Amy Mikel ’00: Brooklyn Librarian of the Year Reflects on Freedom to Read

April is School Library Month, and National Library Week begins April 7. Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) Director of Customer Experience Amy Mikel ‘00 spoke with her alma mater about the freedom to read, the importance of libraries and how the Fenwick community can support them.

Amy and four colleagues were named Library Journal’s Librarians of the Year in 2023 for their work in the Books UnBanned Program.

“I have a wonderful team and BPL is a wonderful organization,” Amy said. “People who work at BPL believe in the library’s mission and care deeply about the work that they do. Customer Service is an important and shared priority here.”

After graduating from Fenwick, the Valparaiso University alumna pursued a career in computer science before pivoting to librarianship, a move she calls “the perfect combination of teaching, culture and community-centered work.” She attended the University of Washington iSchool and has been working at BPL since 2012, serving in school outreach and civic engagement departments. Amy now oversees the library’s collection, circulation policies and procedures and generally works to ensure that the patron experience is “welcoming, easy and consistent across all our 61 branch locations and digital touch-points.”

“This kind of work can be challenging, because I always have a lot of balls in the air at one time, but that is also what I enjoy about it. My work stays varied and interesting. Every day I learn something new,” she said. “I love my job and I genuinely feel that it’s just the right fit for me, my background and my skill set. Working in library administration/operations means that I have the privilege and opportunities to address big-picture issues that can have a lasting impact on our staff and our patrons.”

Through addressing issues like the recent spike in efforts to remove or restrict books from classrooms and libraries across the country, Amy has crossed professional paths with fellow Fenwick graduate John Chatska ‘88, who serves as Executive Director of EveryLibrary. The organization supports libraries and helps fight book banning in the U.S., work Amy calls “crucial.”

Below, Amy reflects on how Fenwick families, alumni and staff can do their part to support libraries and raise awareness for the freedom to read.

The most basic thing that students, parents, and educators can do is to defend the freedom to read.

Reflect on the freedom to read. What does that mean to you? How has having the freedom to read personally benefited you? How does it benefit the broader community at large?

Protect it when you see it threatened. Vocalize its importance and the benefits. Lifelong learning, and fostering a growth mindset is important. Learning about things that are new, or different, or strange is important.

Having access to a diversity of perspectives is important, as is learning how to think critically about what you believe and why. Having access to someone who can help you navigate your reading options based on what you like and care about is important. Having independent choice is crucially important as young children grow into tweens, and from young adults to adults. We may make different choices about what we choose to read, but we cannot force those choices onto others.

Libraries provide a wonderful window to the world and allow for exploration and discovery – books can reflect a reader’s world back to them or they can open a window to something new. Both are crucially important for our young people as they seek to learn about the world and about themselves. There are professional frameworks that those working in education and in libraries use to determine the reading materials that end up in the classroom and on library shelves, and parents do have a choice and a role to play in their child’s education. 

Fenwick students, parents, educators, and alumni can support the freedom to read by supporting libraries – both school and public libraries. Without access to libraries, many will not have the freedom to read. 

The Fenwick community can build awareness by talking openly about the benefits of reading freely, our first amendment rights (including the right to express our opinions) and what barriers we may be erecting to take the right to read, learn or speak away from others. The American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement says, “We believe that free communication is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture. We believe that these pressures toward conformity present the danger of limiting the range and variety of inquiry and expression on which our democracy and our culture depend.”

I believe that learning how to learn, how to think critically, and how to interrogate our assumptions about the world and others is more important now than ever. Libraries are here for you, but we have to protect them – protect their right to exist, protect their mission to provide information freely, and speak up when we see libraries and library workers threatened.

James Krag ’80: From Blackfriars Guild to Broadway

James Krag ‘80 returns to Fenwick High School this Lent for a free performance of “According to Mark,” the Gospel of Mark in spoken word.

A professional actor with decades of experience on stage and screen, Mr. Krag has most recently performed at Drury Lane and Farmers Alley Theatre, playing roles in “A Christmas Carol” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

He believes his years at Fenwick laid the foundation for his thespian future: “I have always said that out of all the projects I have been involved with throughout my career, none of them provided me with the pure joy I received from the shows at Fenwick. Doing shows with Mr. [Roger] Finnell taught me the basics of stagecraft and being on stage. Having the opportunity to sing, dance, emcee and write skits for Banua gave me a taste of what a theatre career would be.”

Performing in shows like “Guys and Dolls” during his years in Blackfriars Theatre Guild also helped him “build the confidence and poise needed to perform in front of an audience.” He took those qualities to Steppenwolf Theatre and eventually to Broadway, understudying the role of Larry in Landford Wilson’s “Burn This” alongside John Malkovich and Joan Allen.

“My journey to Broadway can be described as unbelievably lucky, or simply being in the right place at the right time – and being prepared,” Mr. Krag said. “I was a young actor working as an understudy [during] Steppenwolf’s heyday, when they first began doing the exciting shows that put them on the map…I wasn’t expecting anything to come out of it, I just wanted to learn.”

He saw every rehearsal and performance of “Burn This” in Chicago before being asked to understudy one of the play’s four characters six months into its Manhattan run. “I arrived in New York, dove into rehearsals, and two weeks later I was performing. I stayed with the show for the rest of the run, continuing to do performances when needed. It was glorious.”

He went on to originate the roles of EKO in the Pulitzer Prize finalist “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” and Sandy in “Duck Hunter Shoots Angel” by Mitch Albom of “Tuesdays with Morrie” fame. In addition to his onscreen work in “While You Were Sleeping,” “Mercury Rising,” “Ellen” and “Chicago PD,” he starred in “Romeo and Juliet” at Oak Park Festival Theatre.

Bringing this production of “According to Mark” to Fenwick was important to Mr. Krag, who collaborated with director Jeff Christian to bring Mark’s gospel to life on stage. Their goal is to present the story “as if it might have been first heard” by early Christians.

“I tried to forget everything I knew about the story of Jesus and approach the gospel fresh. I found Jesus as described by Mark to be very human and complex. He is at points boisterous, lighthearted, sure of himself, loving, in your face, petulant, angry and frightened.”

Mr. Krag believes Mark’s Gospel “has all the elements of great storytelling: a strong leader, humorous sidekicks, villains, intrigue and great tragedy…I guarantee the audience will hear things differently than they have ever before.”

“According to Mark” will be performed Tuesday, March 26 at 7 p.m. in Fenwick’s Roger A. Finnell Auditorium. Registration is required for this free event.

Women’s History Month: Fenwick Alumnae in Sports

In celebration of International Women’s Day and the beginning of spring athletics season, Fenwick High School is highlighting the work of alumnae who entered the sports field after high school. Many of these accomplished women say Fenwick played a major role in their eventual career paths, laying a foundation for not only achieving professional success but also living well-rounded lives.

From public relations and marketing to journalism and merchandising, these Friars continue to lead, achieve and serve in the world of sports.

Sheena Quinn ‘00
Senior Director of Public Relations
Chicago White Sox

“Fenwick was such a formative part of my upbringing and development,” said Sheena Quinn ‘00, who has served as Senior Director of Public Relations for the White Sox since 2014. “I loved sports, specifically basketball, and the time that I spent in the classroom combined with my team through the women’s basketball program helped me form important value systems, work ethic and lifelong friendships. I am grateful for the opportunity to work in sports, and I certainly think some of those values started at Fenwick.”

The Marquette University graduate handles integrated communications and public relations efforts for the team, including corporate communications, organizational reputation management and multicultural community outreach. She helped launch multiple diversity and inclusion initiatives, including the BasebALL: One Game for All fan campaign and Game Changers, an annual program “focused on celebrating individual differences and inclusivity” through sports.

“Baseball gives so much more to people than just wins and losses on the field. It offers a chance to make memories that you can have forever.”

While her contributions toward diversity and inclusion are among her proudest achievements, “the memory that I will always keep close is creating an extra special day for Friar alumna, Christina (Leonardo) Nelson ‘00, and her family during Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month in September. On those days in particular, I understand that baseball gives so much more to people than just wins and losses on the field. It offers a chance to make memories that you can have forever.”

Quinn said she marvels at the impact the franchise has on its fans and their lives. “In my role, there are so many moments during which I am in awe…It’s incredible to see how strangers, pulling for the same team, can sit next to one another and immediately form a bond over a shared love for one organization. I’m fortunate to have earned a role with the Chicago White Sox – the same team that my dad and grandfather loved…I understand that not every person is able to say that, and I’m grateful to be in a position to say that.”

She advises current Friars to “take advantage of every opportunity,” encouraging those interested in pursuing sports-related careers to “gain experience, add to your portfolio and expand your network.” 

“For those just getting started in their careers, I always share some advice that another executive who I admire told me once: Try to be a problem solver, and not just a problem identifier, when you can,” Quinn said. “Be willing to offer a solution and help carry it out…Don’t just point out the speed bumps.”

Colleen Quinn ‘09
Director, Communications & Digital Marketing
United Center

Colleen Quinn ‘09 has spent 10 years working at the United Center, the largest arena in North America. She currently serves as Director of Communications & Digital Marketing, overseeing digital marketing campaigns, communications strategy and execution, campus expansion planning and event acquisition bid development.

The most rewarding aspect of this work is “the variety and limitless opportunity,” Quinn said. “At the United Center, every day is a new day. We could have a Chicago Bulls game one day and a Harry Styles’ LOVE ON TOUR residency beginning the next. Today, I will work on event acquisition for future years of NCAA Championship events at the arena. Tomorrow, I will work on the upcoming media logistics tour in support of the 2024 Democratic National Convention. I’m grateful for the ability in my role to cover such a wide range of the business and strategy.”

As a member of WISE Chicago (Women in Sports & Events), she advocates for women working in live events and coordinated the organization’s first celebration of women in the workplace. She credits her high school experience with paving the way toward these endeavors.

“Fenwick High School’s long standing values to lead, achieve and serve has been the foundation of my path to success in my career. The education, the discipline and the network I developed in my time at Fenwick and the years following has consistently been a pivotal driver for achievement in my career.” 

Her memories of Fenwick also steered her toward pursuing a career in sports after attending Purdue University. “From flying to the east coast every weekend to see my brother play college football, traveling to Southern Illinois to watch my sister [Sheena] compete with the Friars in the IHSA Basketball Championship or running the track with my teammates in preparation for an upcoming meet, sports has always been a major player in my life and upbringing,” Quinn said. “My passion for the world of sports paired together with my learned discipline and work ethic made the sports and entertainment industry the perfect fit for my career.”

Quinn encourages current Friars to “be bold” as they navigate their college decisions and future careers. “Whether it’s speaking up in a room of colleagues that have differing opinions or paving the way to bring an innovative idea to fruition, speak up. The world needs to hear your perspective, no matter the scale.”

Sarah Lorenzi ‘97
Chicago Area Alternative Education League (CAAEL)

Sarah Lorenzi ‘97 and her sister Katie Martin Trendel ‘00 left behind their previous occupations to serve the Chicago Area Alternative Education League (CAAEL), founded by their father John Martin in 1976. He passed away in 2017 after more than four decades helping provide interscholastic activities for at-risk and special education students from several counties in Illinois. Lorenzi stepped in as President and CEO, while Trendel began serving as a program administrator in 2018 after years as Sports Director at the Pav YMCA in Berwyn.

“I felt that CAAEL was my calling,” said Lorenzi, who spent 13 years as a teacher in Oak Park before joining the team at her father’s nonprofit a year before his passing. “I knew I wanted to do something bigger. I wanted to help more than just the students in my class. I felt like I needed to step away from my teaching career to run CAAEL alongside my father because he was slowing down, and [the organization] continued to grow organically…it was becoming too large for just one person. I feel so grateful and blessed to have had that time with him, as he taught me all I needed to know about CAAEL.”

CAAEL offers more than 1,000 events throughout the school year, including sports, academic bowls and other extracurricular activities. The organization provides alternative school educators with athletic and educational programming to keep students motivated and engaged during the school day. 

“It gives them an opportunity to be a part of a team, opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” Lorenzi said. “Knowing I’m making a difference in this world, all while honoring my dad’s legacy, is incredibly rewarding.”

She hopes current Fenwick students will consider “following your heart” when deciding on a field of study. “If you are passionate about it, the rest will fall into place.”

Karli Bell ‘12
Chicago Sky Reporter
Chicago Cubs Digital Content Producer/Editor

A multimedia sports journalist at Marquee Sports Network, Karli Bell ‘12 launched the monthly program “Chicago Sky: No Limits,” the first of its kind featuring a WNBA team. Producing long-form content about Cubs and Sky players and fans, Bell says her passion for creating sports-related content stems from her years at Fenwick.

“A basketball injury had me reevaluate my career choice…I couldn’t just walk away from sports when I was injured,” said Bell. “I loved speaking and multimedia, so I created what is now Fenwick Television in 2010 to give students an opportunity to get hands-on experience with multimedia before the take off of the social media age. I wanted to create a space that encourages creativity, expression and storytelling while getting early hands-on experience before going off to college.”

The Ohio University graduate said a highlight of her work is “meeting all different types of people from different places and backgrounds and stories…Athletes are an amalgamation of general human society, and I love telling people’s stories and understanding their journey to how they got here. You learn a lot about someone when you just ask a couple questions, and having the opportunity to tell their story is an honor.”

Bell encourages young Friars with hopes of entering sports media to “network like crazy” and understand the unusual schedules and commitments that come with a life in journalism. “I’m insanely blessed that I get paid to watch and talk about sports, no matter what the pay – that is the mindset you need to have if you want to work in sports.”

Laura (Hibbitts) Baller ’02
Credit Supervisor
Wilson Sporting Goods

Though sports were not a central aspect of her Fenwick experience, Laura (Hibbits) Baller ‘02 said her time in high school and participation in Blackfriars Theatre Guild gave her the foundation she needed to take a risk in her professional life.

“My years at Fenwick gave me the confidence to pursue a career that was initially out of my comfort zone. I can’t imagine being anywhere else now,” Baller said of Wilson Sporting Goods, where she has worked since graduating from college. “The amount of enthusiasm and dedication to our brand blows me away every day. Wilson has such a rich history and it’s great to see how far we’ve come and where we’re headed.”

She encouraged her fellow Friar and classmate Megan McInerney ‘02 to join the People & Culture team, on which she now serves as director, spearheading Wilson’s “Inside the Huddle” learning program.

Megan McInerney ‘02
Director, People & Culture
Wilson Sporting Goods

“Building something from the ground up and seeing the impact that the program has had across the company has been incredibly rewarding,” McInerney said. “It’s exciting to work for a company that empowers me to learn, grow, and win.”

“A big part of living like an athlete isn’t even physical – it’s the qualities and characteristics that make the best athletes who they are.

McInerney’s Fenwick years contributed toward this mentality and Wilson’s mission to “empower every human to live like an athlete,” she said. “Playing a sport in high school taught me a lot about being an athlete, and the traits of an athlete – like an innate desire to win and having a team mentality – naturally carry over to the business world, especially when you work in the sporting goods industry.”

She encourages young Friars to “be open minded” as they consider their post-high school lives. “You don’t necessarily have to play sport professionally or work for a team to pursue a career in the sports field. In fact, a big part of living like an athlete isn’t even physical – it’s the qualities and characteristics that make the best athletes who they are. It’s the grit and determination to do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal. It’s acting with integrity, humility, and heart in all that you do.”

Baller agrees, urging current Fenwick students to “be patient” as they continue their academics. “Be dedicated. Feel empowered. You might take some hits, but always get back up. Every pro starts off as a rookie.”

Ashley Beth ‘14
Associate Legal Counsel 
National Women’s Soccer League

Ashley Beth ‘14 spent three years playing for a historic Fenwick soccer team, which eventually  “translated into a dream career in the sports industry.” She now works as associate legal counsel for the National Women’s Soccer League.

“I am part of a small group of individuals who get to dedicate their careers to navigating the unique challenges presented in women’s sports,” Beth said. “The decisions we make at the most prominent women’s professional sports league are shaping the future for women’s sports and for women generally. It is a dream come true, and we are just getting started at the NWSL.”

“Competition, community and achievement were integral attributes of my experience at Fenwick, both in athletics and academics.”

Being a student athlete directly fuels her current work as an attorney. “I have always been passionate about the fundamental attributes of sports – competition, community, and achievement,” the Loyola University School of Law graduate said. “All were integral attributes of my experience at Fenwick, both in athletics and academics.”

Her role at the NWSL “combines everything I love,” a fact she calls “fortunate” but which required “persistence” and dedication, qualities she encourages current Fenwick students to emulate. 

“It took me three years of applying for an internship at the NWSL to be offered an interview. Since then, I have had four different titles within the League in just two years to get to my current position that I desired to achieve…I worked in all levels of athletics in some regard, and used different skill sets in each role.  Be open to taking a position that may not be the ‘perfect’ role.”

Brianna McCormick ‘16
Athletes in Action
Campus Ministry Staff

Brianna McCormick ’16 (second from right) with Athletes in Action students.

As a two-sport college athlete playing softball and running cross country at Roosevelt University, Brianna’s “faith was ignited and built up” through the resources provided by Athletes in Action, and she now serves on their Campus Ministry Staff. The branch of Cru works directly with current college student athletes in “sharing the gospel and helping them develop their faith and walk with the Lord through the context, culture and language of sport.”

Athletes in Action “laid the foundation for me in knowing how to have a relationship with Jesus…within the culture and context of being a collegiate athlete,” she said. She calls their impact “pivotal” to her personal growth, “not only as a follower of Christ but as an athlete and a student in college.”

Fenwick also played a role in her eventual pursuits, combining her athletic career with her faith life. 

“Looking back, I can now see how a lot of these foundations and curiosities about Jesus were sparked in high school by being in an academic setting that put high value in integrating faith into the Friar’s daily life,” she said. “Theology classes, as well as my experience as a peer tutor, revealed my gift of teaching others and having a desire to make God known. Combine those gifts with my love for sports and I truly think the work I’m doing with Athletes in Action is a perfect fit.”

She enjoys “seeing the impact” embracing faith can have on young athletes: “Seeing students strive to live more like Christ is really’s rewarding to be a small part of that process. Playing your sport for God brings a whole new level of freedom when the pressure is taken off of you and your performance. It instead is a reflection of using your gifts to honor God.”

McCormick wants current Friars to “pursue a career path that you enjoy – even if it’s not something you studied or that matches your degree.”

Alumni Spotlight: Elizabeth “Libby” (Robertson) Kincanon ’96

A middle school teacher in the Westchester School District, Libby Kincanon ‘96 has been coaching the Fenwick Speech Team for nearly two decades. Earlier this year, she and fellow coach Geralyn Magrady cheered Team Captain Alex Lefko ‘24 all the way to IHSA State Competition in the category of Radio Speaking.

“Ms. Magrady and I could not be more proud of Alex and her success this year,” Kincanon said. “Alex’s voice is smooth, articulate and empathetic as she presents the news. Her great success is a tribute to her exceptional skill and hard work.”

It was a full-circle moment for Kincanon, who was the last female Friar to compete at State back in 1995.

“I loved theater, speaking, acting, and humor,” she said of her years on the “hugely successful” Fenwick Speech and Debate Team, on which she competed in five categories over four years. She was also involved in volleyball, swimming and water polo, in addition to the Wick, Campus Ministry and Blackfriars Guild. “Fenwick was an exceptional educational experience for me, filled with high demands and creativity. I gained confidence in my learning that far exceeded anything up until that point … and I met my lifelong best friends at Fenwick.”

The last two female Fenwick Friars to compete at state for Speech: Alex Lefko ’24 and Coach Libby Kincanon ’96.

After spending time with Teach for America in Los Angeles, she returned to volunteer at Fenwick in 2006 following the passing of Coach Judy Speer.

“Those first years, it was hard to recruit after Ms. Speer’s passing. Ms. Emily Anderson used to put sign-up sheets for me on the first floor and then text me who signed up and when,” Kincanon said of her early coaching days. “I have coached after school two times a week ever since. Now we have students who have transferred to Fenwick because of the Speech Team and chose Fenwick because we offer Speech and their second choice did not.”

The team has seen success through adversity in her years of coaching, going to IHSA Sectionals in 17 of her 18 years with the program. “Even in COVID, when we switched to online live competitions, our students were in the final rounds every single time” despite facing schools with larger teams. 

Fenwick Speech has continued to be a top priority in her life. Even as “a wife and busy mom of three extremely active kids,” Kincanon has never missed a tournament or practice, traveling to Washington, Albany, Omaha, Sacramento “and everything in between” for Catholic Nationals. (“Sometimes my kids have even served as mascots for the team!”)

The most rewarding aspect of this work is “sharing my passion and the gift of speaking with fellow Fenwick Friars (some whose parents were my classmates) … [it] allows this busy mom and proud alumni a chance to relive the ‘good ol days’ with pleasure.”

Her passion for speech class and competition stems from its importance as a life skill and aspect of Fenwick’s college preparatory curriculum.

“Learning how to speak, present, write, perform, collaborate, and communicate is imperative for future success,” Kincanon said. “Ms. Magrady exemplifies this in her class. In a world where we rely on abridged text communication, speaking and listening are crucially-needed 21st Century skills. I hope more students continue to join the program and embrace the team. In the words of Sandy Rose, ‘Have fun and learn lots!’ I make sure to say that at every tournament, and I hope each student who has gone through the program does both.”

Ms. Geralyn Magrady, Alex Lefko ’24 and Mrs. Libby Kincanon ’96 at IHSA Sectionals.

Fenwick Cheerleaders Continue Historic Run

The highest-scoring team in school history is making a push toward state for the first time in 11 years.

The highest-scoring cheerleading team in Fenwick history is headed for sectionals. The Friars continue their momentous season January 27 at Rolling Meadows High School, competing for the chance to move on to the IHSA State Final in February.

“We are excited to showcase our hard work and continue to make history as the first team to head to IHSA state in a decade,” said Head Coach Carlotta (Battelli) Fleming ‘13. As a student athlete, she competed on Fenwick’s first-ever state-bound cheer team. “My goal now is to give the winning title over to the athletes I coach.”

Coach Carlotta Fleming, then and now.

Those athletes became the Friars’ highest-placing team ever at the ICCA State Finals earlier this season. They also posted a record-setting score during the Fremd Snowdown Invitational on Jan. 20. “The competition team has been working hard since June, and we continue to improve our score and spirit at competitions every weekend,” said Brooke Henrichs ‘24.

“The energy of the team this week has been great,” Alyssa Ruffolo ‘24 said in the lead-up to sectionals. “We are all so excited to be a part of the historic season and have been working extremely hard to get here…I’m most excited about making sure that we just have fun on the mat and do our best.”

Varsity and JV at Catholic League Conference competition.

“Building a family” has been the key to the Friars’ success this season, according to Fleming. “These athletes love and trust one another. Without those two things, we couldn’t practice safely, let alone be a winning team.”

Henrichs adds that the team has “never been closer” in her four years of cheerleading for Fenwick. “This program continues to grow…not only in skills and size, but also in confidence with the help of Coach Carlotta, Coach [Diane] Sabbia and Coach Sydney [Kozyra Jentel ‘15]. They believed in us. They set high expectations because they knew we could accomplish any goal we set for ourselves. We could not have done any of this without them, and the incessant energy and inspirational quotes every day by Coach Sabbia.”

Fleming also credits her fellow coaches with helping “find new and creative solutions to move the team forward,” along with the close-knit community of Friar cheerleading alumnae like Coach Kelly (Close) Dolan ‘01. “She continues even today to be my mentor and guide…she was also an alumna who poured her heart and soul into making the team she called home a success.” (Echoes Henrichs: “Once a Friar Cheerleader, always a Friar Cheerleader.”)

Cheer celebrating with the dance team after their performance.

The Priory Campus became the team’s designated practice space last winter. “Having a dedicated location and time slot has created a consistency that is key to our program’s success and our athletes’ academic success as well,” Fleming said, noting that every athlete on the squad had the best academic semester of their high school careers last year. (They ended the season with a team average GPA of 4.06.)

Though coaches look forward to growing the program in the future – planning an incoming freshman workshop and kids’ camp in the spring – they have been inspired by the leadership qualities of this season’s seniors. All five team members from the Class of 2024 received the Senior Scholar Award, recognizing their work on the mat and in the classroom: Henrichs, Ruffolo, Genevieve Morrissey, Josie Mayerhofer and Jada Onrubia.

“We could not have gotten anywhere without the trust and commitment of our seniors,” Fleming said. “These athletes began their Fenwick career in the midst of a pandemic and a coaching change. Their dedication to the betterment of the program and the support of the athletes younger than them is something I’d love to highlight. To my varsity five, thank you.”

Fenwick cheerleaders and Senior Scholar Award winners from the Class of 2024.

Endowed Scholarship Fund to Honor ‘Legendary’ Swim Coach Dan O’Brien

Fenwick High School is proud to announce a matching challenge to establish the Mr. Dan O’Brien Endowed Scholarship Fund. Aquatics alum Neal Armstrong ’63 presented a $50,000 matching challenge in honor of the longtime swim coach’s legacy of excellence in Friar Aquatics.

Read Armstrong’s reflections on the legacy of Mr. O’Brien, who spent more than five decades at Fenwick:

There can be no other person in Fenwick’s history that exemplifies the dedication and loyalty exhibited by Mr. O’Brien. 

Most are aware of his coaching prowess, but often overlooked was his influence encouraging individuals’ excellence both on the podium as well as educational pursuits. He was there for all of us as we pursued further education, competition, summer jobs and careers. Thanks to his help and guidance, he was ultimately responsible for many of us financing our education. It is only appropriate that we should help pay forward in honor of his legacy.

From the first day I entered Fenwick, I remember an atmosphere of participation in success. We wanted to be part of that success, and jumped at the opportunities that were presented to us. Mr. O’Brien scoured the gym classes to find potential members for his teams. I remember a kid that didn’t make the cut, but was still welcomed after he expressed a desire to be a part of his program. He toiled along with the other selected potential members in that outside lane, while the experienced competitors worked in the remainder of the pool. I remember Mr. O’Brien spending the time coaching each of the “outside lane” guys individually to bring out any potential.

After learning the trade, we were eventually elevated to the regular workouts to compete along with the experienced team members. I remember being proud and thankful of the efforts when this kid was awarded a conference gold medal, All-American recognition and a college scholarship.

Mr. O’Brien never forgot us. Twenty-five years later at my father’s wake, there was Mr. O’Brien, honoring our father and giving solace to our family.

I always have a little sly smile when I hear him referred to as the Dobber or even coach. He was Mr. O’Brien. Yes, we even referred to him as the Dobber, but he earned our respect and made sure he never heard us say anything but “Mr.”

Learn more about establishing the Mr. Dan O’Brien Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Fenwick Bowlers Off to Strong Start

Coach Austin Aldridge began his first season as head coach of the Fenwick Bowling Teams earlier this year. He joins the Friar program after nine years working with the Hillside Youth Junior League, training bowlers from ages four to 18.

With the help of assistant coaches Tyler Kenny, Michelle Walker and Giovanni Casimer, girls’ varsity bowling is “off to a great start,” winning all three games in their first competition. The boys’ team is working its way back to full strength after a majority of last season’s bowlers graduated in May. “We have been rebuilding well, [but] we definitely would love to have more athletes that are interested in joining the team,” Aldridge said.

“The chemistry and energy of both teams has been amazing,” the coach said of the group of 14 Friar bowlers. “They have so much fun together, so much faith in each other’s abilities and do such a great job of encouraging [and] cheering each other on. They feel very comfortable with voicing opinions with each other to assist in any way possible to be successful.”

Olivia Cameron ‘25 has “played a major role in the team’s success thus far,” according to her new coach. She made history last year as the first female bowler in Fenwick history to qualify for state finals, but Aldridge believes her “incredible scores” (and 216 average) are exceeded by her team leadership. “She has taken on the team leader role and loves to share her knowledge and experiences of the sport with her teammates. She has consistently come through in clutch situations to seal victories.”

On the boys’ side, “Connor Walsh is definitely someone to watch out for,” Aldridge said of the sophomore, who leads the team with a 161 average. Benicio Carideo ‘25 is close behind with 153, adding more than 30 pins to his average from last year. JR Welshons ‘27 is new to competitive bowling but has more than doubled his average to an “astonishing” 121.

“We’re definitely on the move and with hopes of progressing enough to take both teams all the way to state competition,” Aldridge said.

A lifelong avid bowler with a history of competing nationally, Aldridge comes from a family of bowlers – including his 12-year-old daughter Savannah, who averages a 160 score and is already competing in national tournaments.

“I have a passion for coaching, and I love to see the progression of the athletes’ improvement over time,” Aldridge said. “My goal is to create a culture that inspires greatness, encourages team motivation and elevates overall performance to unlock the fullest potential to be successful.”

Fathers & Daughters of Fenwick: In Their Words

Friar alumnae and their fathers share perspectives on Fenwick in this online supplement to the fall edition of the Friar Reporter.

Amy Hammer ’99:

I didn’t feel that my experience as a “female Friar” was any different than any other Friar, which I suppose is a testament to Fenwick seamlessly integrating the female population into the student body. I was challenged academically, prepared well for college and given opportunities inside and outside of the classroom that allowed me to explore interests and become a well-rounded individual.  

One of my favorite teachers, who I still remember to this day, is Mr. Williams. He taught me computer programming for three years, first in Pascal and then C++ (yes, it was the late ’90s).  I knew nothing about computers when I started in his class except how to type on one, but he was patient, thorough, and pushed me to excel. He challenged me in ways that I hadn’t previously been challenged and seemed genuinely happy for me when I was able to achieve new skills. It was a male-dominated class and a precursor to what I would experience in college, but Mr. Williams didn’t treat me any differently than any of the young men in the class, giving me confidence that I could pursue any degree that I wanted. 

“I didn’t feel that my experience as a ‘female Friar’ was any different than any other Friar.”

Amy Hammer ’99

I was a cheerleader for football and boys’ basketball during all of my years at Fenwick. When I was a junior, our varsity basketball team featured Corey Magette and went downstate for the playoffs. It was a very exciting time for the entire school, and the cheerleading squad felt no differently. However, we soon found out that while Fenwick was paying for the basketball team to stay in a hotel downstate and allocating tickets for parents of the basketball team, there were no such benefits for the cheerleaders or our parents. This seemed like an injustice. In our view, it was important that we were at the game to represent our school, as we had all season, and that our parents be there to support us. My mom called the school to explain this position. Despite not having the initial foresight, Fenwick, to their credit, made sure that all of the cheerleaders’ parents had tickets to the games downstate. They also paid for the cheerleaders to stay in a hotel near the arena where the downstate games were held. However, when we arrived, we discovered it was actually a motel that was not nearly as nice as the one where the basketball team stayed, which was a disappointment. It was a step in the right direction, but there was still room for improvement. When I see Fenwick news these days, I always smile when I see the success that the cheerleaders and pom squads are having and the support that Fenwick gives them. I hope that what we did in the late ’90s was a small block on which they were able to build. 

At Fenwick, I learned how to study and take the right coursework and steps for academic success. I also learned how to interact with and get along people from a lot of different backgrounds. I was the only person from my grade school that attended Fenwick, so everyone was new to me, and I soon learned that many people in my classes came from families, homes, and experiences that were different than mine. I think these daily interactions benefited me in the long run. My dad mentioned that he thinks he learned how to listen while at Fenwick, and I agree with that sentiment. But I also think I learned how to talk to people at Fenwick — talk to people who were not just my friends, but all people regardless of what we initially had in common. In fact, at Fenwick, I think I learned that by talking to people outside of your bubble, you can often find commonalities between all of us, which helps to build relationships and bonds that can benefit everyone.  

After graduating from Fenwick in 1999, I went to Northwestern and graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering in 2003. After college, I went to law school and graduated from John Marshall in Chicago (now UIC) in 2006. I began working for a Chicago-based intellectual property law firm as a summer associate and then as an associate, practicing patent law. My firm merged with a national general practice firm in 2008, where I eventually became a partner. After many years (and a global pandemic), I transitioned back to a small intellectual property firm based in North Carolina that allows me to work remotely to help me balance my time with my three young kids.

Amy Hammer ’99 and Bill Hammer ’71.

Bill Hammer ’71:

Amy always was gifted academically and worked extremely hard to study and excel in school work. The fact that classes were now co-ed raised the academic level at Fenwick. I was the first person in my family to go to college, and Fenwick was a big part of that path. I wanted my daughter to think college was not something that might happen for her but was where she was expecting to go. Fenwick gave her those skills to succeed.

Amy went all in at Fenwick. She loved the sports and the traditions. She did cheerleading. She played softball. She was in Blackfriars Guild. She was in the band. She did very well in mathematics and computers. Her freshman year, which was my son’s senior year, the class valedictorian was a female student. The ladies excelled at Fenwick.

Fenwick is a place that competition was not a bad word. Sports and curricular activities are as important as the academics to make a well-rounded person. Learning how to study is a very important life skill that Fenwick helps nurture by its strong academics. Fenwick teaches social responsibility and how people need to help people that need help.

One of the skills I learned that I have used all my life is to listen to what the person talking to you is saying. Listening served me well in my career in relating to my customers’ needs. In class at Fenwick my teachers were, for the most part, great lecturers and I learned to listen to what they were saying. Putting in the effort to accomplish a goal was also learned at Fenwick. Teachers challenged you to be better than you thought was possible. Family has always been important to me. Having my daughter and son attend Fenwick was important to me and my wife.

I am retired after working in industrial sales for over 45 years. I retired as a Business Development Manager for Nord Drivesystems. When I joined them in 1983, they were a startup German company here in the USA. They are now a billion dollars in sales globally.

Having my daughter and son attend Fenwick was important to me and my wife.

Bill Hammer ’71

Editor’s Note: Bill’s son, fellow alumnus Jason Hopkinson ’96, graduated from Tulane University (NOLA), where he also attended law school. “He lived in New Orleans through Hurricane Katrina and the gulf oil spill,” Bill reports. Jason worked as a public defender there before returning to the Chicago area. He now has an office in Downers Grove, IL, working for himself with a focus on real-estate, trusts and criminal law.  

Corcoran family Friars sport their class rings.

John Corcoran ’87:

I remember hearing about Fenwick going coed right when I was getting married and planning on starting a family. It made me happy to know that if I had daughters, they would be able to have the same advantage of a Fenwick education that I did.

[Daughters] Bridget and Colleen were very active as Friars. They both participated in Irish dance at BANUA, were Eucharist Ministers and were members of the Poms team. Bridget also played girls’ soccer. Colleen did Best Buddies, Student Council, Math Team, was a Kairos [retreat] leader and helped start the Dance Showcase.

In a number of these clubs, both Bridget and Colleen were able to experience taking leadership roles. Colleen also reflected that it was eye opening to learn from teachers like Ms. Esposito, who went through the first female class, and see just how recent and relevant it was that the integration happened.

Editor’s Note: John Corcoran retired from advertising and now a is Chicagoland realtor, bagpipe instructor for the famous Shannon Rovers (and the Fenwick Bagpipe Club, which is in its second year!) As a piper, John is on tour with “Last Out: Elegy of a Green Beret,” a stage play sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation. Cindy, John’s wife and “Friar by marriage,” is a Catholic school teacher as St. Andrew the Apostle (Romeoville, IL) and, he says, “is eligible to be inducted to the ‘Best Friar Football Mom’ Hall of Fame!” 

It made me happy to know that if I had daughters, they would be able to have the same advantage of a Fenwick education that I did.

John Corcoran ’87

Erin Vondrasek Mongano ’07:

Having a strong work ethic, moral compass or sense of right and wrong, and sense of community are all Fenwick attributes that transcend gender. Having high expectations for ourselves was definitely something instilled at Fenwick, and that success, both personally and professionally, should also always include a servant element and be morally guided. I think we also learned a lot of resiliency and grit at Fenwick and how to use critical thinking to problem solve, which has served us all well.”

Editor’s Note: Erin’s dad, Jim (Fenwick Class of ’84) retired, after a successful career in investment banking, to New Buffalo, MI, where he owns a construction company that builds single-family homes. Grandfather Bob (Class of ’57) also is a Friar and former banker who is enjoying retirement in west-suburban Naperville, IL. Erin lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband and our daughter: a hopeful fourth-generation future Friar, Class of 2040!

Top row: Nick Rankin and the Vondraseks: Rachel ’12, Jim ’84, Jimmy ’09, Mark ’85 and Nancy. Front row: Maria Vondrasek Tala ’12, Erin Vondrasek Mangano ’07, Bobby Vondrasek and Jenna Vondrasek Rankin ’11.

Rob Polston ’91:

I believe the values of faith, commitment and competition instilled in me at Fenwick are shared by my sons, Alec ’17, Jack ’18, Nick ’21 and Topher ’26. My daughter Olivia graduated in 2023.

Olivia excelled for the same reasons all successful grads make it at Fenwick. A drive to be her best and the support and competition from peers who drive each other to succeed and push themselves. As our yearbook motto said: faster, higher, stronger.

My initial reaction to Fenwick going co-ed was mixed. I had a great experience – why mess with a good thing? But then I thought “why not?” I was the editor-in-chief of the yearbook, and we asked the school what they thought. The reactions were similar. Nostalgia for tradition, but open to a new way forward for Fenwick.

In 15 years as CEO of higher educational companies, my focus on the the quality of what we bring our students comes my value system I learned at Fenwick. Great educators focus not on the professional skills and knowledge that their institution offers, but also the personal development that makes students into leaders. Fenwick is a success because it builds the leaders who can change the future for themselves and those around them.

The Polston family: Jack ’18, Nicholas ’21, Alec ’17, Christopher ’26 and Olivia ’23.

Featured image: Ciara Hopkinson ’16 and Jim Hopkinson ’77.

Friars Forge Bonds with Argentine Visitors

Fenwick families hosted 10 students from Buenos Aires this month.

Ten students from Colegio Champagnat in Buenos Aires, Argentina visited Fenwick High School this month as part of an exchange program developed by Spanish teacher Crissy Lilek ‘05. Argentine visitors spent more than a week shadowing 11 Fenwick junior and senior hosts, staying with their families and immersing themselves in American life and culture.

In addition to attending Fenwick classes and participating in extracurricular activities, the group explored Chicagoland over the course of their stay. They made visits to the Willis Tower and Six Flags Great America, counting Navy Pier and the United Center among their favorite attractions and bagels, cinnamon rolls and deep dish pizza as the best cuisine.

Colegio Champagnat students have been studying the English language since second grade. In presentations before Fenwick Spanish classes, they gave background on their neighborhood in the city of Buenos Aires, along with information on Argentine geography and history. Students learned about the similarities in their government and pastimes, noting differences in climate and school schedules.

Fenwick hosts were eager to hear about their visitors’ 12-hour journey to the U.S and how they feel about famed Argentine footballer Lionel Messi playing for Major League Soccer in the states. (They’re OK with it.) Classes also sampled a traditional Argentine mate drink, prepared by their guests in the classroom of Marianne Carrozza ‘96.

Lilek almost instantly saw the exchange experience as formative for her Spanish students. “This opened their eyes to a different culture and the power of world language…it showed them what language can do,” Lilek said. “I hope it inspires them to want to travel and continue to learn more.”

The bonds formed between hosts and guests was “heartwarming” to witness, Lilek said: “The relationships they’ve formed are so sweet…they’re genuinely best friends.”

Fenwick students are planning a spring break exchange trip to Argentina in March to reunite with their visitantes.

Student Reflections: 2023-2024

March 1

Olivia Nybo ’25 provided the Student Reflection at the 2nd Friday of Lent Mass Mass on Friday, March 1, 2024.

Good morning, my name is Olivia Nybo, and I am a member of the class of 2025. 

During the season of Lent, we are called to spend our time reflecting on who Jesus was, and the example He set for us to follow. 

In today’s Gospel, it is said:

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” 

The cornerstone is symbolic of many things in Christianity. It can be seen as a symbol for Christ, a symbol of our faith, and most importantly a symbol for how we should live our lives. 

A cornerstone may often be seen as insignificant, but in truth, it is the most important stone in a structure. When constructing a building, builders must choose a cornerstone, and only the best stones are selected. Its job then becomes to connect the two walls and be the foundation for the structure. Essentially, a cornerstone is something that in the beginning seems small and insignificant but grows to become an important part of the whole. 

This idea of something “insignificant” transforming to be significant can be seen in our daily lives. Many of us here, including myself, have once viewed their faith to be insignificant. Growing up, I attended a Catholic grade school, where we would have morning prayer every day, along with religion class and Mass every friday. Growing up, I tended to view these events as something that could be brushed off. I didn’t view my relationship with God as something worth giving up my time for. However, as I grew older, my faith began to become an essential part of my life. My faith has become a cornerstone in my life because it is the foundation on which I stand on, especially during hard times. God has changed in my eyes from someone who I didn’t really desire to have a relationship to someone who I depend on and can’t live without. 

We are all called to make Faith the cornerstone of our lives, which is saying that our faith should be an essential part of us. There is a big difference between being a stone vs. a cornerstone. A stone is someone who has good intentions, who has a kind heart, and who tries to care about others. Whereas a cornerstone is someone who takes faith and acts upon the characteristics of faith.  A cornerstone does good in the world, treats others with respect, and puts others before themselves. 

Being a cornerstone rather than just a stone, however, is not an easy job. One of the most significant parts of the quote I previously read is that the builders had first rejected the stone. 

Jesus is the cornerstone of all cornerstones. He showed mercy to everyone and what it means to sacrifice for the good of others. Because of this, he was persecuted and crucified, before being raised again.

Similarly, we can choose to follow these often under-appreciated characteristics on Earth. Through things like service, choosing kindness, and putting others before ourselves. 

When I was 12 years old, I attended an overnight summer camp. At this camp, we had to pass a swim test to be able to use the boats on the lake. Luckily for me, I passed the swim test along with every other girl in our cabin but one. The first day we were able to go to the lake, the girls in my cabin decided to go on the boats together. However, this meant that the one girl who didn’t pass had to stay behind. A cabin counselor asked if one of us would be willing to stay behind with her, and I hesitantly agreed. It was a hard decision at the time and made me unpopular, but it led me down the path of creating a strong bond with a cabin mate. Because of this decision, I missed out on the opportunity to be a part of the group of girls on the boats, but I gained a friendship. A friendship I may not have made if I had not decided to stay behind. In this instance, I accepted the possibility of rejection from others in my cabin in making the unpopular decision, but I gained something even more valuable — a close friend who I still hold dear today. I learned that my long, meaningful friendship was worth more than being accepted by the group of girls in my cabin. 

As I finish my reflection today, I urge all of you, especially in the season of Lent where we try to follow Jesus’ example, to not just be an ordinary stone but to follow Christ and be a cornerstone, even if the task is strenuous, it will be rewarding in the long run as we seek to dwell with God in heaven. 

Thank you.

February 14

Patrick Gilboy ’25 provided the student reflection at Ash Wednesday Mass on February 14, 2024.

Hello Friars, My name is Patrick Gilboy of the class of 2025. As you may know, today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season. Along with not having meat in the cafeteria on Fridays, we all have to give up chocolate right? Maybe not. As I have found myself falling victim to in the past, I would give up something that was slightly inconvenient at best. However, we are given the opportunity to grow in our faith here at Fenwick, that means that we can also advance our knowledge of Lent.

As I mentioned, in years past, I would give up something that did not have much value to me. Without value, it was pretty easy to give up. Eventually, I started to consider what it would be like to give up something that was dragging me down. It was hard to imagine a world without something which was of such importance in my life. Forty days without my phone seemed impossible. I considered 40 days without Starbucks or Celsius, and maybe even 40 days without the snooze button. As I started to learn more about Lent, I discovered that most churches have the stations of the cross every Friday, along with confession. I also learned that Lent is not only to prepare us for the Death and Resurrection of our Lord, but to enter into a piece of the suffering that our Lord endured for the 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. Therefore this year, I invite all of you to join me in giving up something that holds value to you. Whether that is giving up the Instagram Reels that you use to procrastinate, or the warm showers that you happen to spend 45 minutes in, allow yourself to give something up; Something that would be a true sacrifice, for the glory of God. That’s the next part, for the glory of God. A true sacrifice is pointless if it’s replaced with another useless activity.

Allow the time or the pleasure which you save from this sacrifice to be beneficial. For example, instead of the extra 15 minutes of laying in bed after your alarm, get up, get ready, and enjoy a conversation with a family member. Instead of the extra 30 minutes that you spend just standing in the hot shower, use that time to start your homework or get to bed earlier. Best of all, instead of scrolling through your phone for hours on end, take that time to talk to God, tell Him about your day, or even visit Him in Adoration.

After learning about all of the sacrifices I could make, a different kind of Lent was introduced to me. A Lent where love and mercy are the motivations for my actions. Of course, there is some sacrifice to bring ourselves closer to Jesus, but just as important, actions full of love. I learned that a Lenten promise could be fulfilled by not giving something up, but by doing something that would grow my relationship with God. Some ways to grow your relationship with God could include going to daily Mass, here at Fenwick, at 7:30, to experience the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior. Or you could call your grandparents everyday for 15 minutes, even something as simple as starting your homework right when you get home will Glorify God. Whatever it is, act with love and mercy in your heart.

Finally, when we get to the end of Lent. Challenge yourself to continue with your new habit. Continue going to Mass or calling your grandparents; don’t just revert back to your old habits, allow yourself to be better. Lent is a very powerful time to grow closer to God (pause)  if you allow it to be. Thank you. 

February 2

Julia Schumm ‘25 provided the student reflection at Mass during Catholic Schools Week on Friday, February 2. Read her entire reflection below.

Good morning Friars. My name is Julia Schumm and I am a member of the class of 2025. Today we not only celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, but we are finishing up the celebration of Catholic Schools week. In today’s Gospel reading, in accordance with Jewish tradition, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem. This was to fulfill the law of Moses, which required firstborn sons to be dedicated to God. At the Temple, they encounter two pious individuals, Simeon and Anna. Both recognize Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, marking a significant event in the New Testament.

I find this extremely similar to how my parents presented me to my faith. Much like many Catholic children, I was baptized as an infant, and yearned to find a way to continue my faith. My parents then exposed me to youth catechesis where not only did they desire me to grow my faith, but they were my teachers themselves. While the other children felt as though it was a chore to show up every Sunday morning, I was eager to attend and learn more about how to grow in my faith each weekend. By utilizing my parents as his agent, God has brought me to experience some of the most incredible places and communities.

Three years ago my parents led me to a new opportunity to develop my faith, one like I had never experienced before. My decision to go to Fenwick led me to experience many “firsts.” First time having a substantial commute to school, first time wearing a uniform and taking a daily theology class, and first time experiencing an academic environment rooted in Catholic values.

My Fenwick peers and I live out these values in our hallways, classrooms, athletic venues, clubs, and throughout our daily lives. We are taught to live out the four Dominican pillars of prayer, study, community, and preaching, not only while we walk the Fenwick halls, but every single day. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, we are Friars.

I think it is important to recognize that the time we get to spend at Fenwick isn’t as long as we think it is. Throughout my past two and a half years, I have learned that it is never too late to get involved in something new. This year I finally became active in the Respect Life Club, and had the opportunity to attend the March for Life in Washington DC, an opportunity that as an underclassmen I would’ve never taken advantage of. 
I urge each and every one of you to make the most out of the opportunities that the Fenwick community can provide for you.

Seniors, although you only have one semester left, there is no better time than the present to make a new friend, try something new, and make a difference.

Juniors, it is almost time for us to step up. It is now our chance to learn from the past to cultivate an even brighter future.

Sophomores, take advantage of every opportunity Fenwick gives you. Try out for the sport, join the club. Every opportunity, big or small, will turn into something amazing.

And finally, Freshmen. I know by now you are all tired of sitting in the balcony getting “four more years” chanted at you, but I can assure you, don’t take it for granted. You have four more years. Enough time to make new friendships, learn how to walk on the right side of the hallway, learn to ask for help, and live in the moment. Much like how Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple, we have been presented to Fenwick and it is up to us to embrace every moment we have here.

January 19

Mia Menendez ‘25 provided the student reflection at Mass on Friday, January 19, 2024.

Good Morning Friars. My name is Mia Menendez, and I am a member of the Class of 2025. I am pleased to welcome you to the first Fenwick all-school Mass of 2024, celebrating the Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time.

I would like to begin by asking all of you: When was the last time that you felt you answered God’s call? It could be something as small as giving a couple dollars to a homeless person, donating a coat to a coat drive, or even buying coffee for the person behind you in line. Maybe you have answered God’s call on a larger scale, such as making the decision to attend Fenwick, starting your own charity, or going on a mission trip. There are endless ways to answer God’s call. Mother Teresa once said: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” Whether it be big or small, we all respond to God’s call in our own, unique ways.

The Gospel in this Mass celebrates when Jesus called the twelve apostles, a pivotal moment in Salvation History. In preparation for calling the twelve apostles, Jesus spent much time praying on a mountain, entrusting God, the Father, to look over Him. Jesus then called the apostles by name and told them to go out into the world, preach His word, and cast out demons. Jesus believed in them and saw the goodness in their potential. The Lord does the same with all of us.

We are called to imitate the apostles and help Jesus carry out his ministry in the world. All of our calls from God are different, and it was not until I joined the youth catechism program at my parish that I truly discovered my call from God. This was when I began to study the Bible, pray on a regular basis, and serve others. After I went through the program myself, I was given the opportunity to be an aid in one of the classrooms. I felt as though this opportunity was the perfect way to continue to answer my call from God. Now, for my junior service project, I have continued my commitment to my parish, and I help out at family gatherings on Sunday mornings.

While we all have different answers to God’s call, we do share a commonality in our faith journeys. All of us in this auditorium made the commitment to be Fenwick Friars. Students, we have all answered God’s call by attending Fenwick and accepting the responsibilities that come along with it being a Catholic high school. Many of us contemplated and debated coming to Fenwick for some time, similar to how Jesus prayed to God for a long time before embarking on calling his twelve closest followers.

There are an infinite number of ways to answer God’s call. I challenge all of you to be more cognizant of doing small acts in your daily lives to respond to your call from God. Your answer can be something as simple as greeting someone that you normally don’t talk to. Just as the Lord saw talent in the apostles, He sees it in all of us as well. With the Lord by our sides, there is nothing stopping us from continuing to incorporate acts of love and kindness in our lives. Thank you.

December 8

Luis Avalos ’24 provided the Student Reflection at the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Mass on Friday, December 8, 2023.

Hello, my name is Luis Avalos from the class of 2024 and I’d like to welcome you for today’s Mass celebrating the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Today is designated to celebrate Mary’s conception without sin, including the original sin present in all humans since their birth. Her conception free from sin was in preparation for her becoming the mother of God, Jesus Christ, who is a pretty important character in our faith, if I do say so myself.

I am not going to stand here and lie to you all.Truthfully, I have never had that struggle in my faith where I thought, “Oh, God can not be real because of what I’ve just gone through,” or “God would never let something like this happen.” But, in a life where I’ve experienced many difficult things (evictions from my home, the sudden deaths of relatives and well, let’s just say “relationship issues” in the past), God has been the only constant in my life. Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose the lives we’re born into, nor do we get to control the roller coaster that life is. One thing we can all control, no matter what, is our faith and how that will impact our lives. We can choose to allow God to walk alongside us, and trust that he will help us through difficult times.  We can choose to trust that He has a plan for us, just like He did for Mary.  We can choose to believe that despite the difficulties we might face in life, God can do miraculous things- things like healing a relative, giving us the courage to leave a difficult situation or relationship, or even allow for the conception of a person without original sin, and then allow that woman to conceive a child through the help of the Holy Spirit.

As Fenwick students, we’re oftentimes scared and worried about things we can’t control: “Will my teacher give me a test this day? Will I get into this college, or will I get into this summer program?” At the end of the day, we don’t make that decision; somebody else does, but we can prepare ourselves as best as we can, and trust that God will help us with the rest. When we face our doubts and uncertainties, let us turn to the witness of Mary.  We can recall that God had faith in Mary to conceive His only Son. From the moment of her conception she was spared from sin — she was “immaculate.” Mary could not have known in the moment of her “yes” all that she was saying yes to, but she knew that God had a plan. With the grace of her immaculate birth and through the faith built through her relationship with God, she could trust in Him and accept her role as Mary, Queen of Heaven, Mother of our Lord.

I invite us — you and me — to embrace the uncertainty in our lives, and to embrace our relationships with God just like Mary did.  God has given us graces to help us say “yes”’ just like Mary to His plan. In the words of a famous poet, “Life is such a roller coaster—then it drops, but what should I scream for? This is my theme park.” It is in these “drops” where the only certain thing you may have in your life is your faith, so remember to embrace it, just as the immaculate conception of Mary prepared her to embrace her role as the Mother of God. Thank you.

November 17

Rozlyn Plazas ’24 provided the Student Reflection at Mass on Friday, November 17, 2023.

Good Morning Friars. My name is Rozlyn Plazas, from the class of 2024, and it is an honor to welcome you all to today’s school-wide mass. As we gather, the profound words of our reading resonate with the remarkable life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, an inspiration who devoted herself to establishing hospices for the impoverished and ailing.

Born into royal privilege, St. Elizabeth felt a divine calling to use her status for the betterment of the less fortunate. Rather than turning a blind eye to the struggles around her, she actively sought ways to assist those in need, ultimately renouncing her royal ties to wholeheartedly dedicate herself to helping the impoverished. St. Elizabeth’s unwavering devotion to love and care for the less fortunate established her as a substantial symbol of Christian Charity. 

Today’s reading from the book of Wisdom has a striking quote: “For they indeed have gone astray perhaps, though they seek God and wish to find Him.” This line illustrates St. Elizabeth’s unwavering faith. Surrounded by her environment, she had the opportunity to fall back on her status, yet she devoted herself to the service of others. This notion intersects with a pivotal moment in my own life. At the beginning of high school, my great grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, a painful journey witnessing her decline alongside the effects of old age. In moments of deterring faith, especially when caring for her during her illness, I discovered strength within, sensing the love and presence of God. Despite grappling with doubts about the morality of her suffering, my great grandmother’s commitment to her faith became my guiding light. Every Sunday, I would spend precious moments with her, providing the care she needed. This connection prompted me to care for her until her passing. I cherished the shared memories and felt grateful for the time I could support her. Today I am grateful to God for allowing me to imitate St. Elizabeth in being a source of comfort for my great grandmother until the end of her life. 

As we gather here today, I encourage each one of you to reflect upon the enduring legacy of St. Elizabeth. In the face of personal or others’ adversities, we can draw strength from our faith, trusting that with God’s love, we can overcome. We can support loved ones confronting challenges, embodying St. Elizabeth’s message of genuine Christian charity. Let her be an example to inspire us to reach out and assist others, a fundamental tenet of Christianity. May we continue to act in accordance with extending our hands to support those in need, whether they be a friend, a loved one, or even the person seated next to you today. I encourage you to emulate St. Elizabeth, becoming genuine role models of Christian charity within our community. 

November 1

Matthew Brown ’24 provided the Student Reflection at Mass on Wednesday, November 1, 2023. 

Good morning everyone. My name is Matthew Brown from the Class of 2024 and I would like to welcome you to today’s Mass. 

Today is the Solemnity of All Saints Day. All Saints Day originated in the year 609 A.D. during May, when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Later, Pope Gregory III changed the date to November 1 and shortly thereafter Pope Gregory the fourth extended this celebration to the universal church. Catholics view saints as anyone who makes it to Heaven. Today we celebrate all saints, whether they were formally canonized Saints (with a capital “S”) within the Church, or simply those who made it to Heaven.

In Theology class this year when learning about the world’s different religions, we discuss who the exemplars are for the various faiths we study. Exemplars are people who serve as role models. For Catholics, saints are our exemplars. Saints lead by example and show us how we should devote our lives to God. Yet, we also oftentimes have exemplars who aren’t saints that still lead by example and show us how we can worship God.

I am a devout Catholic, but even devout Catholics struggle with their faith in many different ways. Whether it is struggling with praying, attending Mass, or believing in God, each and every person has struggled with their faith at least once. I am no different. High school has not been easy for me, and I think it’s safe to say that each of us has felt that way at some point or another. Personally, I had a very tough sophomore year, oftentimes feeling very alone, and as a result my relationship with God struggled. I didn’t understand why these bad things were happening to me and it felt like God was punishing me for reasons I didn’t understand. But throughout this entire time, my older brothers kept showing me how to remain faithful and grow in my relationship with God. We’d go to church together, pray together, and talk about our faith together. They encouraged me to pray and to ask for the saints to intercede for me and help me with the struggles I was going through. My brothers were the perfect exemplars that I needed to remind me that God is always with us and that He deeply loves and cares for us.

As my brothers were exemplars for me, there are people in your life that are exemplars for you, people who hope to help you grow in your faith. I encourage all of you to consider who your exemplar is. It could be one of your siblings, parents, grandparents, or even your friends.

And if you truly believe that you do not have an exemplar, someone who will show you the way, then the saints are perfect for you. I can guarantee that each and every one of you will relate to at least one saint in some way shape or form. There are an estimated 11,000 saints, so there are plenty to choose from when considering who your exemplar will be. As we enter into this Mass, I encourage you to ask God for the strength to go out and set a good example; to be an exemplar. We are called to imitate the lives of saints and lead by example with our worship of God. Now I leave you with one parting question that I’d like you to think about. How can you go out and be an exemplar for those around you?

October 20

Anna Androsyuk ’24 provided the Student Reflection at Mass on Friday, October 20, 2023. 

Good morning everyone. My name is Anna Androsyuk from the class of 2024 and I want to welcome you to today’s mass.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul discusses Abraham, the founding father of the first covenant between God and His people. Paul explains that according to Scripture, Abraham’s belief  was the reason he was credited as righteous, not because of his work. Despite the fact that Abraham had done countless good deeds and had a profound impact, he was chosen by God solely because of his steadfast faith. 

There are many ways to attain the spiritual gift God offers us. At times you may doubt yourself and wonder: am I doing this right? Do I really live as Jesus taught? But all God asks is for you to put your faith into Him. 

There are multiple ways we, as students, can exhibit our steadfast faith. Following the four Dominican pillars is a path that will lead you to righteousness, but more importantly also grows and solidifies your relationship with God. Through prayer,  community, study, and preaching we can learn how God wants us to live out our lives. However, these pillars cannot simply produce righteousness. Our actions are fruitless if not fueled by faith — belief in God and His promise. These pillars help us to embody our faith and connect it through our heart, mind, and soul — only then can God give us this spiritual gift.

My faith has not always been steadfast. I, too, have had low moments when I didn’t feel the presence of God. In middle school, I didn’t understand the importance of having a relationship with God. Just like most of my peers, I was preoccupied with other things like when I would spend time with my friends, what grade I got on a test, or what my plans were the following weekend. But regardless of whether I was focused on God, He was there even when I was too blind to see it. Especially when you feel an absence of God, Jesus reminds us, “Do not be afraid.” Looking back now, I realize that He was there to guide me every step of the way. Even when we stray from God and good deeds, God still wants us to return to him. We don’t need to be afraid of God if we have made mistakes. God was there through all my triumphs and my failures. He was there then just as He is now. He was there for me and He is there for each of you. God offers salvation as a gift to each and every one of us. He is forgiving, sins can be cured, and there is always a path to God.

October 13

Catherine Quinn ’25 provided the Student Reflection at the Votive Mass for the Most Holy Rosary on Friday, October 13, 2023.

Good morning. My name is Catherine Quinn of the Class of 2025.

When I was younger, my extended family and I spent our summers at my aunt and uncle’s house in Michigan. I created some of my fondest memories there, from being dunked in the water by my older cousins to staying up past my bedtime to enjoy s’mores. The lake was where I first learned to shuffle cards, where I first heard stories about my grandparents, where I first began to understand the blessings of family. It was my haven and my happy place. Eventually, during COVID, my aunt and uncle decided to sell their house. I was stunned and devastated, feeling that the sale marked the end of an era.

The First Reading from the Prophet Joel today explains how God’s people prepared for the end of something- the end of the world. The advice from Joel can provide us with guidance on dealing with the end of things. The People of God were advised to approach the alleged end of time with prayer, fasting, and acts of gratitude.

Every end presents its challenges, some small, like the trivial disappointment of finishing an ice cream cone or a favorite TV show, or the sale of a beach house that wasn’t even my own, and some large, like the heartbreaking anguish that accompanies the loss of a loved one.

Although we can never be fully prepared for something that abruptly comes to an end, we can try to view these experiences a little differently. We can attempt to live more fully in each moment to better treasure the various experiences that life has to offer. We can remember to give thanks for our blessings each and every day. Through God, we can recognize and appreciate the beauty of our past adventures and the people and memories we will forever hold. And, with His guiding hand, God can help us to remember that with every end comes a new beginning.

Oftentimes it is difficult to appreciate what is right in front of us when we expect it to always be there. But as a Fenwick community, we can work to embrace the occasions that bring us joy and express our gratitude towards God for gifting us these moments and opportunities.

In giving God our prayers and trust, , we can further cultivate our relationship with God and those around us so that when our own “end times” approach, we are prepared to be united with God.

During this month of October, when we celebrate the rosary, we can remember the power of prayer. Through the prayers of the rosary and Mary, the Mother of God, we can find the guidance to grow closer with our Creator and the strength to understand that some experiences are fleeting, so we must cherish them as they come.

September 29

Anna Schloss ’24 provided the Student Reflection at the Feast of the Archangels Mass on Friday, September 29, 2023.

Good Morning Friars! My name is Anna Schloss of the class of 2024 and I’d like to take a moment to welcome you to mass this Friday morning.

Today we celebrate the feast of the archangels, Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. The archangels are often viewed as heroic messengers and protectors of the Church. St. Michael’s greatest feat was defeating Satan in dragon form in the Book of Revelation, St. Gabriel’s appearing to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, and St. Raphael’s healing Tobit and Sarah when they both prayed for death. The archangels are symbols of strength, courage, and heavenly power and, while this is important, it can also seem daunting. How are we supposed to follow the example of the archangels when we aren’t powerful, divine creatures but mere humans?

When I was in kindergarten, my grade school matched us up with eighth-grade students that would be our mentors for the entire school year. These eighth graders were called our “guardian angels.” As guardian angels, they were meant to be role models of faith and goodness for the youngest students in the school. We had a special mass and ceremony, sang songs with our “guardian angels,” and received angel pins. The school made a big deal out of this as it had been a tradition for what seemed like forever. Truthfully, as a kindergartener, I didn’t understand this tradition’s importance. I never talked to my eighth grader outside of our scheduled activities and didn’t understand what it meant to have a guardian angel. My eighth grader wasn’t there to constantly protect me or teach me so the whole idea seemed pointless. However, when I entered eighth grade and finally got to be a guardian angel to a kindergartener, I began to understand the tradition’s significance. 

Eighth grade was the year I was confirmed and happened to be the year I began to take hold of my faith and actively work to grow in my relationship with God. As I spent more time focusing on my faith and my role in the church, I realized how important my mentorship was to the youngest students in our school and our parish community. As an eighth-grade guardian angel, it wasn’t my job to fight dragons. It wasn’t my job to perform miracles or be a divinely powerful being. I was called to be a symbol of God’s strength and courage in humanity by showing the kindergarteners how to participate in mass and by doing acts of service with them. This guardian angel tradition shows us that the angels and archangels are there to protect us and that we can model their values in our own lives. This doesn’t need to be done in a matter of grandeur but rather by having the courage to practice our faith when it is challenged and by having the strength to continually reach out to God even when we don’t feel close to Him. The angels and archangels are symbols of God’s love and serve as our guides as we navigate both our lives on earth and our spiritual lives.

I would like to leave you with the lyrics of the guardian angel song we’d always sing during the ceremony. I invite you to open your hearts to feel the presence of God and the angels. I invite you to open your minds so that we can imitate their values of strength and courage. And now we pray:

“Angels before me, guide and direct me. Angels behind me, guard and protect me. Angels above me, keep watching over me. Angels beside me, care for and comfort me. Amen.”

September 15

Xahil Gonzalez ’24 provided the Student Reflection at the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows Mass on Friday, September 15, 2023.

Good Morning. My name is Xahil Gonzalez from the class of 2024. I would like to welcome all of you to this Mass celebrating the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. The name “Our Lady of Sorrows” was given to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Often depicted mourning the loss of her son, this name was meant to exemplify the immense pain and suffering she had gone through during the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Full of the sorrow and grief that comes along with the loss of a son, through the hurt she rejoiced his death as she knew what was to come of it. Our Lord sent his only son to be born from the Blessed Mary, only to suffer and die for our sins. She knew his suffering was necessary for Salvation. She knew he was our inheritance.

When we hear the word inheritance, we may find ourselves imagining a distant relative we may have never met, or even heard of, who might leave us an estate or castle in a foreign country. We might imagine hearing the news of a great uncle or aunt leaving us a sizable amount of money that would allow us a lavish existence for the rest of our lives. But that is not the definition I mean as today’s responsorial psalm says, “you are my inheritance, O Lord.” When he died for us, we were given an undeserved favor in the form of Grace, something not earned but given freely. We were forgiven from our sins and granted mercy in order to achieve salvation. Sometimes it may seem as if we do not deserve the infinite love and mercy of Our God, but that is the thing about inheritances: one receives it regardless of their worthiness.

Sometimes it can feel as if we are isolated in life, but I can assure you that we are never alone because the Lord is always with us. There have been times where I have felt that I was alone, hopelessly walking, feeling as if there was no actual light at the end of the tunnel; however, I could not have been more wrong.

Last year I lost someone who I was very close to and I was deeply affected by it. The pain of knowing I’d never see them again caused me to lash out and just feel angry all the time. I felt unworthy of any forgiveness and kept pushing away my faith. But I knew that in those moments, I had to remember that His undying love and mercy was my inheritance, whether I felt I deserved it or not. I remembered that through my baptism I had placed my faith and my heart in the hands of God as I knew to trust whatever he had planned for me. I knew he would lead me to the light. As the psalmist says, we are to turn to the Lord for answers, and He will provide them. 

Our Lady stood by her son while he suffered and died for our sins. Even when faced with his death, He was not alone. Our Lady suffered alongside Him. She was mourning her son just like anyone would for someone they loved. We must remember to take refuge in the Lord, as she did, for he is our shelter. We must learn to seek counsel from Him, for he is our teacher. He is always with us and in our presence, for he is the path to life. It is important to remember that no matter what we may be going through, He will always be with us to guide us, teach us, console us for the Lord is our inheritance. 

And now, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and Our Lady, if you know it and would like to, please join me in saying the “Dios te salve, Maria.”

“Dios te salve, María,
Llena eres de gracia, 
el Señor está contigo. 
Bendita tú eres entre todas las mujeres, 
y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre, Jesús. 
Santa María, Madre de Dios, 
ruega por nosotros, pecadores, 
ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte.