Kairos Came at the Right Time for Members of Fenwick’s 2021 Class

While students continued to endure the pandemic’s negative effects, the senior retreat personified the Dominican Pillar of Community.

By Nick Polston ’21

The iconic Fenwick atrium is my favorite part of the entire school. In the morning, walking through this part of the building signifies an exciting day ahead. In the afternoon, the speckled, marble floor glints in the sunlight that shines through the glass entrance, and I contribute to the after-school commotion as I joke with my friends. For over three years, however, I often failed to acknowledge an integral piece of this room’s welcoming beauty.

Four large banners hang above the atrium’s second set of doors, each one embroidered with a pillar of the Dominican faith: Community, Service, Study and Prayer. I learned about these values extensively in my theology classes and read about them in Fenwick newsletters; however, with all the time I spent in that Fenwick atrium during my first three years of high school, I surprisingly never took the time to stop, look up and reflect. Of course, there were plenty of mornings when I walked into school with my head down, going over some mental notes for a first-period test or simply tired from homework and football practice the night before. Only Mr. Ritten’s cheerful emphatic “GOOD MORNING!” was enough to lift my gaze. Yet all the while, those banners hung there, watching over me. It was not until my Kairos experience senior year that I truly recognized the importance of those four pillars.

Fenwick student-athlete Nick Polston ’21 (Riverside, IL) “starred” in the classroom as a Friars’ President Award recipient. He plans to study finance and business at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO.

It is difficult to write about my Kairos experience without giving away the activities and traditions that make the retreat so impactful, but I will do my best. Arriving at Fenwick for the three-day retreat was scary at first, even as I sat in the comfort of the atrium. I was surrounded by classmates whom I did not know well, much less with whom I could see myself sharing in the intimacy that I believed Kairos engendered. However, once we boarded the bus that would take us to the Bellarmine Retreat House, we began to talk with each other about the colleges we were attending, the sports we played and some of our favorite Fenwick memories.

After arriving an hour later, we were placed in our ‘small groups.’ Admittedly, I was nervous once again after my group assignment; it was comprised of classmates with whom I had not had a conversation since freshman year history class, and I nearly regretted my decision to attend Kairos without my close friends. Over the course of the next three days, however, my small group truly became my family. It is still shocking to me how 72 hours with a group of people I had only seen occasionally in the halls of Fenwick could turn into a support system that I know I can count on forever. Being with my small group gave me the courage to express myself and listen to others, because I knew that I was in a trusted, safe environment.

The Pillar of Community

As cliché as it may seem, Kairos gave me the perspective to truly appreciate not only the similarities between myself and others, but also the differences that make us all so unique. It was at Kairos that I began to understand the importance of Community in the Dominican faith. Judgement, shame and negativity were left at the door of Bellarmine House and replaced with courage, love and support. Kairos created a bond between my classmates and me that has yet to fade and may just remain with me forever.

Polston played baseball and football all four years at Fenwick. As a senior during the historic spring football season of 2021, he was a team co-captain and earned All-Conference honors as a defensive back and quarterback. (Photo courtesy of Oak Park Wednesday Journal.)

I once read that praying with others is an amazing way to grow spiritually, as you carry the burdens and intentions of others with you as you pray. Kairos was especially unique in this manner. After sharing stories with classmates and internalizing the struggles and triumphs of peers, praying together at the end of the day was yet another way my Kairos group became closer as a community. I realized that prayer should not only serve as petition and intercession but as praise and thanksgiving for the blessings God gave me in my life.

One of my Kairos leaders told me, “You get out of Kairos what you put into Kairos,” and I certainly found this to be true over the three days we spent at Bellarmine Retreat House. Everyone is affected differently by their experience at Kairos; however, if you put effort into participating in the activities, expressing your feelings and listening to others, this retreat will be one of the best times of your life.

My advice to future students who will attend Kairos is to treat the experience with respect. Respect the courage of fellow students, teachers and leaders. Respect the amount of trust they have in you, and you, too, will find the courage to express yourself. Kairos is a refreshing, life-changing three days that changed my perspective on life. When I return to Fenwick, I will never fail to look up and see the four banners that hang above the atrium entrance. Living my life by incorporating the four Dominican pillars is to inherently “live the fourth.” Those who have been on Kairos know what I mean, but to the future students who are waiting to go on their Kairos retreat, I guess you will have to wait and find out.

Fenwick Adopts “One Book, One Fenwick” Model for Student Summer Reading

Inaugural program to debut with A Raisin in the Sun.

This year, as part of its Summer Reading Program, Fenwick High School debuts “One Book, One Fenwick.” For the first time since formal, summer reading began at Fenwick, the Catholic high school is announcing one shared book to read among all students – as well as those within the greater Fenwick community who wish to participate. The selection, A Raisin in the Sun, actually is a play written by the late Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965).

“We tip our hats to Chicago Public Library’s ‘One Book, One Chicago’ for the inspiration,” said John Schoeph, English Department Chair and a 1995 alumnus of Fenwick. The “One Book, One Fenwick” program seeks to unite all students and members of the Fenwick community through a shared book, Schoeph and his English Dept. colleagues explained. “We envision the program offering platforms and avenues for book-related information, discussions and learning.”

While activities are taking place across disciplines in Fenwick classrooms, Fenwick’s English Dept. hopes to see parents, alumni and friends of the school get involved through a variety of offerings related to the book. “It is our hope that a common text can foster intellectual interaction and friendly discourse between and among the many groups that make up Fenwick’s vast family and network,” the committee proclaimed. A few of the experiences in the works include multiple book chats open to the wider Fenwick family, in-class discussions across the subjects, performances of passages by Theater Fundamentals students, and an all-school assembly celebrating “One Book” in late September.

Committee member and fellow English Teacher Kyle Perry, a 2001 Fenwick graduate, noted: “We look forward to the opportunity of improving students’ literacy while also building a stronger sense of community here at Fenwick.”

Inaugural title choice

Poet Langston Hughes penned what has now become a celebrated question in his 1951 poem, “Harlem:” “What happens to a dream deferred?” Among the possible answers is that it might dry up “like a raisin in the sun.” Hansberry’s 1959 play follows the Youngers, an African-American family, as they seek the American Dream in Chicago. When the Youngers inherit a $10,000 insurance check (equivalent to more than $90,000 today), they pursue wishes for entrepreneurship, education and, especially, a house of their own in Clybourne Park, a white neighborhood. Through A Raisin in the Sun’s engagement with topics and themes from across the American literary canon, including assimilation, class, race, gender, hope, pride and family relationships, the play addresses Hughes’ question: “What happens to a dream deferred?”

Mr. Schoeph

“We have enjoyed an incredibly successful summer reading program for years,” Schoeph continued. “Our students read and tend to enjoy the selections. We didn’t want to grow complacent with our success but sought to find a way to bolster the program, to inject it with something exciting and unifying. After exchanging several ideas, we decided on the ‘One Book, One Fenwick’ model. Witnessing the entire English Department enthusiastic about this new dimension to our summer reading program warmed my heart as chair.”

Students can find full details on their summer reading assignments, including course-specific texts assigned in addition to A Raisin in the Sunhere on the Fenwick website.

Fenwick among Chicago-area Schools Addressing Racial Inequity

Teenage students share their vision for a better educational environment.

Student representatives from Fenwick, Brother Rice, Nazareth Academy and 22 Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago are coming together to address racial inequities. In partnership with DePaul University, students and school advisers from archdiocesan and independently run high schools gathered online last winter in a series of virtual meetings “to identify challenges in their respective schools and potential solutions to achieve racial justice and equity,” reports Joyce Duriga, editor of the Chicago Catholic newspaper. “Students presented their work to Cardinal Cupich on April 16 during an online meeting.”

“The group, comprising eight students and two staff advisers from each participating high school, began meeting online in February to discuss problems and solutions in their schools with the goal of promoting equality,” continued Ms. Duriga. “During the monthly meetings, each school was asked to create a vision for racial justice represented in ‘jam [vision] boards’ with each school developing individual commitments to racial justice and equity ….” The program developed by DePaul is RISE: Catholic Students RISE for Racial Equity. RISE stands for the process of reflection, inquiry, self-awareness and empathy, according to an April 27th Archdiocese news release.

Fenwick participants are members of the DEI Friars, a group of current students, moderated by faculty members, who lead the conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at the student level. DEI Friars focus on messaging in the school, promotion of DEI, and being a safe place to hear concerns from students and faculty about issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion in the building, according to the school’s DEI Director Raymond Moland ’96. Senior Vivian Nguyen ’21 (Westchester, IL) is one Fenwick student who decided to get involved. She and three of her classmates — Vaughn-Regan Bledsoe (Maywood, IL), Belema Hart (Oak Brook, IL) and Claire Woods (Brookfield, IL) — also are members of the DEI Friars, a student group focused on diversity, equity and inclusion within the school.

Led by the initiative of Ms. Nguyen, who has one younger brother at Fenwick and another brother entering in the fall, this is the student body’s statement:

Fenwick High School will commit to racial equity by first acknowledging that injustice exists, and then creating a diversely educated and inclusive environment for our students so that we can look at our world through multiple unbiased lenses. By implementing initiatives identified by the Director of DEI, we will further support and focus on the diversity of our students and staff.”

For the Archdiocesan project with the Cardinal, “our students were charged with using the Jamboard as a tool to explain and provide a rationale about the improvements they want to see within Fenwick,” explains Mr. Moland. Jamboard is a digital, interactive whiteboard developed by Google LLC. Here is their breakdown (see above image):

One word that you see throughout our Jamboard is DIVERSITY. We believe that increasing diversity in the student body and within the administration and faculty will help eliminate many issues of injustice we have seen in our school.

We believe that in order for change to happen, we must recognize what the truth is. We have to admit the truth: the truth that we are bound by racism and inequality. We cannot embrace diversity until we understand the truth behind our differences.

The use of HEART and MIND.

Education is one of the most important parts in creating a change. Biases are taught, whether by parents, teachers, peers or the media. Early exposure to diversity and education of racial justice can alter the way a generation sees the world. A change in curriculum at Fenwick through the addition of books by authors of color, a POC [person of color] perspective, and integration of diversity in different subjects will offer the students a new point of view.

Injustice in our school and society extends beyond race. Racism, homophobia, ableism, classism are examples of injustice we see every day. If we do not actively stand against injustice, we are indirectly standing for it. Being passive and doing nothing is just as bad as contributing to the problem. “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” – Alexander Hamilton

We want to see students/teachers of color be able to express themselves freely. A culture day/week might provide us a time and place to allow POC to embrace their cultural differences through clothing, food, music, dance and more.

➢ We want incoming freshmen to feel at home as soon as possible. An outreach program that helps them connect with/shadow POC upperclassmen can be beneficial to their experience at Fenwick High School. Students will be more comfortable knowing that there are people that look like them and care about them in this new environment.

Reflection from a Class of 1996 Trailblazer

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.

Friar Teresa McCarthy in 1996.

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.

Touchstone poet Nick Scouffas ’96.

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.

Religious Education and Fenwick High School: New Directions in the 1960s

By Fr. Thomas F. O’Meara, O.P.

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.

The Dominican shield of Fenwick High School.

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.

ND’s Father Hesburgh

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

Fenwick’s Fr. Donlan, O.P. hailed
from Oak Park.

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

Continue reading “Religious Education and Fenwick High School: New Directions in the 1960s”

Fenwick ‘Mathletes’ Claim Chicago Archdiocese Crown

The school’s Math Competition Club is moderated by alumnus Roger Finnell from the Class of ’59, who has been teaching in the building this academic year.

Fenwick High School defeated 12 other Chicago-area, Catholic high schools earlier this month to win the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Math Contest. The competition has been held annually since 1967 — four years after Roger Finnell began teaching math at Fenwick in the fall of 1963. Mr. Finnell (pictured above, in his classroom, where he still uses chalk!) grew up in Cicero and Forest View, IL, attending grade school at Queen of Heaven, then St. Leonard’s in Berwyn. He has been in charge of running the archdiocese’s contest for the past 52 years.

“Fenwick has been fortunate to win first place 15 of the last 22 years with some extremely talented and dedicated math competitors,” reports Finnell, who is the Friars’ proud math club moderator and longtime chair of Fenwick’s Mathematics Department. To win this year’s Archdiocesan championship, his team tallied the highest score among both divisions of Catholic schools, which include (in alphabetical order): De La Salle Institute, DePaul Prep, Marist, Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights), Marmion Academy (Aurora), Montini (Lombard), Mount Carmel, St. Francis (Wheaton), St. Ignatius, St. Rita of Cascia, St. Viator (Arlington Heights) and Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart (Lake Forest). Like much of this school year, the 2021 math contest was conducted “virtually” online.

Mr. Finnell in 1968 (yearbook image).

Alongside many Archdiocesan high schools, Fenwick has successfully operated a hybrid education model since last August. Approximately half of its 1,100 students are in the building on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other half comes in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. (Note: Some families have opted for fully remote, eLearning.) However, COVID-19 adjustments have not deterred Finnell, a 1959 alumnus of Fenwick who has been teaching at his alma mater for 58 years. The former Friar student returned to Oak Park shortly after graduating from Loyola University (Chicago), where he also completed his master’s degree in mathematics. Amazingly, five decades later, he can be seen in the building this school year. “The past year has been challenging to say the least!” Finnell admits. “Like others [teachers], I have had to adjust teaching to a camera while still engaging the in-person learners,” he explains, “but I miss the one-to-oneness in class during normal times.

“I have tried to do all the usual math competition activity [this year],” Finnell continues. “Three math leagues [17 contests total] have been online — with fewer participants than usual. Our junior-high math contest was online and drew twice as many contestants as usual! For state math contest practices, all early ones were conducted online. Now, for three team events, we have asked students to attend in-person practices, which have gone fairly normally. I miss going to a local college for state math regionals, and the team misses going to Champaign for the state finals. This year, the state contest is totally virtual, one day only, with less events than usual. But our team is still looking forward to it.

Continue reading “Fenwick ‘Mathletes’ Claim Chicago Archdiocese Crown”

Forever Friars: Remembering Mr. Edward Ludwig (1934-2012)

For 37 years, this 1993 Hall of Fame inductee enriched the character of Fenwick and its students with intelligence, kindness, talent and wit.

Mathematics teacher, department head, Assistant Principal and Dean of Students, and perennial Blackfriars Guild director and moderator, Mr. Edward E. Ludwig (shown above in 1988) was exemplary of the Catholic layperson involved in the Church’s mission to teach at Fenwick High School.

Born and raised in Chicago, Mr. Ludwig was educated at Loyola University. He did extensive graduate-level work at both DePaul and Michigan State universities. At age 26, Mr. Ludwig joined the Fenwick faculty as a teacher in the Mathematics Department. For the next 37 years until his retirement in 1990, he participated in the Christian apostolate of teaching. He held students to the Fenwick standard of discipline as well as academic and personal achievement and growth. In many ways, he was responsible for establishing these standards during his long tenure as teacher and administrator.

When Mr. Ludwig was asked to be Chair of the Mathematics Department in 1967, he revised the mathematics curriculum to include courses in pre-calculus and then calculus to better prepare Fenwick students for college and university and an increasingly technological society.

Mr. Ludwig was acknowledged as an outstanding teacher of mathematics by all who came into contact with him – students, parents and faculty. His knowledge of the subject matter was exceptional. His ability to communicate it to his students was phenomenal. He was empathetic and precise; his method of delivery was unique.

Mr. Ludwig taught algebra and geometry in 1955.

When he wanted to be heard, he spoke sensibly in quiet, well-modulated tones. When he enunciated “gentlemen!”, students whose minds might have started to go elsewhere were brought back to attention. “Come here, child,” brought to his desk boys who needed individual tutoring or counseling.

At times Mr. Ludwig allowed irony to enter into his sense of humor, and sometimes it took the students some time to understand and appreciate him. Once he told a cafeteria full of students that a few Fenwick boys at the bus stop had hindered the progress of an ambulance. He told them if they ever did that again, the ambulance would have to make an unscheduled stop to pick them up. All of this was done in his best basso voice – nervous laughter, point well made.

Students always felt he cared about them, and, indeed, he did. During freshmen orientation in his classroom, students were encouraged to talk about themselves – their hobbies, their abilities. Many students would then discover they had common interests and develop close friendships that lasted lifetimes.

Math & the Arts

Mr. Ludwig’s work with Blackfriars Guild reflected his own varied aesthetic interests in opera and other music, drama, art, dance and literature. He produced and directed musicals, drama and the annual variety performance. Under him, this organization flourished adding a needed dimension in the arts to the Fenwick curriculum. A number of former members of the Guild are now involved in professional theatre.

Mr. Ludwig in 1973 (Blackfriars yearbook photo).

Mr. Ludwig served as Assistant Principal and Dean of Students for fourteen years – longer than anyone in the history of Fenwick. The Director of Happiness, an expression for this office originating with one of the priests on the faculty, was one that Mr. Ludwig relished.

Students came first. He never allowed paperwork to take priority over people. Mr. Ludwig could be seen in his office at all hours tutoring students in mathematics or other subjects. He always saw himself as a teacher first and only then an administrator.

Mr. Ludwig had a fierce pride in the school. As Dean, he personally saw to many of the details in the school – health needs, pep rallies and, of course, conferences with students who found adjustment to school difficult. He was always in the halls and cafeteria greeting students with a smile (or a sterner look when necessary). He knew most by name, and they generally responded favorably to him. He was present at almost all student events outside school hours – many times the first to arrive and the last to leave. He was always one of those staff members former students wished to see when they returned to school during college vacation periods.

In addition, he was always interested in promoting the religious heritage of the school. He made this his primary goal. He was one of those faculty members who formed and then preserved the Fenwick tradition of a strong, structured, disciplined Christian environment.

A student who might speak out of turn was asked if he “had a license to broadcast.” Mr. Ludwig would tell the offender that if he did not, the “federal government would have to smash his transmitter.”

In 1976 when vandals broke into the building and turned on the fire hoses, Mr. Ludwig was called about 11:00 p.m. The water had already done a good deal of damage, and school might have to be cancelled the next day. However, he telephoned students and organized a clean-up detail, working all night. He was at the main entrance of the school as usual the next morning to greet the students and faculty at 8:00 a.m.

Mr. Ludwig was admired by all members of the faculty, personally and professionally. His pedagogical expertise, kindness and sense of justice were impressive. His devotion to his mother and aunt in their old age and sickness was inspirational. The faculty awarded him the Father Conway, O.P. Award for Excellence.

His time at Fenwick was devoted to thousands of students and many duties, some great, some small, some beautiful, some sad. His time here enriched the entire Fenwick community then and now.

(The original of this historic recollection (from 1993?) can be found in the Fenwick archives; author unknown.)

Teaching to be a Champion: Vocation and Unity in Christ

How a young alumna’s Fenwick education has influenced and informed her understanding of and action on behalf of her vocation.

By Tierney Vrdolyak ’14

One motto of the Dominican Order that has resonated with me these six years out of Fenwick is contemplare et contemplata aliis trader – “to contemplate and hand on to others the fruits of contemplation.” In my experience with Catholic educators there, so many have lived this truth: to contemplate Christ and share with others (students, specifically) the mystery of Christ through their words and works, their lessons and lives is the Divine call of the teacher. Through their witness and God’s grace, I have come to realize my vocation as teacher, too. I’d like to relay one person’s authentic witness as teacher to you in the hopes that you might contemplate and share with others this fruit.

As I have come to believe through education observation, theory and practice, a teacher succeeds when the student develops; the teacher more than less fades into the background.[1] The teacher leads only when he or she serves; the teacher imitates Jesus Christ, the Divine Teacher, who freely humbles Himself to the point of death to Himself (the words “humble” and “human” are derived from the Latin humus, meaning “earth” or “soil” – that is, what is on the ground). The truly successful teacher is the one who stimulates the student’s receptivity – qualifying the pupil for all vocations (priesthood, religious life, married life, single life) and opening up avenues for vocations within vocations (professional life) – and remains humble by letting God lead, the students follow, and oneself adapt to their promptings. The teacher, therefore, takes on the “He must increase, I must decrease,” dynamic of which the Gospel speaks (John 3:30), adjusting his or her view of the harmonious human person to the individual student’s personality. Fenwick teachers have helped countless students come face to face with reality, welcoming our vocation and that of others with joy.

Friar tennis alumni/former teammates Annie Krug ’14 (from left), Tierney Vrdolyak ’14, Coach Tom Draski and Kaelin Schillinger ’14 during the 2014 Summer Tennis Camp.

Mr. Draski was my tennis coach during the Frosh-Soph fall seasons of 2010 and 2011. From the first week of tryouts through the last banquet, Coach Draski encouraged the team to seek and find wonder in all things. His practices, lectures and personal example oriented us toward our good as individuals and as a team. Although his teams had an 11-peat at that point, winning wasn’t the goal. Growing into our authentic selves was.

Practice

The “Ten Ball Drill” was certainly an example through which we learned to love building speed, stamina and strength during practices. It was a joy to place each ball on the racket before our teammates’ feet on the doubles’ sideline as we ran to collect the next ball from the opposite side.

Lecture

Coach Draski’s words, too, and the way in which he spoke, encouraged us to be nourished and renewed together. Before each tournament, Coach Draski called us together to pray through Our Lady and read a poem entitled, “The Champion.” He divided the poem into stanzas, which some players would recite and on which all would reflect. These words – which to me point to our universal call to greatness, which is holiness – have stuck with me in small and large decision-making moments. Before I took part in a city-wide half marathon last May, for instance, I warmed up with a prayer and this poem. Some phrases that resonated while I ran the race were: “You’ve got to think high to rise./ You’ve got to be sure of yourself before/ You can ever win a prize./ Think big and your deeds will grow, think small and you’ll fall behind./ Think that you can and you will; it’s all in the state of the mind…Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!” I was able to run at a personal-record pace among many others – perhaps tennis players themselves – keeping Coach’s words in mind. Before your work or school day today in these times, we can ponder these lines again.

During each tournament, Coach would invite us to “give a love tap” to our partner after every point – win or lose – letting our partner know that she is good, she can do it and you are there for her. He would invite us, too, to come to him in difficult situations during breaks in a game, set or match. Coach Draski would then poke his pointer through the wire for us to each tap it and afterwards ask, “How are we doing?”

Personal Example

Not only did his practices and words inspire my teammates and me, but his personal example reflected all that he tried to teach. I will never forget Coach Draski’s smile, finger taps, fist bumps or chuckle at some pasta party conversation. I will never forget his personal stories that shed light onto the words we spoke in the “Champion,” making me think about the wonderful power of our minds to think well and wills to act well, no matter the situations within our societies, families or selves.

Working together on hatching and raising chickens, learning the life cycle first-hand.

After graduation from college in 2018, through the guidance of grace, my human nature, mentors, courses and many more encounters, I realized my call to be a Catholic educator. For two years, I attended graduate school in theology while teaching theology within a Catholic middle-school setting. Following this program, beginning this August, I was led into teaching in the home-school setting using the Montessori and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd model as guides. Here, I have the opportunity to walk with three children, fostering a relationship with each child and God through formative learning experiences.

Continue reading “Teaching to be a Champion: Vocation and Unity in Christ”

If Dogma Won’t Save Us, Nothing Will

Remembering Fenwick and Fr. Regan in the 1940s: “There was a reason for burning incense. Father James Regan knew it and explained it.”

By James Bowman, Sr. ’49 (originally published The Alumni Wick Magazine, spring 1985)

Father Jim Regan, O.P. taught at Fenwick High School for 29 years and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame posthumously in 2002. His picture first appears in the 1943 yearbook and every year afterwards through and including 1971. Fr. Regan was born to eternal life in the year 2000.

At Fenwick in the middle and late ’40s, there was this bald, big-eyed priest, always with the armful of papers and pencil, walking along the corridor taking everything in, or sitting as study-period prefect in the library, also taking everything in. He looked like he knew more than he was saying.

A freshman might know him from the servers’ club, where this priest made the point that the incense better be well lit so the smoke could rise high and full. Why? Because smoke rising stood for prayers rising to heaven, that’s why. The freshman had never thought of it that way. There was a reason for burning incense. Father James Regan knew it and explained it.

For the senior who had him for religion, the message was much the same: there’s meaning in religion you haven’t even thought of. Gospel passages were memorized, such as “Behold the lilies of the field, they neither reap nor sow, etc.” with its punch line, “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and its justice.” He said lines as if he meant them, and knew whether you knew them by use of the daily quiz.

Fr. Regan in the early 1940s.

That’s what all those papers in his arms were, daily quizzes from four or five classes. There was a lot of tedious work correcting those quizzes. But if he didn’t correct them and get them back, the senior didn’t know where he stood. Lots of them didn’t want to know, but that’s another question.

He quoted a lot from Time Magazine. A man bet he could drink a quart of absinthe in one gulp and live. He did it and died. Nice, obvious mortality for 17-year-old ears.

Or the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt riding in an open car in the rain without a hat on, to make the point that he was vigorous and capable of leading the country. It was one of the anecdotes Father Regan used to point up the Gospel saying, “The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” That is to say, followers of Jesus don’t work as hard at following Jesus as others at achieving their worldly ambitions.

Father Regan intended to make points with his seniors. He was very serious about it (entertaining too), and he had a plan: if dogma (doctrine) won’t save them, nothing will. He meant to inundate us with church teaching. He believed in church.

Skip Mass to go fishing on Sunday?

He could be stunned by disbelief or disloyalty. The student who said it was O.K. to miss mass on Sunday to go fishing, became the center of his attention. How could this be? Whence came this creature into our midst, or this idea anyhow? Skip Sunday mass to go fishing?

Not histrionics by the aggrieved father, but genuine amazement (though played out for effect, to be sure). We heard about it in his high-pitched voice, fast-paced speech (mind and lips working at high speed) and windup pause and slight smile for effect. Silence spoke as well as words.

Fr. Regan in the early 1970s.

Discipline … seemed secondary to the business of the classroom or study hall, the classroom especially. It was basically a college-style classroom, senior religion under Father Regan: daily quiz, return of the previous day’s quizzes and extended discussion of missed answers.

He repeated questions time and again until enough of the students got them right. The quizzes were teaching devices, not just checks on retention. Then lecture. The 42 minutes went fast, and up and out we went with books, gym bags and the rest to what the next 42 had to offer, which was rarely better and usually not as good.

He took religion seriously, aided and abetted by the school’s policy which put it on a par with the other four subjects. He took the Scriptures seriously, extracting meaning from gospel sayings that we’d heard from pulpits for years, thinking they had no meaning.

He used the classroom for what it’s good for: indoctrination and motivation. Counting on his students’ faith to supply the impetus, he would put the question about daily mass: what else can you do daily that is worth as much? Time and again, he asked it in those quizzes. He couldn’t force you to go to mass, but he could drill you in the reality of faith, forcing you to choose.

That’s not bad. It took a lot of work and commitment to the life he had chosen. It’s a lesson for us all. It was then for us 17-year-olds, and given a little thought on the matter, it is now, too.

Read more recollections of Fr. Regan from alumnus James Loverde ’64:

About the Author

In addition to being a member of Fenwick’s Class of 1949, Jim Bowman is a long-time Oak Parker and former newspaper reporter. Mr. Bowman wrote the “Way We Were” column for the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine as well as corporate histories and other books, including books about religious issues. His eighth book, Illinois Blues: How the Ruling Party Talks to Voters, was published in 2016.

Read more about him.

“God Sightings”

A morning reflection to open the new school year at Fenwick.

By Caroline Darrow ’21

From the COVID-19 pandemic to the fight for social equality in our nation, these last six months have been a time of turmoil. For some, this time has strengthened their faith as they have turned to God in these times of trouble. For others, this time has stressed their faith as they witness so many strong examples of the universal question: “How could bad things happen to good people?”  It is okay to have stress put on your faith.  However, as we have begun to come back into this school year as stronger, wiser, more conscientious people, we can now use one another to help find hope and strengthen our faith. 

What does it mean to find hope? I see hope as signs of God’s love and work in this world. Whether it be something as small as a friend’s laugh, to something as big as a loved one winning a battle with Covid-19. God has been working through these difficult times, through small moments, to show his love to all of us. We just need to seek out these signs of love or, as one of my good friends calls, them: “the God sightings.”

I challenge all of us to go into this school year with open minds and hearts and search out our God sightings. Bask in the small moments, and let them grow into a positive mindset. Enjoy the little things, like a sunrise over a clear sky, because no matter what happens this year, the sun will always rise. As American writer Robert Breault once said, “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

I would like to close with a short prayer for all of us to Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes but also … of hope and prayer. 

St. Jude, pray for us …

Most holy Apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hope. Please intercede on our behalf. Make use of that particular privilege given to you to bring hope, comfort and help where they are needed most. Come to our assistance in this great need that we may receive the consolation and help of heaven as we work with our challenges. We praise God with you and all the saints forever. We promise, blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as our special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you.

Amen.

V.: Saint Jude, Apostle of Hope
R.: Pray for us!

VIDEO: CLICK HERE for the full “Opening of School” morning prayer.

Continue reading ““God Sightings””