St. Ambrose Academy to hold 10th annual benefit dinner Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Laura Karlen, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
You are invited

Tenth Annual
St. Ambrose Academy Benefit Dinner

A “never miss” evening celebrating Catholic classical education.

Saturday, Dec. 10:

• 5:30 p.m. -- Cocktail hour, cash bar

• 6:30 p.m. -- Dinner

Cost: $75/plate, four guests at reduced rate of $250, or table of eight at reduced rate of $500.

Site: Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall, 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison

RSVP: St. Ambrose Academy, 608-827-5863 or

MADISON -- It started with Chef Bishop Robert C. Morlino at the grill.

On the feast of St. Ambrose in December of 2007, Madison’s startup Catholic classical school, St. Ambrose Academy, welcomed 200 guests to the cozy social hall of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish for its first benefit dinner.

The red-aproned bishop led the student kitchen crew in cooking his very own recipes for roasted asparagus, garlic-and-rosemary potatoes, and chicken saltimbocca over a snowy grill in honor of the Italian bishop, St. Ambrose of Milan.

That night, Bishop Morlino expressed his support for St. Ambrose Academy, “These young men and women . . . lead the world toward the Kingdom of Heaven with a full burst of energy.”

Full bursts of energy

A professional catering staff has replaced Bishop Morlino and St. Ambrose students in the kitchen for the benefit dinner for a very practical reason: the attendance list has tripled in size! Indeed, the St. Thomas Aquinas social hall can no longer accommodate the number of guests, moving the event to one of the largest venues in town, the Alliant Energy Center Exhibition Hall.

Similarly, while the education wing of St. Thomas Aquinas is still home to St. Ambrose Academy through the generosity of the parish, the wing is filling with young people.

Founded in 2003 with just 12 students, St. Ambrose Academy was the response of a small group of parents to St. John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization. They wanted to provide their children with a sound Catholic education drawing on the very best classical education methods in grades six to 12.

By 2007, the year of the first benefit dinner, St. Ambrose was growing rapidly and adding gifted full-time teachers. Now, St. Ambrose is a vibrant community of over 90 students.

Consider senior Justin Hineline, who is preparing a presentation for this year’s benefit dinner. Justin recently received word that he is a National Merit semi-finalist based on his PSAT score. If Justin qualifies as a finalist, he will join St. Ambrose National Merit finalists from each of the last five years.

Justin has run with the St. Ambrose cross country team since his middle school years, developing virtue on the course to complement his hard work in the classroom. He has garnered recognition with the Model United Nations team. He has earned leading roles in the musical productions of The Music Man and The Sound of Music.

But St. Ambrose Development Director Joseph Draves is most excited that Justin will bring to the podium his experience at the Capitol as a student intern. “Justin Hineline will share how, at the Capitol, he doesn't simply adopt ‘group-think’ but brings his well-formed views to introduce and propose the bedrock truths that he has come to discover in the classroom.”

Justin is one such “full burst of energy” implied by Bishop Morlino years ago.

‘Never miss’ event

St. Ambrose co-foundress and current board director, Joan Carey, has helped plan and attended every benefit dinner.

She shared, “Throughout the 10 years since our first dinner, people increasingly tell us that they would never miss the St. Ambrose benefit dinner, that for them it is the premier gala event of the season. In the dark of winter, this sparkling gathering of young and old, recommitting to offer our youth the unchanging Gospel of hope, brings joy to every heart.”

Bridget Wittwer, a 2012 graduate, brings her professional event planning experience to St. Ambrose’s development office. She is coordinating a new experience for the cocktail hour that precedes the dinner: “I’m thrilled for how this social hour will be set up this year!” Students will share in-person and through displays how their coursework has inspired them.

“Creating these displays has been a refreshing exercise [for students]. They’re looking back in their notes and saying, ‘I liked learning about that! We need to include that!’”

These displays as well as student presenters during the dinner program will demonstrate that St. Ambrose’s interdisciplinary, historic approach to the greatest ideas of Western Civilization is anything but run-of-the-mill. Where else would you expect young ladies and lords in medieval dress to recite key lines from The Canterbury Tales?

Explosive impact

“Our goal for the 10th Annual Benefit Dinner is nothing short of gathering Catholics and friends from every corner of the Diocese of Madison to ensure that a great Catholic education -- supported by the best educational methods -- remains within reach for all the baptized,” said Draves.

“Over one-third of St. Ambrose students receive tuition assistance totaling $170,000, and we’re asking that our community rise to the occasion for these young men and women right now -- but also gear up for the greater number of young people who will receive this Ambrose Advantage in the future.”

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