When their nanny died young and tragically from breast cancer last fall, Fenwick students Wil ’21 and Leah Gurski ’23 knew they had to do something for her young son, Adam. But what?
By Wil Gurski ’21 (Oak Park, IL)
When God calls someone to be a mother, that virtue doesn’t only nurture her own child but cultivates all of those she influences.
Hi! My name is Wil Gurski, and I would like to tell you a story about a woman who fulfilled God’s call to compassion and left a lasting impression on my sister Leah [a Fenwick sophomore] and me.
Eighteen years ago, I was blessed with a second mother, Viola, when she started to take care of me at six months old. She taught me how to count to 10 in Polish, read me bedtime stories from her hometown of Krakow, and she would always take my sister and me to the zoo. Most summers we would go to Brookfield Zoo at least once a week. And every time we went, Viola would insist that we stop by the giraffe enclosure to take pictures. Without a doubt her favorite animal was the giraffe, and, in hindsight, a proud, compassionate and protective mother giraffe perfectly embodies her.
A few years later she had a son, named Adam; naturally, he became a brother to Leah and me. To this day, Adam still gets me in trouble. We play basketball together in the backyard, Minecraft until 1 a.m., watch the exact same TV shows, and one summer we spent the entire day walking from park to park playing Pokémon Go.
Then, in August 2020, Viola was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it had tragically spread throughout her body. She soon passed away on September 26th, devastating everyone who had been touched by her kindness.
My sister and I knew we had to do something to help little Adam and his Dad. A few weeks later, Leah came up with the brilliant idea to sell clothing to raise money for Adam’s college tuition. She figured that it would make a big difference for the family if Adam’s future was more secure. So, we decided to create The Giraffe Plan LLC, inspired by Viola’s favorite animal, to spread her love and confidence the same way she did for us.
Leah and I know how much an average college charges in tuition, so we had to think big. A simple fundraiser could not cover the amount we needed to raise, but a business could. A business in which all of the profits go directly into Adam’s college savings plan.
With our mission in mind, we turned to the most gifted (and patient) graphic designer we knew, Fenwick junior Dylan Fu. He helped design our logos, sweatshirts, website, social media and so much more. Additionally, senior Maddie Miller drafted a six-page marketing plan and a seven-page sponsorship proposal. My Fenwick peers were vital help in securing an awesome sponsorship for our business. A sponsor paid for our entire stock of sweatshirts and financed our LLC, allowing us to donate all of the revenue we receive — without any overhead costs.
My sister and I are incredibly humbled by all of the support we have received in setting up this venture: from friends who have financially supported us, those who have donated their legal counsel, and all who have just believed in us and our mission. Most of all, we are truly grateful for people like you who take the time out of their day to listen to our story. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
Senior student preacher reflects on faith at school Mass for St. Catherine of Siena.
By Joey Schultz ’21 (Clarendon Hills, IL)
Today, we come together to celebrate the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena. Catherine was born during the 1300s in Siena, Italy during the middle of the Black Plague. She was a Dominican laywoman who devoted her entire life to serving the sick and poor.
During the time of St. Catherine, the pope was living lavishly in Avignon, France, instead of in Rome where the Pope traditionally lived. Catherine realized the problem and called for reform in the Church. She also demanded that the pope move back to Rome, and she ended up playing a key role in moving the papacy back to Rome. Perhaps, Catherine’s biggest impact upon the Catholic world was her writings, which have led her to be declared a Doctor of the Church.
In looking at some of her writings, I came across a quotation that particularly stood out to me. The words of St. Catherine were, “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” There have been many times in my life where I have contemplated my faith. I have questioned God’s existence and role in my life, like I’m sure many of you have.
St. Catherine’s message shows us that there will always be hardships that we endure in order to achieve something great, like a relationship with God. As children of God, we have to persevere through these doubts and pursue a life in complete faith in God. The words of St. Catherine can be brought into our lives as students of Fenwick, too. We as students are called to serve God and be role models for others. It is no easy task to do this, but like St. Catherine said, nothing great is ever achieved without challenges. Everyday we have to endure the grind that is getting up in the morning, going to class, participating in extracurricular activities, coming back home, doing school work, spending time with family and friends, plus many other challenges. On top of all these things, we are expected to live as Christians, through both difficult and easy times.
Have there been any times in your life where you felt too young to make a difference? As a teenager, Catherine was visiting hospitals, helping out the sick and poor. She was such a young woman, yet she was able to make such a big impact on the world around her by devoting her life to serving God and her neighbors. Catherine is a role model, especially for us students, because she shows us that we are never too young to make a difference in the world. Going forward, we should all think of St. Catherine in times of doubt, and we should put our trust in God.
St. Catherine of Siena serves as a great example of how we should strive to live our lives as Christians. She is an inspiration to all of us, especially women, because of the boundaries and societal norms that she had to break during her time. As a woman during the 14th century, it was much more difficult for her to get into any position of control or influence. Through good works and a passion for justice, she was able to rise up and make a change in the world. St. Catherine shows each and every one of us that we are capable of making a difference in the world through faith and trust in God.
High-achieving academic results from Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science (TEAMS).
The Fenwick TEAMS team has won State! They defeated their main rivals, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) and University of Chicago Lab School, to be the highest ranked selective school in Illinois for Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science (TEAMS). Our score places Fenwick second in the nation among large selective schools.
The Friars had a perfect essay score from TEAM B (Thérèse Giannini, Dmytro Olyva, Paulina Harnisch and Clare Hill)! Fenwick also had the highest multiple choice and design-build score in all of Illinois from TEAM A (Anna Dray, Ronan Kritsufek, Logan Maue and Dan Majcher).
“This is another testament to our high-achieving academic culture cultivated by our school’s wonderful educators,” praises moderator/coach Mr. Kevin Roche ’05, a Fenwick alumnus and self-described “proud moderator who does his best to stay out of the way to let these stars shine. They could not have achieved this effort without all of the excellent Fenwick faculty, who level up these kids daily to be the superstars that they are!”
The team effort was achieved by its 23 members with support from the seemingly 1.000 batting average of Mr. David Kleinhans, who chairs Fenwick’s Computer Science/Physics Department:
Bianca Dimailig, La Grange, IL (St. Francis Xavier Catholic School) Anna Dray, Elmhurst, IL (Immaculate Conception Grade School) Thérèse Giannini, Wood Dale, IL (Immaculate Conception Grade School, Elmhurst) Paulina Harnisch, River Forest, IL (Ascension Catholic School, Oak Park) Clare Hill, Western Springs, IL (McClure Junior High) Ronan Kristufek, Western Springs, IL (McClure Junior High) Logan Maue, Oak Park, IL (St. Giles School) Daniel Majcher, Chicago (Keystone Montessori School) Dmytro Olyva, Cicero, IL (St. Giles School, Oak Park)
Zachariah Dahhan, Elmwood Park, IL (Elm Middle School) Paige Davis, Elmhurst, IL (Immaculate Conception Grade School) LisaGrace Dillon, La Grange Park, IL (St. Francis Xavier Catholic School) Will Frech, Chicago (St. Josaphat School) Linden Gierstorf, Oak Park, IL (Our Lady of the Wayside School, Arlington Heights) Finley Huggins, Oak Park, IL (Ascension Catholic School) Katy Nairn, Lombard, IL (Glenn Westlake Middle School) Hugo Nunez, Jr., Berwyn, IL (St. Leonard Catholic School) Lilly Metz, La Grange, IL (William F. Gurrie Middle School) Grace Simmons, Riverside, IL (St. Mary’s Catholic School) Will Zimmer, Oak Park, IL (Ascension Catholic School)
Rowan White ’24, Willowbrook, IL (Gower Middle School, Burr Ridge) Toby Yang ’24, Oak Park, IL (Avery Cooney School, Downers Grove) Henry Zimmer ’24, Oak Park, IL (Ascension Catholic School)
Quartet joins more than 15 other Friars, now enrolled at universities around the country, who are fellow recipients of the golf-related, four-year full scholarship.
The Western Golf Association (WGA) and its Evans Scholars Foundation have released the names of four Fenwick High School seniors (in alphabetical order) who will receive the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship for the 2021-25 school years:
Jason Cruz (left) of Chicago/Chicago Academy Elementary School(Sunset Ridge Country Club, Northfield) – Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Cristian Garcia (right) of Chicago/George Rogers Clark Elementary School(Briarwood Country Club, Deerfield) – University of Illinois (Urbana/ Champaign)
Rafal Sieklucki (left) of Chicago/St. Constance (Ridgemoor Country Club, Harwood Heights) – Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
Alessandra Zuleta (below) of Cicero, IL/Saint Frances of Rome School(Glen View Club, Golf, IL) – Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois), probable
The four soon-to-be graduates will join more than 15 other former Fenwick students presently enrolled in universities as Evans Scholars, including six from the Class of 2020. (Recent alumnus Gabriel Ruggie ’20, of River Forest, IL/St. Luke Parish School and Oak Park Country Club, was awarded the scholarship after completing his first semester of studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.) Each award covers full tuition and housing for four years. An additional 256 Evans Scholarships are being awarded to other Class of ’21 caddies from around the United States.
“The Evans Scholarship Program has provided a truly exceptional opportunity to our students over the years,” said Emily Anderson, one of two college counselors at Fenwick. “Again this year, the selection committee has granted full scholarships to these four seniors. We are proud and grateful.”
Legendary amateur golfer Charles “Chick” Evans (left, 1890-1979) aspired to send deserving caddies to college. Sponsoring country clubs can nominate a young man or woman possessing “a strong caddie record, excellent grades, outstanding character and demonstrated financial need,” according to the WGA.
Evans Scholarship Facts
Since they were first awarded to NU students in 1930, more than 11,000 young men and women have been awarded Evans Scholarships to some of the nation’s top universities. Presently, 965 students receive the award. On campus, they live together in a Scholarship House owned by the WGA’s Evans Scholars Foundation. Four additional statistics:
The average value of an Evans Scholarship is $100,000
The college graduation rate for Evans Scholars is 95%
Evans Scholars’ collective, cumulative GPA is 3.3
The program’s scholarship costs exceed $20 million annually
Neighboring Catholic institutions on Washington Blvd. in Oak Park share a vision of more diversity, equity and inclusion for future students.
Over the past 91 years, Fenwick High School has admitted hundreds of students from the former Catholic parish schools St. Catherine of Siena School and St. Lucy Schools, the predecessor schools to the now combined St. Catherine of Siena-St. Lucy School (SCSL), which serves approximately 200 children from preschool through eighth grade. Situated in Oak Park, IL, a few blocks east of Fenwick, SCSL borders the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side.
SCSL has raised in excess of $200,000 for the renovation of the gymnasium in Maguire Hall, thanks in part to two major donors — the Malnati and the Barnett families. Mr. and Mrs. Tom Nelson have generously donated towards the new boiler system. Fenwick’s Institutional Advancement Department has agreed to market a gift challenge to match the $200,000 already committed by soliciting from the two schools’ joint alumni base: $100,000 will be dedicated to establishing a scholarship fund supporting SCSL graduates who wish to attend Fenwick and $100,000 to develop the Fenwick Center for Educational Excellence at St. Catherine – St. Lucy School.
How the funds will be used:
Once raised, $100,000 will go toward constructing and equipping the new “Fenwick Center for Educational Excellence” at SCSL, in conjunction with Fenwick’s existing tutoring program for grade-school students along with other academic initiatives.
The other half ($100,000) will go toward establishing the St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy and Fenwick Partners Scholarship Fund at Fenwick to benefit incoming students from SCSL.
“All of us at Fenwick are eager to enter into this partnership with St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School,” said Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., Fenwick’s president. “ In a very meaningful way, it will help us to live up to our commitment to celebrate diversity, insist upon equity and create a more inclusive community.”
Raymond Moland, the high school’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and a 1996 graduate of Fenwick, added: “This is an outstanding opportunity for both Fenwick and St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School. It marks the beginning of Fenwick’s new outreach efforts in the community and those in the surrounding area.” (More information on Fenwick’s DEI initiatives.)
Mrs. Sharon Leamy, Principal of SCSL, also shared her thoughts on the partnership agreement: “Fenwick High School’s culture of service and strong sense of family mirrors that of St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School. We believe we are all children of God. We believe there is more to learning than just books. And we believe education is a civil right. We have incredible families and very talented students who make us proud each and every day. We are thrilled a revered institution such as Fenwick recognizes the unique gifts St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School has to offer and is willing to commit to further strengthening this partnership. Coming together through academics, athletics, and service the lives of all the bright, highly motivated, and faith driven students in the halls of both schools will be enriched. And we are so grateful!”
Fenwick High School is interested in realizing all St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy students who demonstrate cognitive intelligence, intellectual curiosity, humility, a desire to excel and who embrace the pillars of the Dominican order. Fenwick will base acceptance of SCSL students on its entrance exam while consulting with the administration of St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School to identify students who can thrive in its demanding environment. DEI Director Mr. Moland will work directly with the SCSL Principal Leamy to identify three to five students per year who meet the academic qualifications to be considered as successful prospective applicants to Fenwick High School. This process can begin in the spring of the student’s seventh-grade year. (More than five qualified candidates can be discussed and considered in any given year.)
Then, working with third-party scholarship organizations (for example, Big Shoulders, Daniel Murphy, Highsight, Link Unlimited, etc.), the Illinois Tax Credit Scholarship Program, and Fenwick’s normal financial-aid process, Fenwick will assure that all qualified/admitted students from SCSL are provided a nearly tuition-free education if the student remains at Fenwick for four years.
Vanessa Underwood (left), St. Catherine – St. Lucy class of 1999 alumna and present fifth-grade teacher, shared: “The partnership between SCSL and Fenwick is a wonderful thing! If the scholarship piece was in place while I was a student here at SCSL, Fenwick would have been my top choice. Unfortunately, the cost was too prohibitive. Today, as a teacher here at SCSL, I am thrilled that my students will have the opportunity that I did not have to attend Fenwick. We have such intelligent, talented students, and I know they will be a tremendous asset to Fenwick for years to come.”
Athletics and Activities
As part of the new agreement, for a five-year term beginning in the upcoming 2021-22 school year, Fenwick will be able to use the renovated gymnasium at SCSL as follows:
● Two days a week, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. during the winter season, November 1stto March 15th.
● Three days per week, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. or 6 to 8 p.m. during the winterseason, November 1st to March 15th (days negotiable).
For the same five-year term, Fenwick and SCSL will partner with the following:
● Once per season Fenwick/St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy will co-host a middle-school basketball tournament using Fenwick’s and SCSL’s gyms. Both schools will be listed on the tournament title. (Dates to be determined.)
● Free basketball clinics for girls/boys at SCSL at two points throughout the winter.
● SCSL students will receive one weekend practice time in Fenwick’s main gymduring each season (fall, winter and spring).
● St. Catherine Siena – St. Lucy students will receive one free family pass to any paidFenwick event.
Other possible ways for Fenwick and St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy students to interact in the future include joint Christian Service Projects and having Fenwick campus ministry leaders assist with retreats at SCSL.
Principal Leamy (right) concluded: “Ten years ago, the seeds of a wonderful partnership were planted through the development of a tutoring program. St. Catherine of Siena – St. Lucy School welcomed Fenwick High School students on campus to work with the boys and girls in our after-school program. Over the years, we have seen this initiative develop into an incredibly well-structured program benefitting all involved. With the addition of sports clinics and service projects, the eight blocks separating our two schools have developed into a wonderful bridge of opportunity.”
Fenwick Is Celebrating 92 Years: Fenwick High School, founded in 1929, is a Dominican college preparatory secondary institution with a co-educational enrollment of approximately 1,100 students. Guided by its Dominican Catholic values, its mission is to inspire excellence and educate each student to lead, achieve and serve. Today, Fenwick has a Golden Apple teacher on its faculty and an alumni list that includes a Skylab astronaut, Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, a Heisman Trophy recipient and other leaders making a positive impact locally and internationally. Fenwick is celebrating its 92nd academic year in 2020-21.www.fenwickfriars.com
St. Catherine Siena St. Lucy School 135 Years Strong: With roots planted in 1885, St. Catherine Siena – St. Lucy School has served generations of Oak Park and Austin neighborhood families. We are grounded in faith, proud of where we have been, and exuberant in who we are becoming as a preschool through eighth grade grammar school. An awarded Personalized Learning school, we meet individual learners where they are in their journey and help them map their personal route to success. Educating the whole child, we offer after-school enrichment and encourage participation in our robust athletic program. Modeling our co-founder St. Catherine of Siena, we encourage our students to: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” www.catherinelucy.org
Fenwick’s senior-class retreats have been different in 2021, but things are slowly returning to a more “normal” state.
Call it “Pandemic Prayer Power” perhaps, but the coronavirus cannot stop the Fenwick Friars’ KAIROS senior retreats, which have taken place — safely and socially distanced — this winter for members of the Class of 2021!
“This year has brought many different challenges,” says Kairos Director Mrs. Maria Nowicki, “but getting back to Bellarmine [retreat house in Barrington, IL] in February was needed, and I know that God had a hand in helping us get there. Our young people have a lot to deal with, and they need God and [need] to know His great love for all of us.
“It has been beautiful to see our students sharing stories of faith and inspiration or simple moments, like 30 kids trying to build a snowman together, especially after the many hardships of the last year,” Mrs. Nowicki continues. “My heart has been touched with the incredible amount of gratitude the senior class has shown when there is so much they could be down about.” What three recent retreatants took away:
“I know I am young, but I can say truthfully that I am going to try and ‘Live the 4th’ every day for the rest of my life. I believe it has shaped me more into the person I am supposed to be and will have a forever impact on how I choose to live my life.”
“I learned to value my friendships and family more, to never forget everyone has hardships that I may not be aware of, and that God loves me and everyone He created so much.“
“On Kairos I found that if God brought you to it, He will bring you through it.”
Fenwick won the 3AA Illinois Regional competition in 2021 and placed sixth at the State Meet, where it was one of only two Catholic/private school teams in the Top 10 field.
“Thank you so much to all 40 team members and [to] Ms. Sabbia, who put in so much time and effort to get Fenwick ranked once again as the No. 1 Catholic school,” praises long-time Moderator/Coach Roger Finnell ’59. The State Meet is organized into four divisions, by school enrollment, Mr. Finnell explained, and this year “no Catholic school had a better score [than Fenwick’s 541] in the two most difficult divisions.” (See below.)
Freshman Toby Yang ’24 (Oak Park, IL) had a perfect score in Algebra 1 and is the Illinois STATE CHAMPION! (Also see below.) He is the second Friars’ student in the 41-year history of the state math contest to have a perfect score in a written event. “The only other was Logan Maue ’21 last year [as a junior] in Algebra 2,” Finnell reports. Maue also hails from Oak Park.
Junior Finley Huggins ’22, another Oak Parker, tied for second in Algebra 2; Maue tied for fourth in Pre-Calculus and senior Daniel Majcher ’21 (Chicago) tied for 7th in Pre-Calc before item analysis broke the ties. (Scroll down for complete competition results.) In February, Huggins posted the highest score in either division at the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Math Contest, which Fenwick won (again):
Captain Logan Maue ’21 Reflects
Mr. Finnell deserves all the thanks in the world for all the work he puts into the team each and every year. I have had the great pleasure of having the last three out of my four years at Fenwick being taught math by Mr. Finnell. (I was taught calculus one year by the also legendary teacher Mr. Arscott.) Mr. Finnell has also been in charge of many of the BFG shows I have done. So, from a variety of angles, I have gotten to see and appreciate firsthand all the effort that he puts into making Fenwick such an amazing, special place. He has taught and inspired generations of Fenwick Friars, and I am so incredibly grateful that I had the privilege to be taught and mentored by him.
This year, practicing for the state competition was filled with difficulties: the state competition date was moved earlier and combined with regionals, among others too. Regardless, we were still grateful that a state competition was occurring in any capacity. Nearing the state competition, Mr. Finnell had many days in a row coaching practices. Still, in light of these difficulties, the team did remarkably well, placing Top 10 in the state once again. The seniors will be heading off to the mysterious water of college. As awesome as the seniors are, I begrudgingly admit that the years to come for the Math Team will be bright, even without us. With Mr. Finnell as the coach (and for every year since the foundation of the ICTM competition), the Fenwick Math Team has performed extraordinarily well for decades, creating a legacy of excellence. Now with phenomenal standouts, such as Finley Huggins and Toby Yang, and many other exceedingly talented Friars (and future Friars, I am sure), this legacy of excellence will undoubtedly continue.
The past four years on the Fenwick Math Team have been excellent. I enjoyed every last second pouring over past problem sets and finding unique solutions to difficult problems. However, the memories I will be carrying with me for the rest of my life are the memories of getting to hang out with my friends, especially the seniors. The seniors on this team are so incredibly talented, with an incredibly diverse range of talents and interests. From many other activities and varsity sports, the number of talents and accomplishments the other seniors have outside of the math team could also fill pages. From Sam Sikora recently qualifying for weightlifting nationals to Ronan Kristufekbecoming a three-time Irish Dancing Mid American Champion (and that’s only two things from two of the seniors!), a group of incredible people come together to compete on the Fenwick Math Team. Getting to be in the company of all these wonderful people has been a blessing, as behind all these layers of accomplishments are the amazing, kind, funny people who I have gotten to know. The memories of the carpools to Concordia, the long haul to Champaign, the time we went to Steak ‘n Shake, and simply talking with each other in the quiet moments all stick out as core memories. Though I will miss these times, I am ever more grateful for them happening.
And here are the regional and state results:
1. Fenwick 541 2. Hinsdale South 367 3. Glenbard South 339 4. Riverside-Brookfield 285 5. Fenton 64
Toby Yang- 1st in Algebra 1 Mallory Turner- 3rd in Geometry Finley Huggins- 1st in Algebra 2 Hugo Nunez- 2nd in Algebra 2 Logan Maue- 1st in PreCal Daniel Majcher- 2nd in PreCal
Algebra 1 Team
1. Fenwick 106 2. Hinsdale South 100 3. Riverside-Brookfield 76 4. Glenbard South 40 5. Fenton 26
1. Fenwick 54 2. Hinsdale South 42 3. Glenbard South 40 4. Riverside-Brookfield 28
Algebra 2 Team
1. Fenwick 110 2. Glenbard South 98 3. Hinsdale South 78 4. Riverside Brookfield 52 5. Fenton 26
1. Fenwick 96 2. Riverside-Brookfield 54 3. Glenbard South 46 4. Hinsdale South 32 5. Fenton 10
1. Fenwick 70 2. Hinsdale South 45 3. Glenbard South 35 Riverside-Brookfield 35
8-person Frosh-Soph Team
1. Fenwick 40 2. Glenbard South 35 3. Hinsdale South 30 4. Riverside-Brookfield 25 5. Fenton 5
8-person Junior-Senior Team
1. Fenwick 65 2. Glenbard South 45 3. Hinsdale South 40 4. Riverside-Brookfield 15
STATE FINAL SCORES (Awards given for top 10)
1. U of Chicago Lab 800 2. Glenbrook North 732 3. Vernon Hills 649 4. Libertyville 629 5. U of Illinois Lab 609 6. Fenwick 541 7. Marist 456 8. Lake Forest 447 9. John Hersey 418 10. Hononegah 418
Friar Individual Awardees
Toby Yang- 1st in Algebra 1 Finley Huggins- 7th in Algebra 2 Logan Maue- 5th in PreCal Daniel Majcher- 8th in PreCal
A senior Preaching Team Member reflects on second-semester fears –and faith – for today’s the Feast of the Annunciation.
By Katie Malchow ’21 (Hinsdale, IL)
When I sat down to write this reflection Sunday morning, nothing within the readings struck me at first. So, I did what every second-semester senior would do: closed my iPad, went downstairs and watched ‘March Madness.’ It wasn’t until I was driving around my neighborhood later that day around 5:30 when I knew exactly what these readings meant to me.
In today’s gospel, we see Mary visited by the angel Gabriel, telling her she will be the mother of God’s son. The angel said four simple words: “Do not be afraid.” Now you are probably wondering why on Earth it was when I was driving Sunday evening the meaning hit me, but it has to do with these four words.
There’s a lot to be afraid today: college acceptances, uncertainty of what the future holds, or maybe you just have a really hard Econ test today that you probably should have studied a little bit more for. These stresses and anxieties can be overwhelming, but we have to have faith. We have to have trust. We have to have faith in ourselves, others and God. Because without faith, what is there then? Where do we go from there?
A friend once told me, “Everything happens for a reason. Everything that happens, God wants to happen.” Now, it might sound cliché or even a little basic, but once I actually started believing this in my day to day, I found myself enjoying the small things and having faith in God’s plan. To be honest, I was not in the best mood Sunday afternoon, but I saw the little things of God’s plan unfolding in front of me, causing me to reflect on the bigger picture. There were kids playing football together on one block; the next block, neighbors were talking in their driveway. As I continued to drive, I was witnessing all of these amazing things in front of me.
When we are scared or feeling lost, we lose sight of these amazing parts of God’s plan. Especially this year, one thing I have learned is to appreciate the small things and to have faith that everything will be okay. When Gabriel visited Mary, she was definitely scared and confused. However, without having any information, she trusted God’s plan and embraced the opportunity in front of her. At times things might get overwhelming or even a little uncomfortable, but we have to keep going and have faith in what God has in store for us.
So, on this Thursday morning, I encourage all of you to take today and the rest of this week to reflect and call attention to the small things unfolding in front of you. Take time to appreciate those things, no matter how big or small. It might be laughing in the hallway with a friend or acing that reading pop quiz you totally guessed on. Appreciate it all, because it all is God’s plan unfolding right in front of our eyes. When things get difficult, remember the four simple words, “Do not be afraid.” God has amazing things in store for us all, but not everything will be easy. Have an open mind, have trust and, most importantly, have faith.
What was it like to be among the first young women at Fenwick?
By Terese McCarthy Best ’96 (commencement address)
Good morning, Father Davis, Mr. Quaid, Administrators, Board Members, Faculty, Parents, Friends, Honored Guests, and Classmates.
Four years ago, we walked through the doors behind us and sat in these seats. We came in alone, or in groups, but all of us were nervous [about] high school: the best years of our lives, or so we were told — our glory days.
But, even in the beginning, as we sat in the auditorium and perhaps even before that, we were different from any other freshmen class in Fenwick history. Before we even met, we already had an identity, a bond that would forever hold us together in the minds of others. In the minds of alumni, parents, administrators, teachers, and upperclassmen, we became significant the moment that we were admitted. All eyes were on us. Would we succeed? Would we fail? Or, despite the publicity, would we slip by, virtually unnoticed, into Fenwick history, never distinguishing ourselves beyond the title of the first coed class?
After a few months, the newspaper men and cameras disappeared, and we settled into Fenwick. We went through the motions in the beginning, nervous freshmen, obnoxious sophomores, over-worked juniors. More than once, I heard people, especially in our class and the class of 1995, speculate whether we would be capable of capturing the spirit every senior class before us had demonstrated. Would we finally come together, as a class, to forge our own identity?
Ask anyone who has been in the building during the last nine months, whether the class of 1996 has incredible school spirit and a strong sense of class identity, and they will answer yes. We have broken records, athletically and academically. The balance between academic and athletic success that we have demonstrated as a class will serve as a standard for the underclassmen to strive to meet.
The football team advanced to the state semi-finals, winning 12 consecutive games, the most in Fenwick history. Boys’ basketball, baseball, football, and hockey each came in first in the Catholic League. Girls’ basketball and softball came in first in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. Boys and girls’ basketball and girls’ soccer were IHSA regional champions, and hockey won the Kennedy Cup. The girls’ and boys’ water polo teams both came in third in the state. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that we were an amazingly talented and devoted group of athletes. Our trophies, plaques, medals, and records speak for themselves.
However, in the tradition of Fenwick, we were never satisfied to succeed merely on the field. The colleges we are attending, the scholarships awarded, clearly demonstrate our academic success. However, there’s more to it than that. Involvement outside the classroom has been amazing, too. Our speech and debate team was first in the Catholic League, with individuals placing as high as second in the state and advancing to the nationals. The JETS Team was first in the district, second in the regional, and the only Catholic school to advance to the state finals for the fourth year in a row. The math team won the Archdiocese math contest, finished first in the regionals in state math, first in the district in Illinois Math League, and was the highest scoring private school in the state at the state finals.
And so, we will not be remembered merely as the first coed class, but as a class that reached a new level of pride and excellence while continuing the Fenwick tradition. We have shown the underclassmen what we spent three years observing. We have shown them what it means to truly be a Fenwick Friar.
However, none of these records would mean anything to any of us without the bond we share. Many things have helped to create this bond: classes, sports — watching or participating — but, perhaps most importantly, the Kairos retreat program. Whatever it was, we share something that I can’t find words to describe. It’s when people say “hi” to each other in the halls, when they stop just to find out how it’s going or if you won your most recent game. It’s saying good luck, or congratulations, or offering a hug and a shoulder to cry on when something goes wrong. It is supporting each other, challenging each other, comforting each other.
I was reading Touchstone, our literary magazine, and I was struck by a poem that our classmate Nick Scouffas wrote called “I Am.” The first line is “I am alone.” It is the last stanza, however, that hit me:
I understand that the paths will not always be paved I say let us pave the paths I dream our unity, though alone, will carry us to uncharted roads I try to read a map but no matter which way I have it, it is always upside down I hope we follow these roads and find treasures that only we can appreciate. I am no longer alone.
We may have come in alone, and it may have taken us a while to discover who we are, individually and collectively. But, when we walk out that door today, for the last time, we walk out together. No matter which way our paths in life may take us, we leave Fenwick as Friars. We will walk out of the door today with a bond, as a class, that will last. We are no longer alone.
About the Author
Terese McCarthy Best is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Risk Officer of Caspian Capital, LP, a New York-based investment advisor. Prior to this role, she was the Director of Research and a research analyst at Caspian. Terese also serves as Vice Chairman of the boards of Marquette National Corporation and Marquette Bank. Terese graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University and lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters.
The number and size of Catholic grade schools and high schools increased greatly in the 1950s. After 1960, the educational preparation of teachers, new issues for church life amid movements like ecumenism, racial justice in American society, and a general advancement in the quality of Catholic schools led to new considerations of the area of “religion,” of “theology,” in secondary education.
At Fenwick High School, conducted by the Dominican Friars in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, two movements emerged to expand and vitalize theological education in high school. One had to do with educational materials like textbooks; the other had to do with new approaches to religious education, with ideas for and beyond the classroom.
New Theology and New Textbooks
The developments in secondary education began with similar movements in Catholic colleges and universities. The simple and sparse catechetical format of the texts for required courses in religion in Catholic colleges and universities was more and more criticized in the 1950s. The shallow level of content often did not rise above basic catechetical propositions about Christianity to which was added some Aristotelian philosophy in ethics and theodicy. Some have gone so far as to say that prior to 1960 there was no theology being taught in most Catholic institutions of higher education in America other than seminaries. Certainly few courses touched on, for instance, the content of the New Testament or the theology of the sacraments and liturgy.
In those years teachers began to meet to discuss how teaching theology in college was more than teaching scholastic philosophy or catechesis. In 1954, they founded the Society of Catholic College Teachers of Sacred Doctrine (this became in 1965 the College Theology Society).1 At the first national meeting of the SCCTSD in 1954 (there had been regional meetings) three of the founders offered their approaches. Gerard Sloyan of Catholic University of America spoke on “From Christ in the Gospels to Christ in the Church;” Thomas Donlan, O.P., of St. Rose Priory, Dubuque, Iowa, presented “An Approach from the Dominican School of Thought;” John Fernan, S.J., of Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York, described a “historical, Scriptural approach.” These pioneers of the college theology movement had three different views of theological education: Sloyan’s was biblical; Donlan’s was neo-Thomist; Fernan’s was historical and biblical. All three were working on producing textbooks.
Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., in 1945 returned to the University of Notre Dame to begin his time of teaching theology there before he became president of that institution. He had written his doctoral dissertation at The Catholic University of America on the theology of lay people and the sacraments.2 Teaching undergraduate theology soon led to his conceiving of and editing textbooks, a series called “University Religion Series. Texts in Theology for the Layman.”3
Thomas Donlan, O.P., a native of Oak Park, Illinois, taught at Fenwick High School from 1946 to 1952. He went from there to teach at the Dominican seminaries in Dubuque, Iowa. While there he directed original publications in college and high school theological education. First he supervised a volume of essays exploring how sacred doctrine of a largely Thomist bent could and should be the framework for courses outside the seminary. Essays treated the arts, sociology, and the natural sciences, philosophy, and religion: This was an attempt to draw theology out of the isolation of clerical circles into a wider cultural world.4
Donlan and other Dominicans, some teaching at the first graduate program in theology to accept religious or laity at St. Mary’s College, South Bend, Indiana, decided to produce a series of textbooks for college. First books began to appear in 1952.5 They did offer a theology deeper than a catechism, but curiously it did not hold a particularly Thomistic order and principles and retained the order of apologetic manuals from 1860 to 1960. A second series of texts appearing in 1959 was a greatly improved enterprise. They held sections of Aquinas’ Summa theologiae, and included material from Scripture and practical moral theology.6