Mimi Fonseca was presented at the Fleur de Lis Ball in 1980, and what she remembers more than anything is the family atmosphere. “My whole family was there: my grandparents, aunts and uncles, sister and brother.” She was walked down the runway by her father, who calmed her nerves with jokes. The ball has become a family tradition: Her aunt was in the first class to be presented; her mother, Mary Ellen McEnery, has been a member of the board since 1972 and served as president from 1993 to 1995; and so far, four of Fonseca’s five daughters have been presented. The youngest is in fifth grade, and is already looking forward to the event, Fonseca says. “And the brothers go to the dancing classes and come to the ball to see their sisters.”
This year, Fonseca’s daughter, Elizabeth, was presented, and 10 of Fonseca’s 11 children were there, along with her father and other extended family. It’s like an extension of the Christmas holiday, she says. “It’s fun for the girls because they’re freshmen in college, and they haven’t seen a lot of their friends since they left for school in August.”
Not only is the ball a family tradition, but it has special meaning for them, as well, Fonseca says. “Several years ago, Cardinal Burke spoke at one of my older daughters’ balls, and he said it best. He said the girls are coming of age, and that the Church is their foundation. He told them as you go forth in the world, you take your Catholic traditions and faith with you.” She adds that the idea behind the whole organization is for Catholic boys and girls to meet and to foster friendships. “It’s a wonderful tradition and a wonderful way to support Cardinal Glennon. It’s a lovely family evening.”
The Miller/Dames family also has a long tradition in the Fleur de Lis organization. Judith Miller has been on the board since 1977, and was president from 1997 to 1999. Her two daughters, Christy Mason and Carolyn Dames, were presented in 1979 and 1983, respectively. Dames has served on the board herself since 2009, and her own daughter, Margaux Dames, was presented at this year’s event.
“With the craziness of the world, it’s like a safe haven,” Carolyn Dames says. “The board is a very nice group of women, and they’re diverse age-wise. We’re all close friends and I really respect them for the work they do. A lot of boards aren’t that serious, but this is truly a working board. Everyone pitches in and no one minds it.”
Dames says not much has changed about the ball since she was presented, except perhaps the gowns. This year as in many recent years, a majority of the honorees graduated from Villa Duchesne, and wore the same white gowns that they graduated in, although with added embellishments. “When I graduated back then, we wore really simple dresses; I think I had a little white eyelet dress. I don’t know who came up with the idea to combine them. I wore a new dress for the ball and it had poufy sleeves—they’re a little sleeker these days.”
The tradition and family atmosphere are two traits that Dames values most in the ball, she says. “They have the opportunity to be social and learn etiquette. Not many young people go out to dinner and dancing in that kind of atmosphere. This gives them a chance to do that. I remember how special it was back then, to walk with my father; and it’s just as special for my husband to walk my daughter. It’s really oriented around the family.”