||For more photos of St. Ambrose Academy students, staff, and benefactors from the St. Ambrose Academy Benefit dinner held December 15 at the Madison Marriott West, go online to www.madisoncatholicherald.smugmug.com (Catholic Herald photos/Joe Ptak)
MADISON -- A record 565 guests gathered at the Madison Marriott West in Middleton on December 15 for a benefit dinner supporting St. Ambrose Academy middle school and high school. Bishop Robert Morlino and dozens of priests and religious were joined by faculty, school families, benefactors, and supporters in a celebration of Catholic education in the Diocese of Madison.
Sixteen area apostolates hosted displays to help introduce the many guests to the varied ways Catholics in the Diocese of Madison are carrying out the work of the Church, including the Knights of Columbus, the Cistercian Sisters of the Valley of Our Lady Monastery, the Schoenstatt Movement, and Immaculate Heart of Mary School.
The benefit dinner program celebrated the diocesan Year of Faith theme, “Evangelization through Beauty.” St. Ambrose senior high students Daniel Schiedermayer, Lillian Quiñones, Bibiana Snyder, and Heather Hineline each presented an original speech on beauty as a gift to Bishop Morlino.
Quiñones said that “God speaks through beauty as the enchanter, drawing our hearts to His through our senses and our emotions…. Beauty is a quality that attracts mankind to God — it changes hearts. Beauty allows the yearning of the soul to be reawakened and affirmed by appealing to the senses, but drawing us beyond them.”
The keynote speech by St. Ambrose senior Taylor Balzer, entitled “The Love that Called Me Back,” included her stirring personal reflections related to her years at St. Ambrose after spending a year away from the school.
“Without St. Ambrose,” Balzer said, “I would not be as close to my parents or as close to God as I am today. St. Ambrose has taught me a lot. This school builds family, and friendship. It builds individuality, and the people of tomorrow. This school supplies students with a chance to grow in faith and to grow academically. This school teaches in a way that will push you to the highest level without giving up. I love St. Ambrose and I would never trade my experience here for anything else.”
St. Ambrose Junior Danae Newallo exemplified the theme of “Beauty” with her breathtaking rendition of “O Holy Night," which brought the audience to its feet for one of several standing ovations during the evening.
Development Director Laura Karlen noted that although St. Ambrose Academy does not receive parish subsidies, and is growing by 20 percent per year, it still offers tuition assistance to half of its students. She said that “$100,000 in tuition assistance [had been provided] to ensure that parents could choose an education at St. Ambrose for their children, regardless of the families’ ability to pay. We made this commitment because, through Catholic education, we are showing students Christ Himself; and they need to meet Him. We made this commitment because we could not afford not to invest in the future of the Church and the culture: our students.”
Bishop Morlino, who regularly teaches St. Ambrose high school students, acknowledged the student presentations. “I'm so grateful for the beautiful words that were said in tribute to beauty, and I know that I don’t waste my time when I come over to St. Ambrose for class, but that was certainly proven in spades."
After his concluding remarks, Bishop Morlino offered his blessing, and the program closed with the guests singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”