More than a Half-century Later, Fenwick Is Still Teaching Lessons to #254

How did a rough-and-tumble kid survive being a gang member on Chicago’s mean streets in the early 1960s to become a successful entrepreneur? Fenwick had something to do with it — as did his nearly lifelong love of boxing.

Introduction

Terracina’s 1964 Fenwick Yearbook photo.

There were 269 students in Roy Terracina’s 1964 graduating class at Fenwick. His academic rank among those boys was near the bottom: 254. “That’s why I wear these cuff-links,” the businessman and entrepreneur explained to three groups of current students in mid-April, standing on stage in the school’s auditorium and pointing to his wrist. “These remind me of where I was and where I started. I ran with a gang and got into trouble,” Mr. Terracina admitted. But he also stuck it out and got through Fenwick, by the grace of God.

His message to today’s Friars included anecdotes about some of his mistakes, his great love of family and his understanding of how faith has played an important role in his life. “My purpose is simple: to reach the bottom half of each class,” Terracina shared, “and to give them hope that the education they are getting is preparing them for the future; that the combination of studies and peer motivation mixes to make this a special, four-year education. I wanted a message of how special their time is here at Fenwick, even though they may not realize it today.”

After his high-school graduation, Terracina attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, where he majored in finance. In the early 1990s he borrowed $1 million from a bank and bought Sterling Foods to provide packaged food to the military during the first Gulf War in Iraq. Eleven years later, Terracina sold the food-packaging business and transitioned to his present career at US Global Investors and CEO of Sunshine Ventures, Inc. (See bio.)

Mr. T settled in on stage at Fenwick and felt right at home. “I remember this place,” he told students earlier this spring.

“I speak to youth groups and groups of young entrepreneurs about 10 to 15 times a year,” Terracina told the Friar Files. “However, no experience matches speaking at a place that means so much to me, as Fenwick truly changed my life.” Fenwick is unlike most places he talks, “where I normally have to ask the teachers to keep things orderly,” he shared. “Recently, I had to send a group to the principal’s office at a local elementary school in my home base of San Antonio. But Fenwick students indeed are different: well behaved and sponges for learning.”

Here is Roy’s story, in his own words:

“If I Had My Life to Live Over”

By Roy Terracina ’64

My teen years where filled with family stability, hard work with my father and a lot of confusion over who or what I was. I would travel by bus, elevated train and walk to get to a high school, Fenwick, that I didn’t feel a part of.  I knew going to Fenwick was the right thing to do, but I knew it because I was told it was as opposed to ‘feeling’ it was.

My freshman year was particularly puzzling because my close friends from my younger years were all going to either public schools, or a much less academic Catholic school. My evenings as a student were filled with friends who attended mostly public schools and were learning trades, while I was trying to learn Latin and physics. The childhood friends quickly saw that I was different, as did my peers at Fenwick. So the reality is that I didn’t fit into either place. I felt lost, confused, bewildered and went with the flow of the day. When my friends were out on weeknights doing what inner-city kids did, I was to be home studying, but my heart and mind were not there.

I did what I had to do to get by, and yet found myself working twice as hard as my neighborhood friends, and still not keeping up with the Fenwick standards. I was small, and in a football-first high school at the time, did not manage to engage in sports.

In the neighborhood, we were out making trouble: fighting, chasing girls and, in general, not doing the things I needed to do to build my academic career. I found out that I loved competition, especially in sports, and particularly liked to lose my temper and fight. My friends would use me as the guy who would tease others into fighting since I looked like an easy mark. When I would get into it with someone much larger, the rest of my friends would jump in and “handle the situation,” and eventually I got tired of that and learned that my speed was enough to outmaneuver most larger boys.

Continue reading “More than a Half-century Later, Fenwick Is Still Teaching Lessons to #254”

Why Theology?

The Doors to “The Far Side”

By Br. Joseph Trout, O.P.

I am not sure which way the doors open for the Fenwick library. If I pause and envision myself entering the library right now, I am fairly certain they open outwards. I think I might even be willing to bet money on that. However, I also remember many instances of pushing instead of pulling (or is that pulling instead of pushing?) and watching others make the same mistake. On three different occasions in the last year, I have been standing outside the door as a faculty member tried to open it incorrectly and one of us referenced the Far Side comic where a child attempts to enter the school for the gifted by pushing a door marked pull. Everyone chuckled.

1986 humor from Gary Larson.

When I was growing up, I admit I found that particular Far Side comic funny out of condescension – I was laughing at the fool. Perhaps that is a normal reaction for people on the near side of life experience. We can laugh at mistakes we never imagine ourselves making. Yet when we enter the complexity of life, the joke rapidly loses its humor (at least when you are the idiot at the door). It is indeed hard to laugh while you are gaining perspective in life and your ego is being checked. On the other side of experience, however, the joke actually becomes even funnier. Who hasn’t been the fool? Who of us doesn’t do inexplicably stupid things at times? Unexpectedly, the simple joke turns rich and deep.

What on earth does any of this have to do with theology classes at Fenwick? Permit me one last piece and then I hope it will be clear. For a few months I have been pondering a quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” This movement from simplicity through complexity to a new simplicity is what so much of life is about – jokes are funnier once you have lived enough to get them; skills are useful when you can do them without thinking; love purified by trials is the only type that truly inspires. These are all simple yet mature. Nor is the difference in simplicity hard to see. For example, both a kindergartner and Pope Francis can tell you “God is love,” but the similarity is deceptive. One who has seen the evils and pains of this world but holds fast to the fundamental claim that “God is love” says much, much more. Truth, authentic and simple, stirs the heart to laugh, love, or cry.

This movement through complexity grounds theology at Fenwick. Of course, no one will ever accomplish it during high school, but the road through ambiguity to truth is the one we strive to walk. For many it is an uncomfortable road as they are used to the simplicity of religion. They are not wrong – Christianity does give simple answers, whether that is the command to love like Christ or the content of the Apostle’s Creed. Too often, though, simplicity is misunderstood or seen in childish ways. Believing it can appear as stupid as pushing a door marked pull. So our goal is to wander into the complex to refine it. To ponder anything in hopes of finding the source of everything — that is what we do.

To me, this is what sets a Catholic education apart. Here you can openly wrestle with the biggest questions: what is the meaning of life? Is there anything after death? Does God exist? What is God like? How do I interact with God? Who is Jesus Christ? What does it really mean to love another person? What does it mean to be me? It is a daunting task for teachers and students alike. However, it is a more fruitful task when you aren’t left to do it alone. Together, as Fenwick Friars and members of the Body of Christ, we do have hope of seeing reality clearly even if we must do so through cloudy glass.

Life, study and teaching have confirmed this for me: no one really wants to remain lost in the questions forever. We really do want to know which way the door opens and not spend all day debating the existence of the door. According to Aristotle, all people desire to know. He placed contemplation of transcendent truth at the heart of life. Centuries later, a man named Jesus claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” That is a deceptively simple answer if there ever was one. But for the person who has wrestled with theology, it can also be a comfort and a joy far deeper than the humor of watching your colleagues push a door marked pull.

About the Author

Brother Joe Trout, O.P. (“BroTro”) is Chair of the Theology Department at Fenwick and an assistant coach for Boys’ Track and Girls’ Cross Country. He grew up in Fort Wayne, IN, and graduated from Purdue University in 2009 where he studied Math Education. For a year Br. Trout taught middle school math in Crawfordsville, IN, before entering the Dominican Order in 2010. He completed a Masters in Theology from Aquinas Institute in 2015, focusing his research on the relationship between morality and psychology based on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas , O.P. As a Dominican, he also worked at Holy Rosary/Santo Rosario Parish in Minneapolis doing bilingual youth ministry, religious education and adult faith formation.

Notably, he is a Dominican Cooperator Brother — not a priest. Dominican Friars are mostly priests, but the Order also has had non-ordained brothers from the beginning. Br. Trout says he enjoys being part of a global effort to promote the brother vocation, presenting on it to Dominicans internationally.

Putting Our Faith into Action

Fenwick’s newest Dominican brother explains how student members of the Class of 2019 have ‘met Jesus’ through their junior year Christian Service Project.

By Br. John Steilberg O.P.

The Gospels reveal to us a very basic story line just after Jesus’ resurrection on the first Easter Sunday. Soon after discovering the empty tomb, the disciples meet Jesus repeatedly. They kept meeting Jesus personally at various places and moments. After encountering Jesus in person, they were motivated and inspired to go and tell others. Our junior class knows all about this basic cycle of encountering Jesus personally, then going out and telling others about their encounter.

Homelessness plagues Chicago’s suburbs, as one Fenwick junior has seen firsthand.

Just like those early disciples right after the resurrection, our juniors are meeting Jesus. Our juniors have been encountering personally in the face of the poor, the lonely, the forgotten, the unloved. At Fenwick, as part of the Christian Service Project where Gospel virtues, Catholic morality and Catholic social teaching are combined with our theology curriculum, our faith is put into action. Our juniors are currently completing a service project where they have been out in the community performing the corporal works of mercy and meeting Jesus face to face in those they serve.

Let’s listen to our juniors describe how they encountered Jesus.

“You know, you see the homeless on the streets downtown and such. But by working at this shelter, I have gotten to know many of the people from this area who come there needing help,” the student says. “I am shocked at how much need is in my own neighborhood.”

This past March, Fenwick students collected items for the 4th annual HOLA (Hispanic Outreach & Latino Awareness) Food Drive. The humanitarian effort stocks the pantry for three months at St. Pius Parish, which provides more than 45,000 meals annually to people on Chicago’s Lower West Side.

Another junior has been working at a food pantry. Serving there and meeting many of the neighbors in need has had an effect on her and how she views what is happening in her community. She even mentions the effects it has had on her own family and their approach to material things. She explains, “Every night after serving at the food pantry I sit down and talk to my mom about what happened. Just the other night we were talking about how many people come to the food pantry in need of food. Mom and I talked about how well off we are. We discussed how maybe we really don’t need so many things. We talked about how maybe we do not really need to buy that second loaf of bread.”

Friends of Fenwick, pay close attention to what these two juniors have shared. This is God speaking. This is the Holy Spirit at work in Friar Nation. This is what it means to be a friar. Listen carefully to their words and you will listen in to their personal conversation with Jesus.

To help provide weekend meals for impoverished children, Fenwick senior Chris Sedlacek co-founded Feed Our Future, a non-profit corporation in La Grange. (www.feedourfuturenfp.com)

We are very blessed here at Fenwick. We have been given so much by God, and we have so much to be thankful for. One thing I am thankful for is the incredible and inspirational service of our juniors this past year in the Christian Service Project. They are inspiring. Let us all take a moment to thank them personally for their service and give thanks to our Heavenly Father for sending us young people willing to serve others through the corporal works of mercy.

About the Author

Brother John Steilberg joined Fenwick’s Theology Department last summer, at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. He teaches freshman theology and organizes the Christian Service Project, whose mission is to put faith into action. “It is an opportunity to meet Christ in the poor and marginalized of our community and an opportunity to serve others as taught by the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he explains. “All Fenwick Friars participate in the Christian Service Project as we bring the corporal works of mercy to those in need.”

Preaching Through Artistic Creation

Father Mike looks back at how the Fine Arts program got its start at Fenwick nine years ago – and how art plays an integral role in a well-rounded education.

By Fr. Michael Winkels, O.P.

Senior Victoria Brzostowski solders a stained-glass window.

A valuable part of an educated person’s life should include an interest in and appreciation of art. That is certainly true of a Fenwick education. Besides Science, Mathematics, English, Foreign Languages and History, an understanding and appreciation for Fine Arts helps to complete a well-rounded student in the Dominican tradition. The Dominican motto is Veritas or “Truth.” The search for truth encompasses all aspects of human experience. In a Dominican school, art is one component that is essential in the formation of our students as they seek veritas.

After my ordination in 1976, a Sinsinawa sister encouraged me to explore my interest in art. In 1979, at the encouragement of the Order, priests who have been ordained three years were encouraged to begin studying something complimentary to theology. I enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where three years later I received a B.F.A. degree in Studio Art.

At the invitation of Fr. Richard LaPata, I joined the Fenwick community in 2000, working in the area of Technology. I continued working in my art studio whenever I could find the time. In the Fall of 2010 I was asked to develop a Studio Art program. With the support of the school and several generous financial donations of one of our families, we gradually purchased the necessary equipment and supplies.

Sophomore Aldo Scudiero experiments with the screen-printing process.

The program started out modestly with seven students the first semester. From the beginning it was our intention to not just study about art but to introduce students to a variety of ways of helping them make art. The “Survey of Studio Art” class was the first class offered. It has remained the backbone of the Studio program. In this class, students are introduced to 11 media: drawing (pencil, conté crayon, charcoal), water color, acrylic painting, ceramics, wire sculpture, screen and block printing, digital photography and batik. They gain a wide range of experience in both two- and three-dimensional art as they learn about the theory of color, understanding of shading and value, negative and positive space, composition, form, texture and perspective. At the end of the semester they choose one media that they particularly liked and do a more detailed project as a final. As I remind the students even today, you will not be good at or enjoy every media we do, but I guarantee that they will like something in the Survey class. And that has proven to be true.

After students complete the Survey of Studio Art class, they can sign up for a 2-Dimensional and/or a 3-Dimensional Studio Art class. Each of these classes can be taken at four different levels. Students continue to learn and develop in their favorite media as well as improving their artistic and creative skills. At each level of these advanced classes, students learn additional art media, e.g., etching, aquatint, lithography, stained glass, ceramic wheel work and making of mobiles.

Showing Off

Students checking out the Fenwick Art Show this past January.

Each semester, the classes end with an Art Exhibit of all student work. Invitations are sent out to family and friends inviting them to come to school to enjoy the fruit of a very busy and productive semester. It is a joy to see the smiles of confidence on students faces as they hear family and strangers comment on their talents and hard work. Many students are surprised at what they have been able to accomplish and are gratified for the opportunity to expand their educational opportunities.

Continue reading “Preaching Through Artistic Creation”

Choosing a Catholic Education

GUEST BLOGGER

How a grade-school speech contest led a South Sider to send his boys to Fenwick — despite proximity to two other high-school options near Countryside/La Grange.

By Patrick Heslin

Patrick, Jr. ’09 (from left) and his younger brother, Sean ’17, with their dad, Pat Heslin, Sr.

The road to Fenwick for my boys started when my son Patrick was in the 5th grade. He attended St. Cletus La Grange and brought a letter home about a Fenwick speech contest one day.

I grew up on the southside in Englewood and knew very little about Fenwick. I lived about a ½ mile from the original St. Rita High School at 63rd and Claremont in Chicago. On Sunday afternoons I would occasionally attend football games in their walled-in stadium. I could get in for 50 cents, if I had to pay at all, and the hot dogs with mustard were my Sunday dinner. What I vividly remember was St. Rita playing on a hot Sunday afternoon against a Fenwick team dressed in black. I thought these guys had to be tough wearing black in that sun!

Fast forward a few years. I am now a dad and I am reading this invitation to the Fenwick speech contest. My career has been in technology sales, and the only public speaking I have had is a class in college and a Toastmasters class when I got my first sales job. Toastmasters is a great, community-based public speaking program where you learn by writing and delivering speeches to your peers.

Throughout my career I have always looked at how effortlessly some people are able to speak in front of an audience while others look like a deer in headlights. In these situations, I am often reminded of the quote from Jerry Seinfield: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death.  Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I am sure that all the above experiences were going through my mind when I committed to taking Patrick to his first speech contest at Fenwick in 5th grade.  The speech contest was on an early Saturday morning in November. Walking up to Fenwick for the first time can be intimidating! It’s got that Gothic look to it. We made it to the cafeteria and met our very small team from St. Cletus. We were surrounded by many larger teams from other Catholic grade schools.

Mr. Heslin says it didn’t hurt that Fenwick speech guru Mr. Arellano is a White Sox fan. (Andy, center, is pictured in his classroom last September during a surprise visit from team radio announcer and former big-leaguer Ed Farmer, left.)

Andy Arellano welcomed us and explained the rules for the contest. Then Andy took some time to talk about Fenwick. You could tell he was passionate about it as Andy explained the history of Fenwick and why it was a great choice for my son’s high school education.  He may also have mentioned at some point that he was a White Sox fan, so I then knew he was also a man of great intelligence.

Time to Choose

In 2005 young Patrick told his dad he’d walk to Fenwick from Countryside rather than go to closer high schools. (’09 FHS Yearbook photo.)

As they say, “rinse and repeat,” so we did the speech contest for three more years. I actually became a judge in the contest in subsequent years. Fast forward and Patrick is now in 8th grade. I tell Patrick that we live within a mile of two great schools, but immediately I could see in his face that his heart was elsewhere. I told him it would be four years of taking trains and buses if he went to Fenwick, and he told me he would walk every day if he had to.

Continue reading “Choosing a Catholic Education”

Forever Friars: Remembering William Martin, Class of 1954

The young Assistant State’s Attorney stood at the center of “The Trial of the Century” in the mid-1960s — as the chief prosecutor of mass-murderer Richard Speck.

By Mark Vruno

As the Fenwick Bar Association celebrates its the 20th Annual Accipter Award Luncheon on May 18th, we remember 2006 recipient William Martin, who passed away last July at the age of 80, following a long battle with cancer.

Bill Martin (’54 FHS Yearbook).

During a legal career that spanned more than 50 years, Bill Martin lawyered — later as a defense attorney — and taught the law. After serving as editor of The Wick student newspaper and graduating from Fenwick in 1954, Martin attended Loyola University Chicago and its law school, where he was voted the outstanding student. He founded and was editor of the Loyola Law Times, a Journal of Opinion.

Martin at the Speck Trial 13 years later.

Until his death last year, the native Oak Parker (St. Giles) was a private practitioner specializing in attorney ethics and criminal law. He is, however, known best for putting a monster behind bars. The murderer’s name was Richard Speck, who went on a killing spree on Chicago’s southeast side the hot night of July 14, 1966.

An Assistant State’s Attorney at the time, the then 29-year-old Billy Martin had been selected from a pool of more than 30 criminal court prosecutors, many much older and with far more felony trial experience, according to an article in the spring 2018 edition of the Journal of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Despite his relative youth, Martin had earned the respect of Cook County State’s Attorney Dan Ward and his chief assistants, including John Stamos.

Twenty-five years later, Martin told the Chicago Sun-Times, “In a way, it was the end of innocence. In this case, eight women asleep in a middle-class, crime-free, virtually suburban neighborhood were subject to random violence from a killer who basically came out of the night.” Reflecting in a 2016 interview with the Wednesday Journal, he added, “By committing the first random mass murder in 20th-century America, Richard Speck opened the floodgates to a tragic phenomenon that haunts us today.”

The eight young women murdered at the hands of Richard Speck.

Martin believed that Speck was evil incarnate. The 24-year-old ex-convict from Texas stabbed or strangled (and, in one case, raped) the female nursing students. While in hiding two days after the grisly murders, Speck tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists with a broken wine bottle. But once he was locked up in Statesville Correctional Center, Illinois’ maximum-security prison near Joliet, the human monster never showed any remorse for the bloody, heinous acts he committed.

Scene of the crimes: The townhouses at 2319 E. 100th Street, Chicago.

There was one person who survived that horrible night: 85-pound student nurse Corazon Amurao. Originally from the Philippines, Ms. Amurao hid, terrified, under a bunk bed during the five-hour killing rampage. One by one, her nursing school classmates were ruthlessly slain by the madman. At dawn, in shock, she crawled through the carnage to the townhouse balcony. For 20 minutes she screamed, “Oh my God, they are all dead!”

WTTW Interview with Bill Martin (2016).

Continue reading “Forever Friars: Remembering William Martin, Class of 1954”

Fighting Hatred with Hope (Parts 2, 3 and 4)

Brian Hickey ’12 returned home to Western Springs, IL, from North Africa earlier this month. The Fenwick and Valpo alumnus reflected on his past four months teaching refugee children in Djibouti:

December 28,  2017

  Although there is no evidence of Christmas in Djibouti, our community was able to celebrate and reflect on the Word becoming flesh. After living in the birthplace of Jesus for a year, Christmas will never quite be the same. There is a power the mind can hardly comprehend in experiencing where love came down in the form of a baby boy in a place that animals feed. In a few days, I also hope you get to celebrate the gift of life we have been given in living another year in this world.

It is easy to constantly have the difficult moments or stories at the forefront of my mind when speaking or writing about my experiences in the Middle East and Africa. However, there are also moments of joy and triumph amidst many personal challenges or communal problems that come living in an underdeveloped country.  In the spirit of light coming into the world at Christmas to overcome darkness, I will highlight a few of these moments from the past four months.

Saturday Morning Soccer

It rarely rains in Djibouti.  However, when it does it usually pours for a short amount of time and produces huge pools of water and minor flooding due to a nonexistent sewage system. This can cause frustration and annoyance. It poured briefly one Saturday while I was serving breakfast to our boys at Caritas. On Saturday mornings, we bring about 40 of the boys to an open area to play soccer.

The “field” turned into a slippery mess of rainwater, mud and cement. This only enhanced the fun as we slipped and muddied ourselves for a couple hours. All the boys were able to laugh at themselves and each other. It didn’t matter that we do not play on a real field, have proper equipment or are competing for a prize. We had one another.

5th Grade Mohamed

Mohamed is a new student at the school this year. When school began in September, he knew only a few English words. He soon became overwhelmed because everyone in the class was way ahead of him and he would usually sit in class all day staring off into space and not doing anything. Honestly, I sometimes wondered how long he would stay in the school. You would never guess this is the same student I have in my class today.

I’m not sure if I said something that gave him a spark or something else clicked for him, but Mohamed has become the hardest working student in the class. He is always trying to understand what we read or work on in class. Whenever he comes to ask me a question and subsequently understands, a giant smile comes across his face as he gives me a fist pump.

This smile and proclamation of understanding is another moment of joy that sticks with me. Mohamed also enjoys testing me with written Arabic words as I continue to try to understand the language. I believe most people, especially kids, are not “bad” or “dumb” but just need someone to believe in them.

Morning Runs

Several times per week, I enjoy going for a run in the morning. There is a small stretch of sand along the sea on my running route. Many of the street children sleep on this stretch of sand along with other homeless people. It is obviously striking to see these boys waking up and wandering the streets before going to Caritas.

Often times as I run, I’ll hear the boys shout in my direction off the road. They love telling me at Caritas that they saw me running as well. The moments of great joy are when they come and run barefoot beside me for a distance. Many people driving or walking give a funny look to a street kid and a white westerner running together. However, they do not understand our relationship. This is always my favorite part of my day.

Final Thoughts

As you [may] know, last year I lived and worked in Bethlehem in the West Bank.  Even more than my time in South Africa and Zambia, Bethlehem will always feel like home because it was my first full-time job and I built many close relationships. Three weeks ago, I had tremendous sorrow as old neighbors, close friends and former students felt neglect and betrayal due to our country’s announcement about Jerusalem. No matter one’s opinion about the announcement, the consequences are real for all those I came to love in Palestine. I could hardly believe my eyes as I saw a video, directly outside my old apartment, of the aftermath of a truck coming into Palestinian territory and mowing down residents before crashing into another car.

All the students I was able to communicate with in wake of the announcement and initial protests were certain that the 3rd Intifada [Palestinian uprising] is imminent. They feel that they will be even more forgotten by the rest of the world and lose the few opportunities they have. A family, who was always generous in taking care of me, is in danger of shutting down their restaurant (next to the separation wall) for an extended time due to constant protests. Other friends will be negatively impacted by what the announcement will do to the tourism industry in Bethlehem. Please pray for peace and that our leaders are cognizant of our neglected Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem as well as all Palestinians.

Finally, as the New Year commences I invite you to seek joy in every situation.  Like the day of muddy morning soccer, forget what you don’t have and focus on what you do and the opportunities in front of you. Just as Mohamed has done, stop thinking about what you cannot do and chase the dream or opportunity you believe is too difficult or inconvenient. Just as I am energized by running with migrants and refugees, seek out a marginalized person or people group to invest financially or with your attention and time. This will bring you more energy or joy than simply investing in yourself.

A baby born, on the run from violence, in the Middle East has brought more meaning and light in my life (and hopefully yours) than I could have imagined. That light overcomes complacency or darkness in our lives and leads us to our final destination. Invest in that relationship this year whether it is investigating the doubts you have or spending more time with Him.

February 13, 2018

For as long as I can remember, I always eagerly anticipated springtime and the weather getting warmer at this time of year. Perhaps, it was just looking forward to March Madness, high school tennis season or our annual Spring Break trip in college. I am sure you are looking forward to getting rid of the snow and embracing warmer weather and sunshine. In Djibouti, the weather is getting to that point in the afternoon when you cannot be outside for more than five to 10 minutes before beginning to sweat.

The days can certainly feel long, but, as usual, the weeks and months have been going fast. Spring is almost here! The following are a few happenings/highlights since my last update.

Christmas Party

In early January, we loaded up a few buses and took the Caritas boys to a nearby beach (away from the beach where many of them sleep). We spent most of the day on the beach playing soccer, throwing a football, blasting music and swimming in the sea. We also enjoyed lunch and snacks. At the end of our day at the beach, the boys received Christmas gifts consisting of shoes/sandals, a shirt, pants and some candy. This was the only Christmas gift that they received. I know this day will most likely be the highlight of the year for each of the boys. It was also probably my favorite day thus far in Djibouti.

Rhakeem

As you can imagine, there are many stories from Caritas that stick with me. Rhakeem, only about four or five years younger than me, was a bit slow and off when I first met him. He would always seem to be just staring off into space, and he kept a small notebook with the names of the people at Caritas to remember. Sometimes, he would come up to me and say (in broken English) that his head was banging. Younger boys, not knowing any better, would say that he is crazy.

Rhakeem could be considered an ‘economic migrant’ when he fled desperate conditions in Ethiopia. Soon after, Rhakeem got in contact with a human smuggler that would bring him by boat to Yemen. Due to the instability and civil war in the country, many African migrants and refugees take the risk to go through Yemen in hope for greater opportunities in neighboring countries. They certainly do not know the true dangers that await in the war-torn country and are given deceitful assurances by the smugglers.

Although all the details are not known, when Rhakeem arrived by boat to Yemen he was held hostage possibly by smugglers or another group in the country. He was raped and struck in the head by an AK-47. Rhakeem was rescued by an aid organization and brought back to Djibouti, but not without certain brain damage and emotional trauma from the experience. Somehow, he made it to Caritas. Early last month, he was brought back to Ethiopia by the international migration force in Africa to hopefully receive the treatment he desperately needs. I always enjoyed interacting with Rhakeem. As with many here, it is frustrating and frightening to think about his needs and not knowing what his future holds.

Caritas 5K

Last month, Caritas hosted the inaugural “All Brothers and Sisters 5K Race.” When the idea came up for something like this in early October, I was skeptical that it would come to fruition because events like this do not typically occur in Djibouti. We brought the event to the proper authorities for permission and it took them a month to respond to approve the race. Three days before the race was to occur, the local authorities said we had to postpone because the president had a meeting the same morning. The government certainly does not like to make things easy for outsiders, especially when a Christian organization is seeking cooperation with an event.

Nonetheless, the race was rescheduled for the following Friday and we had over 250 people come, including several foreign militaries, kids from my school and others, a running team from Caritas, and ex-pats from NGOs and embassies. The event focused on bringing everyone together from Christians and Muslims to locals and foreigners. There is often tension and prejudice toward different groups in Djibouti such as Christians being referred to as ‘criminals’ or ‘pigs.’  It was a great event to experience these different people groups coming together in the name of Caritas.

Final Thoughts

As winter turns to spring, we also welcome the season leading to the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years later, we exalt and give our lives to a man given a criminal’s death on a cross. Of course, this was not just ‘a man,’ and the Roman capital punishment was only a tool to magnify what our Heavenly Father did to destroy death. I am not sure it can be fully comprehended that the creator of the universe did this for you and me to have abundant life at the present moment in the year 2018.

It is so easy to only stay focused on our own concerns, comfort, present or future. I know I can become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of severe poverty, despair or violence in the region that it is easy to just freeze and want to give up. However, this is when the knowledge of Christ comes to the forefront of my mind and the acknowledgment of the power that lives within me becomes fully alive. We are wasting our time if we are not making an impact for Christ wherever we are planted.

Whether working at a hedge fund or a faraway country, realize the space around you is to be used to bring Heaven unto earth. Look to the things that are above our culture and situation. Focus on what transcends current circumstances and remember that our victory has already been won. There is nothing left to claim or prove that can be greater than what has already been obtained.

April 10, 2018

Almost eight months ago, I set off to a country I did not know much about except that it was surrounded by war-torn countries: Somalia and Yemen.  I certainly won’t forget walking off the airplane in Djibouti in the middle of the night and feeling like I’ve entered a sauna.  Djibouti has had unique challenges and a culture distinct from the other countries where I’ve served. The days sometimes felt long, but the months went by quickly.  In a few days, I will begin the 36-hour travel back to Chicago.

I’ve seen the effects of war and hunger, hopelessness and despair, but I’ve also seen sacrificial love in people providing for one another.  I’ve seen differences in nationalities or religion transcended by a desire to counter suffering.  I’ve seen the power of friendships in walking through whatever comes one’s way in life.  I’ve seen joy in what looks like massive struggle. The following is what has stuck with me since my last update.

Brian’s students wished him a happy birthday.

Walks of Life

Throughout my time in Djibouti, I’ve been fortunate to encounter people from various walks of life.  I’ve met a team of people that have spent time in the some of the worst humanitarian situations in our lifetime.  I heard firsthand accounts of ISIS in Mosul, blown-out cities in Syria, deep despair in South Sudan, and death of children in Yemen.  I’ve met Yemeni and Somali refugees trudging through their new situations after having their lives uprooted by violence and war.

While I’ve formed friendships with members of the military from several countries, I also am friendly with people who sleep on cardboard during the night and see me when they begin their day on the street.  I’ve truly experienced that as iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens another with one deep friendship I’ve had in Djibouti.  I’ve walked with boys trying to survive life on their own on the streets of a foreign country.

Life Lost, Saved and Found

Last month, we received word that a 1st grader at our school had suddenly died. The boy had a high fever and his parents took him to a hospital.  The hospital injected him with medication before being directed to another hospital.  The next hospital also injected him with medication and it is believed the mixed injections probably killed him.  Obviously, it was pretty shocking that a healthy young boy would suddenly die within a couple days of being sick.  Many of the people here attributed the death to simply being “God’s (Allah) will.”  They do not know that the God we know brings abundant life and is not a thief in taking the presence of this young boy from his family, friends, and school.

In addition to the work with the boys at Caritas, there is also a small medical clinic at the facility for the poor, migrants and refugees.  Recently, a foreign pediatrician from one of the militaries was at the clinic for the day.  A Somali woman came in to seek sustenance for her baby.  The pediatrician checked on a cleft on the baby’s face and stated that the baby had to get to the local hospital immediately.  While the woman was hesitant to go, it was determined that if the baby did not get treatment that day she would probably die.  Thankfully, the child received the necessary treatment to keep her alive.

Over the past few months, there has been a local addition to our Christian community.  A Djiboutian police officer, Ayele, in his late 20s has been volunteering at Caritas and been around our compound quite a bit.  He comes from a Muslim background (as do nearly all Djiboutians) but has come to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and was first attracted to Christianity due to our services to the poor and vulnerable. There is certainly animosity toward Christians in Djibouti so, especially as a government employee, Ayele will face persecution in his decision to follow Christ. He will be baptized in a few weeks. Ayele’s story makes all the difficult conditions and challenges in Djibouti worth it.

Personal Journey

At the beginning of August, I will continue my mission in a different capacity than Bethlehem and Djibouti.  I will be attending the University of Notre Dame to study Global Affairs with a specialization for two years. I could not be more excited to join 35-40 talented students from around the world at Notre Dame.  We will be interacting with policy influencers such as former White House chiefs of staff, CIA directors and heads of states. It will certainly be a change to go from the Middle East and North Africa to a place I’m quite familiar with in ND, but I’m eager for a challenging and rewarding experience in preparing to further impact the world for the Kingdom of God.

Final Thoughts

It is difficult to find the right words to finish out this last update. The last few years have left me shaking my head in wonder of how I’ve been able to have these life experiences I could never have even imagined several years ago.  Yet, I realize this all blossomed from my knees in Stellenbosch, South Africa, as I said “yes” to God to take me where my trust is without borders.

The day after Easter I shared the story of Jesus from start to finish to my class as I further explained why we did not have school on Easter Sunday. I received numerous questions from my Muslim students and the class was as quiet as it has been since the school year began. I could tell it had a major effect on at least two Muslim boys in the class. One of them stared off into the distance for five to 10 minutes after asking if we will meet Jesus in Heaven if we make it.  Another boy was asking me more questions the next day.

I know the Gospel shook those in my class to their core in hearing, for the first time, the radical way God seeks to have a relationship with us. If you had the cure for cancer would you not want to tell everyone about it? Well, we have the cure to laying down all bitterness, ego, pride and shame to live life abundantly and proclaim the good news of the empty tomb. We know the cure for death and have the ability to live forever. We have the opportunity to make decisions to impact lives that will echo into eternity.

Thank you for all your support and encouragement in many capacities over the past few years. As I’ve written, this could not have been possible alone.

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  – Galatians 2:20

Fenwick Senior Is One of Two Students from Illinois to Receive Prestigious Jefferson Scholarship from UVA

Chris Sedlacek joins the ‘Jeff’ Class of 2022 at the University of Virginia and is set to enjoy his ‘full ride’ in Charlottesville.

By Mark Vruno

Early last month, we reported that Christopher Sedlacek ’18 was among the finalists in the running for the University of Virginia’s prestigious Jefferson Scholarship. Fenwick is proud to announce that Chris has become the second Jefferson Scholar in Fenwick’s rich, 89-year history! Seven years ago, the award was presented to math whiz kid Patrick McQuade ’11, who today is enrolled in a Material Sciences PhD program at Stanford University in Northern California.

Awarded on the basis of merit, the Jefferson Scholarship aims to attract well-rounded students who exemplify three qualities that define the life and legacy of the university’s founder Thomas Jefferson: leadership, scholarship and citizenship. Candidates undergo a highly competitive selection process and, if chosen, receive full financial support for four years of study.

“For one high school to have two students recognized in one of the country’s most respected scholarship competitions is a remarkable occurrence, particularly in a relatively short period of time,” notes Richard Borsch, Associate Principal and Director of Student Services at Fenwick.

Accepting a four-year college scholarship valued at nearly $300,000 may seem like a no-brainer to most people, but Sedlacek actually had to contemplate his decision before saying “yes” to Virginia’s generous offer.

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His Jefferson Scholarship is “more than monetary,” insists Sedlacek (donning his UVA swag), who came to Fenwick from Park Junior High School in La Grange Park, IL.

“For me the attraction was more than monetary, more than a tuition check,” explains Sedlacek, whose collegiate short-list included the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the Villanova University School of Business in addition to the University of Virginia. He applied and was accepted to other Big Ten schools, too, including the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin.

He cites numerous enrichment activities, including networking and internship opportunities, that are a part of the Jefferson Scholarship. “There also are two study-abroad opportunities, leadership workshops and institutes, and small, seminar classes with professors that are only open to ‘Jeff’ Scholars,” notes Sedlacek, who came to Fenwick from Park Junior High in La Grange Park, IL. One college team-building activity to which he looks forward is a camping trip with fellow Jefferson Scholars.

Sedlacek may declare a finance major at UVA, but he also is interested in becoming an Echols Scholar, which could facilitate a cross-disciplinary double major. “I’m very intrigued by the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy,” he shares.

All of these value-added opportunities sealed the deal, much to the relief of his parents, Matthew and Kerri Sedlacek of La Grange, IL. (The couple’s younger son, Joe, is a sophomore at Fenwick.) Matt is a senior VP of U.S. commercial sales for computer data storage firm Dell EMC, where he has worked for the past 17 years. “My Mom and Dad were nice about it,” Chris adds with a smile. “They told me not to feel obligated to accept the scholarship from UVA – that if I really wanted to go to Michigan or Villanova, we’d figure out a way to make it work. But I know it [my acceptance] is a huge relief for them financially because the scholarship covers all four years.” That amounts to $62,000 annually (out-of-state) at UVA. In addition to tuition, the annual stipend also includes fees, books, supplies, room, board and personal expenses.

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A copy of the acceptance letter (above) that Chris received from Jimmy Wright (below), who has presided over the Jefferson Scholarship Foundation for the past 34 years.

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FACULTY FOCUS

Spanish Teacher Mrs. Denise “Dee” Megall celebrates her 25th year at Fenwick in 2017-18. ​

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What is your educational background?

DM: I have a B.A. in Spanish from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and an M.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from Loyola University in Chicago. I have also studied in Guadalajara, Mexico, through Arizona State University and took classes at the University of Madrid.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at FHS?

DM: I began my teaching career at Trinity High School in River Forest in 1970. I am a Trinity graduate and four years later I was back there teaching. I was on the faculty for six years until the birth of the first of our three sons. I stayed home raising the boys for 16 years. I was working on my Master’s degree when I started at FHS in 1992. I have taught the mothers of many of my Fenwick students due to my early years working at Trinity.

To what teams did you belong as a student?

DM: Trinity only had intramural volleyball and basketball teams when I was a student. I was on the volleyball team all four years. The game was completely different from what it is now. We just kept hitting the ball back and forth until someone missed. Only one girl in the school would spike the ball and we all just thought she was being rude!

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

DM: I love to read. My next book is The Bridge at Andau, which is about the Hungarian Revolution. I am very interested in this topic due to family history. In 1956, when my husband was eight years old, his third cousin escaped from Hungary during the revolution and came over and lived with the Megalls from age 18 to 28. We just celebrated his 80th birthday, which was a wonderful family occasion. I also enjoy doing needlepoint and knitting in my spare time.

What activity do you run?

DM: I schedule the group photos for the yearbook. We start in mid-October and finish the majority of the pictures by November. This year is the 26th year that I have coordinated the organization of the yearbook club pictures.

When did you decide to become a teacher and why did you choose this field?

DM: Until I had to answer this question I had forgotten that one of my favorite games as a child was “Go to the Head of the Class.” It was a game that showed desks on the board and you had to move cardboard students up the row as they answered questions correctly. Little did I know it was a foreshadowing of my future! I kept getting good grades in Spanish and developed a love for the language. My early success in school motivated me to pursue a major in Spanish at the collegiate level. I originally intended to go into business, but my mother suggested that I take some education classes and student teach. I student taught at a school very much like Fenwick, and the minute I stepped in front of the first class and started teaching, I loved it! The students make it so much fun! When I tell them that I have been in my classroom for their entire lives they can’t believe it and they always ask me why I don’t get bored. It is because of them. Every day is different and every class is different. They are the ones that make it fun and exciting for us.

What personal strengths do you find helpful in your teaching?

DM: I am organized and I try to make my expectations as clear as possible. I try to be fair and I admit when I have made a mistake. I give homework geared to help the students practice what they have just learned in class. I try to correct their tests and quizzes as quickly as possible and return them just as quickly because I know they are anxious to find out how they have done. Language learning is a cumulative process and everything the students learn builds upon itself, so it is important they understand it and can use it correctly each step of the way.

What is the greatest challenge facing students today?

DM: I think the greatest challenge facing students today is the ability to control their use of technology. Every time my students have written an essay regarding their computer/iPad/iPhone use they acknowledge the time wasted looking at pictures, playing games, scrolling through Instagram and numerous other distractions they have available to them at all times. The majority of my students say the same thing – that if they turned off the technology they would get more sleep, have better grades, do their homework, study more, and spend more time with their family members. I hope our students learn to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities technology has to offer while still allowing for positive life experiences outside of “screen time.”

What is your greatest success?

DM: I love it when students I taught the previous year stop by my room to tell me how well they are doing. They are so excited and proud of themselves. It is also so heartwarming to hear from former students who are majoring or minoring in Spanish or who are now spending a semester in a Spanish-speaking country. I cherish hearing about all of their wonderful experiences and their success in using the language outside of the classroom. In addition, some of my proudest moments are hearing from past students who are now teachers who have written to me to say thank you, as they now realize firsthand what it takes to be a teacher.

The Modern Civil Rights Era and Police Accountability

GUEST BLOGGER

April 4, 2018

Fifty years ago today, 39-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot dead by hate. Civil-rights concerns remain front and center in 2018, as trial lawyer and Fenwick alumnus Tony Romanucci reflects.

By Antonio M. Romanucci ’78

When the term “civil rights” is invoked, many think of images of Martin Luther King, Jr. standing at the forefront of a street march protesting or standing at a podium challenging the leaders of this country for equality and inclusion. However, the reality is that civil rights is far older than MLK and, from its genesis, has evolved into something far more prevalent which dominates the news headlines of today.

This past November, Romanucci (right) represented client Esperanza Davila in a civil lawsuit against Chicago Police Officer Patrick Kelly and the City of Chicago. Ms. Davila says her boyfriend, 21-year-old Hector Hernandez, was wrongfully shoot and killed by police. (Chicago Sun-Times photo.)

Fenwick has a lot to do with my pursuit of justice over a legal career spanning more than 30 years now. The Catholic education I received emphasized inclusion, diversity and equality amongst us all. That helped shape my views towards the realization that we all should be treated with dignity, respect and equality. How many times do you think you have recited the pledge of allegiance? Surely, in the hundreds if not the thousands of times. At least 700 times over four school years at Fenwick alone! How many times have you said the words “and liberty and justice for all” and actually thought about what you were saying — and realized that our forefathers were setting the stage for our country’s future as a melting pot of people, made up of all sorts of races, ethnicities and backgrounds? If only they could realize how prescient they were but also how ominous the future was going to be despite their desire for equality amongst all.

Our country had to fight a brutal internal war to abolish slavery that cost this country economic, moral, emotional and philosophical scars that, to this day, cause deep controversy. Witness the takedowns of the statutes of General Robert E. Lee within the past 12 months because parts of the South remain loyal to a past that most of this country would rather forget. One of the unfortunate consequences of the Civil War left many African-Americans looking in from the outside. Many argue those ills have not been remedied since, despite the passage of the Ku Klux Klan act of 1871 and its nascent 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, the civil rights movement associated with Brown v. Board of Education; the tumultuous times of Emmit Tills and Rosa Parks; the aforementioned MLK era; and then, of course, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which strengthened the rights of private citizens to sue municipalities, cities, states and government when they infringe on one’s constitutional rights.

April 5, 1968 – Chicago was burning: In the aftermath of King’s murder, rioting broke out on the city’s West Side, not far from Fenwick. The violence got so bad that the National Guard was called in to protect citizens.

Indeed, modern-day civil rights are an extension of the CRA and the powers that now lie in the hands of citizens to tell local, state and federal governments that the constitution and its amendments are sacrosanct and cannot be willfully violated — ever. The civil rights lawyer is a protector of those citizens and ensures that government violations are dealt with and, if necessary, paid for. Rest assured that without the civil rights lawyer existing, there would be no civil rights to protect in this country. I have become a civil rights trial lawyer. I am deeply proud of what I do for our people and our country.

Michael LaPorta (at left, in wheelchair) accused his longtime friend and off-duty CPD officer Patrick Kelly of shooting him in the head after a night of drinking in 2010. Kelly, who had a checkered past on the force, claimed that LaPorta had shot himself in a suicide attempt. Last fall LaPorta was awarded $44.7 million: the largest verdict ever reached in Chicago for a police-misconduct lawsuit. He was represented legally by Tony Romanucci (right), who sought justice amid the police department’s “Code of Silence.” (Chicago Tribune photo.)

The first thing required to determine if there is a viable claim to move forward with an action against a governmental entity for a civil-rights violation is whether or not the constitution was violated. Specifically, when it comes to my personal practice, was there a violation of the 4th, 8th or 14th amendment? What we are looking for is a determination whether there was an unlawful search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment for a detained citizen or a deprivation of due process, respectively. The vast majority of clients we represented involve the 4th Amendment search and seizure issues.

Continue reading “The Modern Civil Rights Era and Police Accountability”