Chicago’s West Side Story

How Dominicans shaped Fenwick and the surrounding areas.

By Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P.

Saint Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) and his contemporary, St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), were 13th century religious innovators. As founders, respectively, of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders, their vision was to bring the good news of the gospel to the urban centers of Europe. The members of their religious communities, known as friars, would be present to the people of God — living and ministering in the same milieu as the people of God.

This move was revolutionary for the religious life of the time. Up to that time, the overarching model had been monastic life. The great monasteries of Europe were in the countryside. The monks worked the land and supported themselves through agriculture. They took a vow of stability — promising to remain physically attached — to their monastery. This ethos has been succinctly referred to as fuga mundi, “fleeing from the world.” The monks, who had, by entrance into the monastery, fled the world, would not go out to the people; the people would go the monks for prayer and education.

In contrast, Saint Dominic and Saint Francis began what we might call a “ministry of presence.” They and their friars would not be remote and removed from their brothers and sisters.  Instead, they would live in their midst, take part in their lives, and minister to them on their own turf.  They would, so to speak, embrace the world and be leaven in the world to transform the world.  At the same time, they would not expend their energy in agriculture; they would live by the charity of others — recognizing that because of their ministry, the worker is worthy of his wage (cf. Luke 10:7).

Continuing the Tradition

The Dominican friars at Fenwick High School continue that ministry of presence first envisioned by St. Dominic. The friars of Fenwick are present to the Fenwick community in all aspects of the “Fenwick experience.”  (And, the visible sign of their religious commitment, “the habit,” does indeed help us to stand out in a crowd!)  Through our teaching, celebrating the sacraments, coaching, supervising, counseling, and cheering teams on to victory, the Dominican friars bring the good news of the gospel to the Fenwick community.

During the 2016-2017 school year, eight friars have been assigned to Fenwick by the Dominican provincial, Fr. James Marchionda, O.P. This commitment of manpower (under the general conditions of a clergy shortage) is a powerful sign of the significance of Fenwick High School in the Order’s ministerial priorities. They are:

  • Richard Peddicord, O.P.—president
  • Richard LaPata, O.P.—president emeritus, member of the Institutional Advancement department
  • Dennis Woerter, O.P.—director of campus ministry, teacher, assistant soccer coach for boys’ and girls’ teams
  • Michael Winkels, O.P.—teacher, assistant technology director, assistant hockey coach
  • Douglas Greer, O.P.—teacher
  • Paul Byrd, O.P.—teacher
  • Nicholas Monco, O.P.—teacher, chess team coach
  • Joseph Trout, O.P.—teacher, assistant cross country coach

Historical Brotherhood

The cornerstone of Fenwick was laid two months before the great stock market crash of 1929.

Of course, these eight friars were preceded by a long line of Dominican friars who had been “present” for thousands of Fenwick students, parents and alumni since the school’s founding in 1929. Fenwick recently chose to commemorate the 196 friars who have served Fenwick over the past 88 years by naming each and everyone one of them on a plaque that hangs in the main hallway just outside the chapel (see sidebar).

This serves as a constant reminder to past, present and future students of the Dominican Order’s long-standing commitment to Fenwick High School and its shared history. We hope and expect this shared history and Dominican “presence” to continue for generations to come. 

Fr.  Peddicord is the president of Fenwick High School.

Meet Two of Our Dominican Friars

Father Dennis Woerter, O.P. is Fenwick’s Director of Campus Ministry. He also teaches Theology and coaches boys’ and girls’ soccer. A native of Elmwood Park, IL, Fr. Dennis attended St. Vincent Ferrer Grade School, Fenwick High School, and Loras College, majoring in speech communication: journalism. After entering the Dominican Order in 1990, he received his M.Div. and M.A. in Theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. Ordained in 1997, he served in parishes in Madison, WI, Denver, CO (as pastor), Chicago, and River Forest (at St. Vincent Ferrer).  He received his Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree in Preaching in the Practice of Ministry in 2009. His doctoral research focused on preaching in Anglo-Hispanic communities, as Fr. Dennis is fluent in the Spanish language.

Father Michael Winkels, O.P., is Assistant Director of technology services and also has taught classes in studio art and art history since 2000. Prior to coming to Fenwick, Fr. Mike was director of the Dominican Conference Center in River Forest, IL, and also served as a financial officer for the Province of St. Albert the Great (Dominican Order of Preachers) in Chicago; as a computer specialist for investment firm Lighthouse Partners at the Chicago Board of Trade; and as business manager of St. Thomas Aquinas Priory, River Forest. His early ministry took him from St. Paul, MN, to Denver, CO, and Albuquerque, NM. Fr. Mike graduated cum laude from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, where he majored in philosophy, and received a master’s degree in Theology and Divinity from the Aquinas Institute, Dubuque, IA. In 2013, he completed a master’s in teaching from Dominican University, River Forest.

Dominican Fact

Question: Does O.P. mean ordained priest?

Answer: No. The abbreviation O.P. stands for the Order of Preachers (Latin: Ordo Praedicatorum), also known as the Dominican Order.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *