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Large turnout at Billings Catholic Schools annual Mayfair fundraiser despite controversy

Posted at 3:55 PM, May 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:04:46-04

BILLINGS – Despite controversy between Catholic leaders and the Billings Catholic Schools, the annual Mayfair fundraiser was deemed a success by the Foundation.

On Saturday, more than 660 people attended the fundraiser at the Red Lion Hotel Convention Center, an increase from last year’s attendance, according to Foundation executive director Jan Haider.

In April, a Catholic priest at Roman Catholic Diocese of Great Falls-Billings criticized the Billings Catholic Schools for allowing a gay couple to serve as event chairs for an upcoming fundraiser.

Father Ryan Erlenbush, who lives in Great Falls and is an alumni of the Billings Catholic Schools, posted on his personal Facebook page the schools “have really let us down with the Mayfair invitation this year.”

“You know a Catholic School has lost its way when a prominent homosexual couple is advertised as the chairs for the annual fundraiser,” Erlenbush stated. “Why would any Catholic (indeed, any Christian) attend or donate to Mayfair 2018? What does a Catholic School have to do before people say ‘enough’ and take their kids (and their money) elsewhere?

“I’m an alumnus of the Billings Catholic Schools, and I say, ‘enough.'”

Following the viral post, donations surged. But the bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings backed Erlenbush’s comments.

Bishop Michael Warfel took issue with the foundation’s decision of co-chairs. He said the co-chair role is a leadership position and, with that, are certain Catholic guidelines to follow.

He did not attend Saturday’s event.

The event chairs stood in unity before the large crowd, thanking them for support of both the schools and effort to make the fundraiser a success.

The Foundation aimed to raise more than $450,000 to help fund families who have students looking for a faith-based education.

A total tally of the funds raised will likely be available on Monday.

Reporting by Dustin Klemann for MTN News