Cardinal Raymond Burke is special guest at St. Ambrose Academy Dinner Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Joan Carey, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

Cardinal burke speaks at st ambrose dinner
Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke addresses the recent St. Ambrose Dinner. (Photo by Joe Ptak)

MADISON -- Six hundred exuberant friends of St. Ambrose Academy gathered on the Feast of St. Ambrose, December 7, to further the St. Ambrose Academy mission of leading young people to the light and truth of Christ.

Special guest Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who accepted the role of Honorary Co-Chair of the Academy’s campaign to build a school, spoke at the event, held at the beautiful Monona Terrace.

Guests delighted in chatting with the cardinal before and after the dinner as he mingled and willingly smiled at countless camera phones for selfies and family photos.

Other Honorary Co-Chairs include Bishop Donald J. Hying, Dr. Scott Hahn, Dr. Tim O’Donnell of Christendom College, Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, and Fr. Rocky Hoffman of Relevant Radio.

Lux et Veritas Award

The evening began with an encouraging and welcoming video from Bishop Donald J. Hying, who was unable to attend because of his “ad limina” visit to Rome to meet with Pope Francis, followed by an energetic video showing St. Ambrose students at work and play.

What a privilege it was then to welcome the family of Ralph and Beverly Buechner, may they rest in peace, to receive on their parents’ behalf the first-ever St. Ambrose Academy Lux et Veritas Award. The award recognizes those who by the light of Christ reflected in their eyes and the truth of Christ in which they ground their being give the hope of Christ to our school and the world.

The Buechners were the first major benefactors outside the founding circle, attracted to the work of the school after observing some of the students serving at Mass with great reverence and devotion.

Catholic education: A complete education

Cardinal Burke captured our hearts by relating his sorrow that although Bishop Robert C. Morlino, a friend of many years, had repeatedly invited him to Madison, he was never able to come until now. His friend’s legendary love for our apostolate inspired the cardinal to whole-heartedly support the Academy.

He urged those present to support from their substance the works of St. Ambrose Academy and take an active part in the upcoming building campaign.

In his keynote address, Cardinal Burke proposed that Catholic education, the “competent imparting of knowledge and the development of skills within the context of the faith” is a complete education. It aims to form the “true and perfect Christian,” taking in “the whole aggregate of human life: physical, spiritual, intellectual, and moral, individual, domestic, and social.”

The product of Catholic education is a person who thinks, judges, and acts according to Christ.

Elsewhere the cardinal has written that Catholic education is the “ultimate key to victory” in these trying times and, indeed, at the dinner he claimed that “the fundamental expression of culture is education.”

His words expressed the importance and urgency of the school’s mission as it aims to raise up an army of young people who will serve as the agents of transformation in our neighborhoods, communities, nations, and our world.

An inspirational ‘father-son’ duo

The cardinal laid out a beautiful vision of how Catholic education assists parents to raise children who commit their lives to the high standard of ordinary Christian living.

St. Ambrose Academy parent and Peru native Dr. Daniel Tataje related how some years ago, soon after his conversion to Catholicism, he and his wife Scarlett attended one of the St. Ambrose benefit dinners. They were swept off their feet with enthusiasm for the bright and faithful students they met that night.

They greatly desired such an education for their children, but they feared they would never be able to afford it.

Thanks to the generosity of benefactors, their eldest son Nathan was able to enroll. The Tatajes now have seen such great success with Daniel’s business, Mercy Dental Group, that they have delighted in giving back to the Academy by becoming benefactors themselves.

Daniel then introduced his son Nathan, a senior who will graduate with the Class of 2020. Nathan gave a stirring testimony, relating how as a new Ambrose student he was daunted by the effort required of him, but with the encouragement of the St. Ambrose teachers, he soon developed the grit and determination to stay the course.

Now, he sees St. Ambrose Academy as having been instrumental to his faith and commitment to excellence. His articulate and passionate praise describing his years of of formation at St. Ambrose Academy drew thunderous applause from the audience.

Catherine Carey graduated from St. Ambrose Academy this year; she knew Nathan and performed with him in the 2019 school musical, The Wizard of Oz.

“As a recent graduate,” Catherine commented, “I found Nathan’s testimony to be really inspiring. Everything he said about faith, grit, and tenacity made me realize how important all these things are for me at the University of Wisconsin Business School, where I am a freshman. These qualities are what truly set Ambrosians apart from other students.”

Potential building sites

Sarah Dunn, vice president of CG Schmidt, was then introduced. She has accepted the role of Campaign Chair for the Ambrose Academy building project and has already provided wonderful and astute leadership in campaign and building planning as we move through the pre-construction phase.

Sarah has played an integral role in evaluating sites far and wide around the county and has assisted in narrowing the search down to three possible land lots for purchase for our new school: St. Andrew, Verona; Christ the King, McFarland; and a development near McGaw Park in Fitchburg.

The St. Ambrose Board is carefully evaluating each site, trusting the Holy Spirit to aid in discerning the best place for the future growth of the Academy.

Seeking and embracing vocation

Cardinal Burke explained how Catholic schools like St. Ambrose Academy can assist families with the “primary duty of parents to educate their children, helping them to know their vocation in life and to embrace it with an undivided heart.”

St. Ambrose Academy strives to provide fertile soil for students to plant their hearts in Christ and seek to do the will of God with their lives by discerning their vocations according to His plan and call.

One of the attendees at the dinner was Ambrose alumna Kayla Zimmerman, who brought her fiancé, Mark Shininger, to the dinner.

Kayla noted, “It was important to me to show him the community that had helped me grow into who I am today. St. Ambrose Academy helped me discern my vocation not only by surrounding me with strong examples of the vocations of the consecrated and married life, but also by teaching me why God created different vocations and how each of them helps the Catholic Church to flourish.”

Kayla and Mark were thrilled to meet Cardinal Burke and receive his blessing on their engagement. This was, Kayla said, “a very special moment for us. Knowing that such a holy man is praying for us is both humbling and encouraging.”

Memorable encounter

St. Ambrose parent Michael McBain also had a memorable encounter with Cardinal Burke, although it was not the first time their paths had crossed.

While several guests shared memories of past meetings, including several who were confirmed by then-Bishop Burke, Michael brought a family photo showing the moment of his Baptism, celebrated by then-Father Burke at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph the Workman in La Crosse.

Michael noted how “we had gone back home for Thanksgiving when my wife reminded me that Cardinal Burke would be coming to the dinner, and so we dug up the old photos of my Baptism. I thought it would be something special to show him, so we brought it along. He was pretty excited to see something from his days in La Crosse.”

Now with a family of his own, including a son in seventh grade at the Academy, Michael is grateful for the cardinal’s support of his son’s school.

“When we found out about St. Ambrose,” Michael said, “we knew this would be the best place for him. I get emotional thinking about how much my son has changed in the past year and a half, and I’m forever grateful to this school and those who support it for what they’ve done for him.”

Certainly, after the joyful celebration on the Feast of St. Ambrose at Monona Terrace, everyone can see the hand of God working mightily to provide for the needs of the Academy as it strives to offer a faithful Catholic education to all who desire it.


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