At last year’s fund-raising dinner to benefit Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, I auctioned off a dinner with the bishop. A day or two after the event, Shiona Christensen asked me to plan on doing it again this year. As the 2011 event chairperson, she also asked me to expand my role and serve as emcee.
When I arrived at the Knoxville Convention Center, Elaine Evans, the special projects coordinator for CCETN, had lots of last-minute notes for me to absorb. Right before I took the stage to introduce guest speaker Big Jim Haslam, my wife said not to worry because if things went badly I could always go to confession the next day. Her remark was perfect, much like saying “break a leg” to me before an improv show.
One of Shiona’s goals for this year was to shorten the program from previous years. Instead of featuring entertainment on the main stage, we had music from Sarah Pirkle, Jeff Barbra and Milly Cavendar during dinner.
After Fr. Ragan Schriver’s touching speech, I changed the mood with some “light roast” jokes to segue into my style of “stand-up auctioneering.” I felt comfortable doing so because before dinner Bob Schriver told me he loved the jokes I made at his son’s expense when we roasted Fr. Ragan on his last day at All Saints Church.
Weeks ago in a planning meeting, I said it would be funny if we used MassTimes.org to include directions to nearby Catholic church with the Las Vegas vacation package up for auction. The committee took it further by naming the package “What Happens in Vegas… Stays in Confession.” Cynthia Moxley found the joke to be tweetworthy. Printed cards at each table mentioned the airfare, limo, hotel and Our Lady of Las Vegas.
The final auction item was a hike in the Smokies with Fr. Ragan and a weekend with catered meals in his rectory at Holy Family Church in Seymour. I briefly told my story about staying there last year and being surprised by the arrival of John Becker, his wife and his mother.
Fortunately Bishop Richard Stika was still smiling after my performance. My wife and I told him about our last visit to St. Louis. When the conversation turned to radio there, I told him about the WiFi clock radio I use to listen to KMOX.