The 87th successor to Saint Dominic welcomed Fenwick’s students as ‘1,100 more friars’ to his worldwide flock of 5,247.
By Mark Vruno
When he visited Fenwick High School on December 9, Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner III, O.P. seemed almost giddy, feeling like he “was in high school all over again.” Telling his teenage audience that he was feeling “old” last Friday, the 54-year-old Master of the Order* encouraged them to treasure and cherish the lessons they are learning in high school: “They will remain useful for you as you grow and as you go out into the world,” he noted.
Fr. Timoner then asked eight random volunteers, two from each class – freshmen through seniors – to describe their school using only one adjective: What describes a Fenwick student; a Fenwick graduate? Pointing out that he had surfed the school website, which reads that Friar students are called to “lead, achieve and serve,” the Master of the Order wanted to hear from them directly. “I want to know how you see yourself,” he explained.
The eight adjectives students used to describe the essence of Fenwick (in alphabetical order): achievers, awesome, dedicated, electric, home, inclusive, intelligent and winners. A faculty member added “shining,” a ninth, to the list, to which the head teacher/preacher replied with a quotation from St. Thomas Aquinas: “Ah, but it is ‘better to illuminate than merely to shine.’”
Nonetheless impressed, Fr. Timoner shared in a post-assembly interview that he and the other Dominicans are very aware of Fenwick and its mission here in Oak Park/Chicago. “We have [Fenwick] alumni who have been formed and molded right here!” he exclaimed. “We are happy to share the charism of preaching with our lay collaborators.” He added that Jesus never referred to Himself as a “priest” but rather as a teacher, one who has mastered a subject.
When asked about vocations, he pointed out that there are close to 800 brothers and friars presently in formation. “People say the church is shrinking, but this is not true in a global context,” Fr. Timoner said. “While there are aging populations in some parts of the world,” he acknowledged, “approximately 13 million members were added to the [Catholic] church this past year. Lay people are our partners in evangelism.”
Back at the all-school assembly, Fr. Timoner concluded by urging his youthful listeners to be compassionate people. “Remember that eyes are cleansed with tears,” he shared, “and that compassion heals.”
*The Master of the Order is the Superior General of the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominicans. In 2019 Father Timoner, who is a member of the Philippine Province, became the first Asian Master of the Order and next successor to Saint Dominic.
Scroll down for more photos of the big day!
Our Tenth Visit!
School records show that nine other Masters of the Dominican Order have visited Fenwick in past decades:
- Fr. Martin Gillet, O.P. (France) was in Oak Park in the late 1930s.
- Fr. Manuel Suárez Fernández, O.P. (Spain) was here in the late 1940s.
- Fr. Michael Browne, O.P. (Ireland) probably in the late 1950s.
- Fr. Aniceto Fernández Alonso, O.P. (Spain) in 1968.
- Fr. Vincent de Couesnongle, O.P. (France) in the late 1975 and again in 1983.
- Fr. Damian Byrne, O.P. (Ireland) in the late 1980s.
- Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P. (United Kingdom) in the late 1990s.
- Fr. Carlos Azpiroz Costa, O.P. (Argentina) in the mid-2000s.
- Fr. Bruno Cadoré, O.P. (France) visited the friars and their students in 2014.
PHOTO GALLERY FROM DECEMBER 9, 2022: