Dinner with Archbishop Flynn — for $21,000

The organizers of a gala benefit for Nicaraguan orphans weren’t sure what to expect when this unusual auction item went up for bid: a home-made Italian dinner with Archbishop Harry Flynn.

“I told my friends they’d better bid it up, if no one else was bidding,” said Lulu Daly, MC of the event and the woman charged with cooking the Italian meal for the Irish prelate and the winner bidder.

The Friends of the Orphans group, which supports 3.500 orphans in Latin America, has auctioned off Daly’s well-regarded home-made dinners before, sometimes raising as much as $10,000 for the cause. But they hadn’t included a celebrity before.

Flynn and Daly seemed a little nervous on the stage as bidding began, but they needn’t have worried. The bids climbed quickly: $5,000, $8,000, $10,000. Soon, two men were duking it out, adding $1,000 per bid, and when they got to $21,000, the auctioneer called “time out” to confer with Flynn and Daly. Coming out of their huddle, they announced that both bidders would win a dinner. At $21,000 each.

Neither bidder cared to be interviewed for this story, but Daly and the Orphans group leaders were elated. Daly said the tone of the evening seemed to change after the dinners went for such a premium, and bidders appeared to bid higher on other items.

Afterwards, I mentioned to Flynn that $21,000 seemed like a lot for dinner. “Seems like a lot to me, too,” he said.

He said he occasionally has agreed in the past to be auctioned off, so to speak, to raise money for the Catholic schools.

The winners generally don’t want to talk about politics or religion, he said. “They just want to socialize, and we get to know each other as people,” he said.

Flynn turns 75 in May, the age of mandatory retirement for bishops. He’ll be succeeded as Archbishop of the Diocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis by Bishop John Nienstedt, who currently heads the Diocese of New Ulm, Minn.

LuLu Daly said Flynn has been a long-time friend of her family, and she was excited to get him involved in the orphan auction. She and her husband, orthopedic surgeon Peter Daly, have started a surgical center near one of the orphan homes in Honduras, and hope Flynn will accompany them there for a visit.

About 500 people attended Friday night’s fundraising dinner and auction at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis; more than $400,000 was raised, much of it specifically to build new homes for orphans in Nicaragua, who are now living on a volcano-threatened island.

Daly said she hasn’t picked a menu yet for the dinner. But it will be at least five courses, she said. And she is partial to Pasta Arrabbiata, which carries a bit of a kick. One of the winning bidders plans to bring family members to the feast; the other may bring a group of deacons and their wives.

“Usually, we would have only eight to 10 people for the dinners, but I told the winners, for $21,000 they can bring as many as they want,” Daly said.

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