MADISON -- Just before Christmas, nearly 400 supporters gathered to recommit to the mission of Catholic education and especially making education in the faith available to any teenager who seeks it.
Thanks to the generosity of those who attended, St. Ambrose Academy raised nearly $35,000, which will help the school continue to offer an affordable Catholic education to many families. Nearly 40 percent of families at St. Ambrose receive tuition assistance, and the benefit dinner is a critical funding component for that program.
||To view pictures of the St. Ambrose Academy dinner, click here.
Accessible Catholic education
When Pope Benedict spoke to Catholic educators on his visit to the United States, he told them that everything possible must be done to ensure that Catholic schools are accessible to people of all social and economic strata.
“The cost of an excellent education in faith is out of reach of many, many, Catholic families,” commented St. Ambrose president David Stiennon. “So how is this to be done? Pope Benedict gave the answer: it is done ‘in cooperation with the wider community.’
“I am encouraged by how our benefit dinner brought together men and women from across the diocese who are joyfully taking on the pope’s challenge. Yes, we can do this, but it will require the wide support of the community, a support which is beginning to manifest itself,” said Stiennon.
Many diocesan apostolates hosted informational tables at the event and offered financial support, including representatives from the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Divine Mercy, Schoenstatt, Relevant Radio, the Holy Redeemer Perpetual Adoration Chapel, the Catholic Multicultural Center, Madison Vigil for Life, and Our Lady of Hope Clinic.
Through this effort, those attending were able to learn about other efforts in the diocese to minister to the world and spread the Good News.
Blessings of Catholic education
St. Ambrose alumni and current students spoke at the dinner with humor and insight about the many blessings Catholic classical education has given them.
Fr. Eric Nielsen, pastor of St. Paul’s University Catholic Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, also spoke about the Ambrosian mission of preparing students to live their faith out in the world.
“A Catholic doesn’t save his soul in isolation,” said Father Nielsen. “He saves his soul in ministry to the world in which he lives.”
To that end, he said, it is essential “that every year new students arrive [at colleges and universities] who are already formed in their piety, understand their faith, and have had a classical introduction to the beauty of the truth. We need these students as leaven in our own students that show up at St. Paul’s.
“It is the goal of St. Ambrose to send exactly this type of student to the universities around the country. So we are always very happy at St. Paul’s when a new student from St. Ambrose shows up,” said Father Nielsen.
Words of encouragement
Bishop Morlino closed the gala event with words of great encouragement. The bishop is one of the newer faculty members at St. Ambrose, teaching bimonthly classes to the senior high students.
He said, “I dare now speak for my fellow faculty members: we are committed to the witness of joy. . . . Our students are capable of a great deal of joy. It’s natural to their age.” His challenge: to bring that joy out into the world.
“The group here tonight is truly a leaven in the Diocese of Madison. God has given this group and so many others who are not here the gift to embrace and love the Church as she really is, in the direction that she is really taking. That is a great gift which is shared by so many and by so many who are not here.
“So let’s thank God for that gift, but most importantly, let’s go forward with that gift, and share it with great joy, especially at the season of the birth of our Lord.
“And let’s make sure that the joy of everyone here, and all those others who share the vision that will never disappoint, that that joy really can change the world and that that joy is contagious to everybody and especially that that joy is very intense among our great students at St. Ambrose.”