ITI hosts Viennese Ball in Denver

When Catherine Mershon (’23) and Nick King (’23) first conceived of hosting a Viennese ball to bring alumni together, raise money and awareness for ITI, and ultimately to share some of the beauty of Austrian culture with the greater Catholic community, they knew that twenty people would have to buy tickets to make the event a success. In the end, over 200 guests attended the inaugural ITI Viennese Benefit Ball in Denver, Colorado on February 10. Over 30 ITI alumni attended accompanied by spouses and friends, representing 13 nations and flying in from all over the US. Other guests hailed from the Denver area, and about 20 undergraduates from Wyoming Catholic College made the six-hour drive to Denver for the event. Kyle Washut, president of Wyoming Catholic College and 2013 ITI graduate, commented about these “prospective ITI students”:


“The life at Wyoming Catholic College is very much a fruit of ITI: our theology program, our pedagogy, many of our professors, and our East and West chaplaincy are all formed by the work of ITI. And I know that the ITI is enriched by the many WCC graduates who attend. I hope we continue to flourish together!”


The evening opened with a prayer by ITI chaplain, Fr. Juraj Potocky-Terek (’99), while ITI alumnus and Chairman of the Board of ITI-US Eugene Wallace (’98) acted as emcee of the evening’s program. During the opening ceremonies, we were honored to hear from both the ITI’s founding president, Dr. Michael Waldstein, and our current president, Dr. Bernhard Dolna, on the beauty of the ITI from its founding to the present day as an initiative of St. John Paul II and ordered toward the common good. Dr. Dolna’s wife, professional stage actress Gabriele Dolna-Schuchter, brought the audience to its feet with her performance of opera airs, yodeling German folksongs, and a rousing rendition of “Edelweiss” that had the whole room singing along. Later in the evening, Kyle Washut (’13) gave a toast to Fr. Juraj in which he highlighted the unbroken availability of the sacraments at the ITI during the pandemic. Beth Mortensen (’99 and ’01), currently teaching at the ITI, toasted Katie Terekova for all the beauty that she has bestowed on the community for over two decades. Scott Hefelfinger (’06 and ’08), professor of theology at Denver’s Augustine Institute, toasted Dr. Waldstein and Dr. Dolna for the profound impact their teaching and witness has had:


“Tonight is very special in that we have here both the founding president and the current president. Each, in his own way, has set the ITI on a path of going to the sources, ad fontes, which is the motto and the special way of the institute.”  


Fr. Juraj recalled the late beloved professor Dagny Kiergaard, who reveled in the joy of ITI dances.

A string quartet and pianist filled the evening with Strauss waltzes, polkas, tangos, and swing music, and of course the Fledermaus Quadrille. From the opening dance lesson at 6:15 to the final waltz at 2am, the dancing never flagged - except at midnight when homemade Austrian goulash and cheesecake were served. The Knights of Columbus Hall proved a perfect venue in downtown Denver. Gift baskets of foods and goods from Austria, Hungary, Italy, Alaska, New York and the local Denver area were featured in a silent auction. Guests came in their best attire and it was an evening of elegance which captured the spirit and joy of the ITI as a microcosm of the universal Catholic Church celebrating before the Great Fast of Lent. 


Our thanks go out to our wonderful musicians, the Knights of Columbus, all our alumni and friends who volunteered their help, the Denver Catholic community and all our guests for attending and making it a beautiful evening! We hope to make it the first of many such events.