Karen Monette’s enthusiasm for Xanadu 2016 is evident from the first moment you meet her. The Priory mom (to Nick, ’16) is the Xanadu chair, and she bubbles with anticipation for the biggest fundraising event of the year. This year’s theme is Garden Party, selected because “Xanadu is in February when it’s cold. We’re all anxious for Spring after our long, cold winter, so this will be a little taste of what’s to come!”
Her favorite package in the live auction is a croquet party, because it ties into this year’s Garden Party theme. Four fun Form IV families, the Bagwells, the Brannans, the Brnjacs and the McNeives, are hosting this party for 30. “It’s an old favorite from the past that hasn’t been repeated much, and I think it will be a lot of fun,” Karen said.
In the silent auction, Karen recommends checking out Jane Sehnert’s art featuring the words to the Priory boys’ favorite hymn, God of Great and God of Small. Jane is a calligrapher, and she makes beautiful works of art. This year, she had a number of prints and notecards made, so if you don’t win the original art you can pick up a copy. Karen had one of the prints matted and framed, and arranged for all the boys in the senior class to sign the mat. “It’s a beautiful donation and so generous,” Karen said. “I have numerous favorites but that one stands out!”
In addition to chairing Xanadu this year, Karen has donated her own event to the fundraiser. “I’m hosting a lunch and book reading with Father Ralph,” she said. Father Ralph recently released his newest book, DOGS, A Global Alphabet.
As Xanadu creeps closer and closer, Karen maintains an air of calm efficiency. “I credit Development,” she explains. “They are like a well-oiled machine up there in Switzer House. They have a calendar and a plan, so we stay on task. It’s all coming together beautifully!” She also thanks all the generous donors in Priory’s community. “So many people have given their time, their resources, and donations…it’s overwhelming.”
She wasn’t sure she wanted the job when Xanadu 2015 Chair Kim Kuchan approached her. “I said ‘I am not your gal!’ and drew up a list of names of other people she should ask,” Karen laughed. Thankfully, Kim was very persuasive and Karen committed to the project. “It’s been very manageable, and I have a lot of help. There’s a whole Xanadu committee with about 35 moms. Some roles are larger and some are small, and there’s something for everyone and every contribution is so helpful. Our section chairs have been working since last summer, and other projects, like Trivia Night, are already finished. Between the community and Priory’s Development team, I have no regrets with chairing Xanadu!”
Karen is used to volunteering at Priory. She takes a shift in the bookstore before Mass once a month, and enjoys interacting with the students there. She said, “You get to see all the guys, and you get a little flavor of the day.” She chaired the Xanadu Sports section with Kathy Thompson last year, and worked with current Mothers’ Club president Geeta Swaminathan the year before on the sports committee. As a Form I mom, she set tables, and as a Form II mom skirted them. “It’s nice, because mothers can volunteer on an as-needed basis through the years. It’s a great way to meet other moms in your Form.”
She loves being part of the Priory family. “Nick says he can’t imagine going to high school anywhere else. It’s been a great place for our whole family. It’s small enough at Priory so that this wonderful community of parents, faculty, staff and monks really is a family. We feel as though we are part of something really special.” Karen and her husband Scott just celebrated 25 years of marriage in September. Besides Nick, they also have a son, Matt, 20, who works at St. Clare Hospital. Two labs, Hershey and Marley, round out the family.
The Monettes aren’t native St. Louisans, but they have definitely made this town their home. While their favorite pizza is Dewey’s, she does admit that they also like Imo’s, which is traditionally scorned by non-natives. “Imo’s grows on you,” she laughed. “It’s an acquired taste, which we have acquired.” She isn’t a huge fan of Ted Drewes frozen custard, but won’t turn it down. And now that she’s had kids in high school she understands St. Louis’ fascination with The Question. She said, “I compare it to fraternities and sororities in college. For better or worse, you can see stereotypes!”
Karen grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and Scott in San Antonio. She went to school at Arizona State, and later met him when they both lived in Dallas. After Scott completed graduate school, he went to work for Hallmark in Kansas City. “We were big Chiefs fans, having lived in Kansas City for years,” she said. The family transferred to St. Louis so Matt could attend Central Institute for the Deaf, and now they feel very much at home here. She said, “St. Louis has been very good to us.” They are Cardinals fans, and they cheered on the Rams. “We love football, and are sad that there won’t be football in St. Louis now. We might revert back to being Chiefs fans!”
Even though Xanadu is less than two weeks away, Karen is already looking into the future. “After Xanadu, I can feel the end of the year,” she said. “Immediately after Xanadu we’ll have our wrap-up meetings and debriefings, then Mom Prom is only three weeks later. After that we go right into spring break, Senior Mothers’ Retreat, and Senior Mother & Son Mass and brunch. It’s a busy time leading up to graduation.” We are sure Karen will handle this busy schedule with grace and aplomb, just as she’s planned this year’s Xanadu.
Karen encourages everyone in the Priory family to register for Xanadu. “Please sign up for this wonderful night! Even if you don’t have a table together, go ahead and register as we can place you with parents from your form. If you can’t make it to Xanadu, stop by the Preview Party the night before. It’s a fun, casual event, and you can register your cell phone and start bidding!”
And she already has words of wisdom for whomever is asked to chair next year’s event: “You will get out of it more than you put into it. You’ll meet wonderful families and see overwhelming generosity. You’ll get better acquainted with faculty and monks, and you kind of get to see the ‘other side’ of Priory. It’s all good!”
Click here to register for Xanadu 2016: Garden Party.