and came to love them in their struggles, commented, “We don’t give teens enough credit for wanting to think about the world. It’s clear that St. Ambrose Academy thinks of teens as good people.

“The teens we saw there seemed so happy. Teens have so much going for them — we just need to channel it the right way,” she said.

Shelly and Michael felt completely welcomed even though their son was still very young.

“We need to support St. Am-brose Academy now, because we want it to be there when Jamie is ready. Other parents of little ones should be encouraged to go and check it out now so they can prepare their children for a classical education.”

Heeding Holy Father’s call

St. Ambrose Academy was founded in response to the clarion call of John Paul II to renew the Catholic commitment to Catholic education.

Pope Benedict XVI has been just as vigorous in drawing attention to the crucial importance of Christ-centered formation for our youth. On his recent visit to the United Kingdom, the pope met with thousands of Catholic schoolchildren and students and spoke directly to teachers.

“The task of a teacher,” said the Holy Father, “is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full — in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator, for ‘both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts’ (Wis 7:16).”

Schools like St. Ambrose can’t exist without the support of many in the Catholic community. Please come, greet the bishop, mix and mingle with the Catholic community of the Madison Diocese, and offer your support to one of the most crucial enterprises of our time: educating our young in the faith of Jesus Christ.

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