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An Evening in "Wonderland"

By Matt C. Abbott

Quite an evening, I must say. Men in tuxedos. Women in fancy ball gowns. Drinks. Well-presented food. And music. Lots of music. I can still hear the band playing, at length, the lyric-less version of Alice in Wonderland. The lyrics, though, are not totally out of place...

"Alice in Wonderland
How do you get to Wonderland
Over the hill or underland
Or just behind a tree

"When clouds go rolling by
They roll away and leave the sky
Where is the land behind the eye
People cannot see

"Where can you see
Where do the stars go
Where is the crescent moon
They must be somewhere in the sunny afternoon

"Alice in Wonderland
Where is the path to Wonderland
Over the hill or here or there
I wonder where"

Yes, such was the case on the evening of December 22, 2003, at the 46th Annual Presentation Ball, an event sponsored by the Chicago-based Illinois Club for Catholic Women (ICCW). Founded in 1921 by Julia Deal Lewis at the urging of George Cardinal Mundelein, the ICCW's mission is "to foster stewardship in Catholic women of all ages through service, personal growth and social activities. The [ICCW] has dedicated itself to assisting Catholic charities in the Chicago area, and is committed to continuing this tradition."

The first Presentation Ball (the name was to signify the "presentation" of the young-lady debutantes to Albert Cardinal Meyer) was held on December 29, 1958. Since then, over 1000 debutantes have received Ecumenical Medals from the Vicar of Christ. The Ball is the ICCW's chief fundraiser, providing financial contributions to Catholic organizations such as Aid for Women, Catholic Charities, Deborah's Place, House of the Good Shepherd, Maryville Academy, Saint Joseph's Carondelet Child Center and St. Vincent DePaul Center.

My mother has been involved with the ICCW for several years, and, as a result, I have helped out at the Ball for a few of those years. It is, as you can imagine, a very formal event. And a bit hectic. But I really don't mind getting dressed up for such an occasion; and I must admit that there is a certain charm to it. (It must be said, though, that certain years were more "charming" for me than others.) This year, there were 25 young women making their "debut," all dressed in lovely white gowns.

Francis Cardinal George was the featured guest at this year's Ball. And he seemed to be warmly received by the attendees. The following is his December 2003 letter to ICCW president Karen Goodyear, which was reproduced in the Ball's rather elegant program:

"Dear Mrs. Goodyear:

"I happy to be with you on the occasion of the 46th Annual Presentation Ball of the Illinois Club for Catholic Women.

"As you and your members celebrate the presentation of your daughters and granddaughters to society, you offer them an admirable example of true charity: active concern and compassion for the poor.

"For 82 years, the Illinois Club for Catholic Women has reached out, with increasing generosity, to thousands of poor, hungry or homeless children, families and seniors through Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

"You have contributed significantly to the health, quality of life and human dignity of your brothers and sisters in Christ, particularly by assisting Catholic Charities' emergency food pantries, early childhood education centers, adult day care centers, supported living and senior residences, homeless shelters, and maternity and adoption services.

"I thank you for your constant concern for the poor and your service to the Archdiocese , and I congratulate the debutantes. May they imitate your example as they live out faith in service to others.

"May God bless you and your families with every blessing of the Christmas season!

"Sincerely yours in Christ,

"Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I
"Archbishop of Chicago"


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