In medieval Tuscany, the Dominican Prioress (1268-1317) was known as a miracle worker.
By Student Preacher Rozlyn Plazas ’24 (Elmwood Park, IL)
Good Morning, fellow Friars. My name is Rozlyn Plazas from the Class of 2024, and it is an honor to address you all at today’s school-wide mass. Today, as we commemorate the life of St. Agnes of Montepulciano, I invite us to reflect on her legacy and how it can inspire us to deepen our relationship with God.
St. Agnes, a revered Dominican foundress, led a life of profound faith and devotion to God, and was a significant source of inspiration for St. Catherine of Siena, one of the Church’s most esteemed saints. St. Catherine, a Doctor of the Church, who was a great teacher, a prophetic witness to God’s Grace in the world, and an example of compassion and service, found her Dominican vocation after visiting the shrine where St Agnes lies. Like St. Agnes, St. Catherine lived vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and dedicated herself to a life of prayer, penance, and works of charity. The unwavering commitment to these virtues, coupled with the graces of wisdom and prudence given to both Sts. Agnes and Catherine, had a profound impact on the Church and is an inspiring example for all.
As students and Friars, we may encounter challenges and hardships that test our faith and make us question the presence of God in our lives. I know this feeling all too well, as last year I grieved the loss of two family members to illness within the span of six months. I was angry, filled with rage, blaming the world, and even exerted this anger towards God. When I reflect on my own personal experience, I realized that God never left my side during my time of grief.
A quote by St. Agnes describes this feeling. “I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me.” Like St. Agnes, I too was able to deepen my relationship with God and find solace in his love and presence. In the midst of my pain, I felt the presence of God, just as St. Agnes had described. He never left my side, and slowly but surely, I began to find peace and healing. I realized that God was not the cause of my suffering but rather a source of comfort and strength. St. Agnes’ message of unwavering faith and devotion to God can serve as inspiration to us all. In our lives, we will face trials and tribulations, and it can be easy to feel lost and alone.
And just like St. Agnes, we can turn to God for guidance and comfort. God is always present in our lives, even in the darkest moments. St. Agnes’ unwavering commitment to prayer and devotion to God serves as a motivation for us all. As students, we can each find our own unique way to strengthen our faith and rely on God in our daily lives. Through our own personal experiences and the faith-filled witness of Sts. Agnes and Catherine, we can learn to trust in God’s plan for our lives and find comfort in his unconditional love and grace.
As we move through the remaining weeks of the school year, each of us can strive to deepen our relationship with God in our own way. Whether it be preparing to go off to college, start a summer job, or embark on the new opportunities to come. We can do this all through prayer, meditation on the Word of God, and receiving the sacraments with devotion. We can draw strength from St. Agnes’ example and allow our hearts to be transformed to love like Christ.
By Student Preacher Grant Schleiter ’23 (Elmhurst, IL)
In today’s gospel Jesus lays out the connection between him and God the father. Jesus describes himself as a reflection of God, stating that “for what he does, the Son will also do.” God showed his love for us by creating us and then taking on human flesh as Jesus. Our goal as Christians is to mimic the life of Christ, and walk the way of our Savior.
I am not saying we all have to go sit in a desert for 40 days, or get nailed to a cross. I am saying we must do what Jesus did the most: preach. Share the Good News of God with others.
Let’s do some simple math. What is 2 to the power of1?2. What about 2 to the power of 2? 4. 2 to the power of 3 is eight. Now does anyone know what 2 to the power of 2000? Toby? Quinn? Mr. Finnell? Let’s just say it is far larger than the current world population of 7.8 billion. If we say that Jesus entered the world sometime before the “year 0” and began his teaching a few decades after that, by the end of the third decade CE there would be at least one Christian in the world. And if this Christian inspired someone else through sharingthe teachings of Jesus, so now we are at 2 followers at the end of that year. If every succeeding year, every Christian made one disciple, what would happen after 2000 years?
Referencing my math earlier, if every Christian were to share the Good News to one person a year, the number of Christians would be well over our world population. But instead the number of Christians is declining. From 1976 to 2022 the United States has declined from 91% Christian, to 64%. To follow in the footsteps of God, we need to share the good news and inspire others.
I can assume most people in this auditorium right now cannot just pull out a Bible verse for every situation in life, but once again this is not necessary for effective preaching. All you need is a common understanding of the scripture, and to learn how Jesus acted. The easiest way to do this is the Gospel. There are 8,760 hours in a year, and God only asks you for 52 of those. If Jesus sacrificed His whole life for you on the cross, you can sacrifice .59% of your year for Him. And if you worry that you have not been going to Mass enough, now is the time to start. Jesus will never leave you. Like a lighthouse, His light will always project in your darkness. The closer you are to the light, the closer you are to the safety of shore.
Brothers and sisters, we have such a great gift in our faith, and the best thing we can do is give it to others. Procrastination of our faith impacts others and may contribute to the decline in Christianity. God did not put us on this world to effortlessly cruise through life expecting to make it into Heaven. God expects us to take the stairs instead of the escalator when it comes to our faith. Putting in that extra work to not only focus on yourself, but also to focus on others. Going to Mass, learning about the Gospel, turning the other cheek, and following the golden rule are all simple ways we can take the extra step in our Faith. Faith can make a tremendous impact on someone’s life, so the best thing we can do for others is let them also enjoy the gifts of God’s love.
As Lent starts to come to a close and the Easter season begins, let us think about the sacrifices Jesus made, and think about what we can do to spread the Love of God shown through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Embrace God’s love and spread that to others; in doing so, you will be a true reflection of Jesus. We are all very fortunate enough to receive education on Theology here at Fenwick, so use that knowledge and spread it to others that are not as fortunate. I know each and every one of you are great people, because you are all God’s children, and to mimic Jesus we must also be fishers of men and bring more people into our faith.
The Friars out-performed staunch competition from Latin School of Chicago and north suburban Lake Forest Academy.
On Saturday, February 25, at the Niles West State Math Regionals, Fenwick took first place and — for the 30th consecutive year — qualified all 33 members of itsMath Team for the State Math Finals. The finals will be held at Illinois State University in Normal, IL, in April. The top three Math Teams (with their scores):
Lake Forest Academy 832
Latin School 661
The Friars finished first in five of the ten events:
Algebra 2 Team
Oral Math Topic Team
Two-person Junior/Senior Team
Eight-person Freshman/Sophomore Team
In individual events, for the first time in the 43 years of the State Contest, Fenwick had two perfect scores: by Kyra Miller ’25 (Riverside, IL) in Geometry and Tuoyu “Toby” Yang ’24 (Oak Park, IL)in Algebra 2. Quinn Hynes ’23 (Western Springs, IL) also placed first in Pre-Calculus.
Congratulations to the entire team and their six coaches/moderators: Mrs. Brigid Esposito ’96, Mr. Roger Finnell ’59, Mrs. Bozena Kopf, Mrs. Maria Nowicki, Mr. Andrew Reuland ’94 and Ms. Diane Sabbia!
“Ashes fade, but our faith remains,” senior student reminds her Fenwick classmates.
By Preaching Team Member Natalie Poleszak ’23 (Burr Ridge, IL)
Did you leave your car running this morning? Did you take a second to remember you locked it? During this season, we are often so occupied with giving up a favorite soda or candy that we forget to slow down. So excited for Easter, we lose focus on what’s important.
Today, I ask each one of you to for a moment forget about the Spanish test you have or what you will be doing this weekend to slow down.
I know Fenwick students are sometimes unable to do this because I see it in the parking lot everyday. In a rush to get to their favorite parking spot or to even make it past the light, we often forget to look around. Similarly, how often do we think about an intention before we mindlessly pray with our peers before class. How often do we check up on our friends or tell our parents thank you? I am guilty of not doing these things myself.
Today I challenge you to practice patience. I challenge you to park within the lines. For even though your awareness fades, the impact remains.
You may be asking yourself, ‘Natalie why are you talking about the parking garage on Ash Wednesday?’ Driving is something we all experience in our lives. Likewise, everyone at Fenwick has to learn about faith in their theology classes. Why not incorporate it into the simple moments in your life?
Even with all of this preparation and growth in our personal lives, it’s not important unless we get out and actually do it. So today we are challenged to consider the other person in the car next to us. To not cut them off, or honk the horn, or to let them in front of us. Let the ash on your forehead serve as a reminder in your busy lives. For even as the cross on your forehead fades, our faith remains.
As we once again enter the beginning of another Lenten season, the all-important question of “what should I do for Lent this year?” more than likely has come to mind. Before you or I decide to once again abstain from cookies, candies, carbonated drinks, or coffee beverages for the season of Lent, it is worthwhile considering the purpose of the season of Lent. In doing so, we can gain a better sense of the purpose of these resolutions, and what they can do to help us with our spiritual journeys.
The season of Lent has its origins in the catechumenate preparation period for their entrance into the Christian Church at Easter Vigil. In the early Church (2nd-4th centuries), initiated Christians were encouraged to join in this time of prayer and fasting- recalling their own baptism, but also those preparing to join the Church. For catechumens, Lent was a long and rigorous period of examination, catechesis, and ascetical cleansing of body and soul during the forty days leading up to Easter.
As infant baptism became the norm, the number of new initiates decreased, but the practice of forty days of fasting continued.
It is worth noting that early on, Lent required the abstention from meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, wine, and oil. In other words, only fruits, vegetables, bread, salt, and water were allowed to be consumed during this time period. Likewise, only one full meal was allowed to be consumed during the day. As time went on, allowances for one to two small snacks (collations) for laborers was added. This time of fasting was seen as an opportunity to cleanse oneself of attachments to food and drink, but also to reflect upon one’s own baptism and need for continual repentance.
Following the Second Vatican Council, the requirement to abstain from meat on Fridays, to only take one full meal during the season of Lent and other ascetical actions were lessened. (Please see the bottom of this reflection for the list of guidelines provided by the USCCB for days of fasting and abstinence in the Latin Catholic Church).
This lessening of expectations over time is not true for many of our Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters who still begin Lent with a three week period of gradually removing certain dietary items from their meals in preparation for the Lenten abstention from meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, added sugar products, chocolate, alcohol, and vegetable oils for the full duration of Lent (including Sundays).
The practice of truly abstaining from food such as Orthodox Christian or our pre-Vatican II predecessors would be a very difficult task for me. It would make me uncomfortable, and mindful of my attachment to my favorite foods and beverages, and other things of this world. Our goal for Lent should be to replicate that experience today- seeking to make ourselves uncomfortable, and mindful of the need for conversion, and God’s help. This will make for a truly radical and transformative Lent.
If we choose to give up a certain food or drink during Lent, our call is to pray for God’s assistance when our stomach growls, or eyes see a desirable treat in front of us. We should pray for God’s help in growing more detached from physical goods so that we might be able to live a simpler life, one more dependent upon Him, and His generosity. As well it is a reminder to pray for those whom a meager diet like this is not a seasonal thing, but an everyday reality.
To assist us in better using Lent as a period of cleansing in anticipation of Easter, the Church calls her members to live out the prophetic call to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during the season of Lent.
How can we best embrace one or more of these facets?
Some questions to consider when planning out your Lenten practices:
What is it that you need to do in your life to grow in your awareness of your attachments to this world?
What are those things that distract you from being present to God and your neighbor?
What practices or actions should you undertake to better center yourself on what is truly important?
This Lent, Perhaps Consider Committing To:
Fasting: Don’t just give up candy, or junk food, but instead consider:
Fast from distractions use your phone or other electronic device less, and instead use that time:
Chatting with a relative, or other loved one.
Visiting an elderly neighbor to talk or help with chores.
Educate yourself about the challenges that many face across the globe:
Learn about the plight of Christians in Nigeria, Myanmar, Central America, China, and the Middle East.
Become aware of the challenges that refugees face throughout the world.
Learn more about the reality of hunger for many children throughout the world and in the US.
Fast from luxury goods: Don’t purchase fancy coffee drinks, or fast food once a week, and donate the money to a cause that is important to you.
Support Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl campaign.
Fasting from sleeping in: Don’t snooze your alarm clock for the season of Lent, and use this time to say some prayers for your loved ones, or do chores/kind acts for those you live with..
Fast from harsh words: Get off social media, or make the choice not to respond to the hurtful comments someone may have said to you, or wrote about you on social media, but instead offer a prayer for them.
Fast from apathy and complaining: Pick up trash that you might see around you, instead of walking by it, or do those little things that need to be done instead of complaining.
Fast from griping about those things outside your control: Don’t complain about what is wrong with the world, but instead give thanks for what is going well, and seek to encounter others with gratitude for those little things they do to help you. As well, offer your complaints as a prayer of supplication to God.
Alumnus Fr. Tom Logue ’11, who grew up in the Hinsdale, IL parish of St. Isaac Jogues, returned to Fenwick on January — to preach as a priest!
By Father Thomas Logue
My name is Fr. Thomas Logue, and I graduated from this school some 12 years ago now, and I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ just this past May.
It’s great being back in this way to celebrate this Mass. I was on Kairos with a couple of the alumni here who are my age, and many of my teachers from my time as a student are still here, which is awesome. If I recall correctly, I think in Latin class, Dr. Porter told us we wouldn’t use Latin all the much.
So, I’ve just got to say, Dr. Porter, as a priest I get to use Latin all the time: checkmate.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Conversion of St Paul. And you might be wondering, “Okay, that’s cool, Father, but what’s with the gold thing you processed in with?”
Well, I’m glad you asked! My doctor happens to be a fellow alumn, and we have worked together in healing ministry; he lent me this relic of St. Paul — I believe it is a fragment of his bone. So we’re incredibly blessed that this real man will be with us as we come to worship the real Jesus together with him.
Now, as we look at what this man experienced, coming face-to-face with God the Son in resurrected human flesh, and who was struck blind for three days thence — all these amazing things — we have to remember that Luke — the guy who wrote this down — didn’t write it down for Paul:
“Hey, Paul, want to hear the story you told me again?” “Um, no.”
God, the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write this down for me and for you, so that we might believe. It was all written for you ….
So, that begs the question: All this crazy stuff happened to this man that fundamentally changed him from a murderer of Christians into the greatest Christian witness the world has ever seen — okay.
But, what’s the import for me?
It all centers on the one question Paul asks of Jesus: “Who are You, Lord?” . . . “Who are You, Lord?”
Because, for Paul up to this point, before encountering Christ, if someone asked him, “Have you ever heard of Jesus? Who is He?” he’d ultimately say something like: “Jesus is just some dead nobody who’s keeping my life and my culture, even my worship, from what I want it to be. Just some dead nobody who’s caused me a lot of trouble.
But the genuine revelation of the Catholic faith says something quite different, otherwise this school wouldn’t exist; the Catholic faith wouldn’t exist.
Who is Jesus?
Jesus is the God who holds us in existence.
He is God the Son who took on my broken human flesh, calling first the Jewish people, and through them the whole world — me and you — back into relationship with the True and Living God, Himself. And, to do this, from our lowly human flesh, as God and as a Man, He made a perfect act of love to God the Father when He consecrated Himself a sacrifice for me and for you, and then died a torturous death by suffocation in crucifixion, and rose three days later.
“Who are You, Lord?”
But even from 13 years of Catholic schooling growing up, I feel like many, many of my peers, and even a few of my teachers, and me especially, if asked, not just on a theology test, but through the way you can really tell what someone believes — by how we live — if you asked us, “Who is Jesus?” and looked at how we live, our answers might correspond to something like:
“He’s just a good moral teacher, or maybe a revolutionary.”
Or, “He just asked us to be nice or something; He died, but He didn’t rise from the dead — He’d have to be like, God or something, lol.”
Or, “He was just a made up idea that helps people be kind.”
In our culture, and in a culture like this, when we reject Christ, we don’t usually reject Christ outright. We make a new Christ that fits my view of things. And, as a priest who I know says, “that is a very effective way of murdering Jesus Christ, to change Him to suit our own desires.” It’s not the real Jesus we talk about when we do this. We are just making up our own.
And what I felt — and some of you might know what I’m talking about, though I hope you don’t know what I’m talking about — I felt like, ironically, the Catholic culture for me growing up, and the apathy I experienced towards the faith and towards our Lord in it, which seemed louder than the Gospel — that it almost vaccinated me against Catholicism.
You might be thinking, “Vaccinated?” You know, with old school vaccines (not the new mRNA stuff) if you want to make someone immune to something that is very contagious, what you do is you take the contagious thing, you isolate it, you kill it, and then you inject the dead thing into the person, so that when they encounter the real thing out in the world, their system just says, “Oh, I know what that is, and it’s not for me.”
But what have we done the past few generations with our Catholic faith but this very thing? We isolate the fullness of the faith and the real Jesus, we give to our young people a dead, seriously deficient version of the faith, and we’re surprised they don’t practice it — when in fact we’ve vaccinated them against it.
We do this to our Catholic faith, and this has happened to many of us here. C.S. Lewis says, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Well, this was the message I got — that it’s moderately important: like basketball or a TV show. And since this, sadly, is how many of us were raised, when confronted with Christianity and the real Jesus who calls us to repent, who calls us to change — when, in fact, we don’t want to repent; when we don’t want to change — what do we do but try and invent our own Christ.
But, tragically, we know that when we invent our own Christ, that our own “Jesus” is totally impotent; that “my Jesus” is powerless to save or forgive me; that when I erect my own “Jesus,” in my own image, the only person I worship is me. And, if I’m honest, I am powerless to save myself … and so I lock myself within my own heart.
But the real Jesus, who comes knocking on the door of our locked hearts — the One who appeared to Paul — we know and believe that He can actually do something about my life. This Man who conquered death and is alive right now, with real Blood flowing through real veins as He sits at the right hand of the Father — that He can heal me; He can save me. He comes full of mercy, full of peace, forgiveness, with genuine meaning (not the futile self-fabricated kind) — real, genuine, objective meaning from the Person who is Truth Incarnate Himself — He offers this for those who will receive Him as Lord, as Master and as Savior.
Ask Him, “Who are you, Lord?”
In my own practice of the faith, my parents went to Mass, and though I felt an affection for the Lord, the liturgy and prayer in childhood (I was even considering priesthood non-stop since I was 5), as I got into junior high and the sort of vaccination I received against Catholicism began to take effect, along with my difficulties with some of my peers and distance from my family, I began to, like Paul, frame Jesus as someone else than who He really is:
“Maybe he’s just a good teacher, probably not God,” I pondered. But this was just a cover for the fact that, even though I was interested in Jesus, I doubted that He could really be interested in me. I felt rather unloved and unwanted, and began to paint the lies on my heart over the face of God.
By the time I got into high school here at Fenwick, I was pretty convinced I was an atheist, and that Christianity was some weird scheme or money grab; it was just something I had to just endure and put up with until I graduated. But through the testimony of the priest who taught me freshman year, I began just to crack open the door of my heart, and a little bit of light began to shine into my darkness. I was beginning to believe. And, at the time, although I was dead scared of going to confession, I felt tugged towards it, and it terrified me.
My sophomore year, I was sitting next to my atheist friend up in the front row of the nosebleed seats here in the Auditorium when all-school confessions were being heard, and I finally overcame that fear and, by the grace of God, returned to confession for the first time in 9 years. It was incredible.
But I was still clinging to sin in my life, and it was slowly eating away at me. It wasn’t until my senior year about this time of year, actually — that things came to a head.
I went on the Kairos retreat and had such a profound encounter with the real Jesus that all I could do was weep on the floor in my bedroom, overwhelmed by this love I hadn’t known before, but was utterly familiar, and had been present all my life, in all of my pain. And laying prostrate before the crucifix in my room (like I saw one of the Dominicans do at his ordination), I looked up at the cross through tear-blurred eyes and said, “I will do whatever You want me to do, Jesus, just tell me what it is.”
Well, spoiler — He made that pretty clear.
Needing the Lord
But, due to my surrounding myself with less than quality friends, the following week (again, about this time of the year), I got in some very big trouble in pretty much every aspect of my life. Got 15 detentions and demerits. I was in trouble in school and out of school; it was a huge mess. I bet you didn’t think a priest alum would say something like that!
I realized through the experience of my big mess up that some ofthe friends I thought were my best friends that I had invested in for 6+ years were in fact just using me. And in my hunger for acceptance, after naming the serious wounds of rejection I’d felt for years, I found myself drifting further and further from the Lord.
Fr. Jarosław Krawiec, O.P. wrote this Christmas greeting on December 22, 2022. It is a humbling tale of the struggles and incredible faith of the people of Ukraine through the eyes of a Dominican friar.
Translated from Polish:
Dear sisters, dear brothers, I never thought that one could long for lights. When I got off the Kyiv train in Warsaw, I was surprised by the festival of brightly lit streets, buildings, and, above all, colorful Christmas decorations. When you add to it the snow that just fell in Poland in abundant supply, it all looked like a New Year’s fairytale. In Ukraine, the last couple months have been getting colder and darker. The longer this lasts, the more I squint my eyes in disbelief when looking at the bright streets and storefronts as well as entering warm houses and priories abroad.
On the day of Saint Nicholas — which in Ukraine is celebrated on December 19 following the Eastern calendar — a new Christmas tree was officially unveiled in the center of Kyiv. It was placed, as in previous years, on the square in front of the Saint Sophia Cathedral, the oldest and most important Christian church in Ukraine. The Christmas tree is much more modest and 60 feet shorter than last year. There is no market place surrounding it, which in Ukraine used to be a necessary element of the “New Year holiday,” as Christmas is frequently called here.
Over the last couple weeks, a great discussion has been taking place in Ukraine on the subject of whether Christmas decorations and trees should be displayed in public places during the time when so many millions of people suffer daily because of war and lack of power. The opinion is divided. The mayor of Chortkiv, a small city in western Ukraine where the Dominicans have been present for over 400 years, had already announced in mid-November that: “This year, the Christmas tree and New Year celebration in the city center will be canceled!” To avoid misunderstandings, he immediately added that the most important thing is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and the decorations and loud festivities can wait until the war is over. Many people think similarly.
The capitol decided differently. “We must have the Christmas tree!” stated the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko. “Our children should be able to have festivities! Despite the fact that the Russian barbarians are trying to rob Ukrainians from the joy of Christmas and New Year.” I understand the opponents of Christmas trees, but my position is decisively closer to the attitude of the mayor of Kyiv. I heard the opinion of a frontline soldier who was unhappy that his children would be deprived of Christmas. “But this is exactly what we are fighting for, a normal life for our families!” he argued.
Near the Kyiv Christmas tree, I spotted a strange contraption. Cement blocks that until recently had been positioned across the street as a barricade were now painted red, and large eyes were attached to them. It’s part of an artistic project called “Children shouldn’t see the war,” whose authors want to spare the youngest inhabitants of the city the painful experience of seeing a landscape of war during the holidays. This is important since Kyiv now hosts a couple hundred thousand people who have escaped from destroyed cities and villages. This is also the way in which the initiators of this project want to raise funds to help children who have lost one of both parents as a result of the war. Sadly, this number is also growing daily.
This year’s Christmas Eve will mark exactly the tenth month of war. On February 24 we all woke up in Ukraine early in the morning to the sound of air raid sirens, explosions, text messages, and phone calls from the terrified friends and family members attempting to find out if we are okay. On the evening of December 24, billions of Christians around the world will begin the celebration of the birth of Christ. This number will include a handful of Roman Catholics in Ukraine, since a majority of the citizens of the country are Christians of eastern traditions and begin celebrations two weeks later. War, however, is causing many of them to demand with increasing intensity the transition to the “Gregorian calendar,” and the bishops of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is independent from Moscow and led by the Metropolitan Epiphanius, are allowing some parishes to celebrate Christmas together with the western world.
This Christmas will be a different one, quieter and wrapped in darkness. Even if we tried to forget for a moment about the hard times and lose ourselves in Christmas shopping, visiting, and decorating, we can’t. Many people have lost their jobs and are in a very difficult economic situation. They will not be able to afford a plentiful Christmas table and gifts. Apart from this, for the last two months there has been a shortage of power and light. Some people have power only periodically; others, like people from Antonivka, don’t have it at all.
Antonivka is a village outside of Kherson, with a huge bridge connecting the shores of the Dnieper River that was first attacked by the Ukrainian army and then by the Russians. We delivered humanitarian supplies there two weeks ago. The bus with boxes of food was unloaded very quickly. The village is located right on the bank of the river, and on the other side is the Russian army.
“My friends, don’t stay in groups. Do not create a gathering, so that drones won’t detect us and start shooting,” yelled the ladies coordinating the distribution of humanitarian aid. A couple hours earlier, artillery had destroyed a nearby house, and we helped an older woman get out of her basement and transported her to a safer location. While Father Misha talked with the inhabitants of Antonivka, I saw tears in their eyes. They cried out of disbelief that someone came to them. This is another time that I realized that one of the worst things in war is the feeling of being abandoned. I remember the first days of fighting around Kyiv, when Maryna had asked me to bring supplies to a single mother of a son. When we were leaving the woman had asked, “When it gets really bad, will you help me? Will I be alone?”
The 87th successor to Saint Dominic welcomed Fenwick’s students as ‘1,100 more friars’ to his worldwide flock of 5,247.
By Mark Vruno
When he visited Fenwick High School on December 9, Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner III, O.P. seemed almost giddy, feeling like he “was in high school all over again.” Telling his teenage audience that he was feeling “old” last Friday, the 54-year-old Master of the Order* encouraged them to treasure and cherish the lessons they are learning in high school: “They will remain useful for you as you grow and as you go out into the world,” he noted.
Fr. Timoner then asked eight random volunteers, two from each class – freshmen through seniors – to describe their school using only one adjective: What describes a Fenwick student; a Fenwick graduate? Pointing out that he had surfed the school website, which reads that Friar students are called to “lead, achieve and serve,” the Master of the Order wanted to hear from them directly. “I want to know how you see yourself,” he explained.
The eight adjectives students used to describe the essence of Fenwick (in alphabetical order): achievers,awesome, dedicated, electric, home, inclusive, intelligent and winners. A faculty member added “shining,” a ninth, to the list, to which the head teacher/preacher replied with a quotation from St. Thomas Aquinas: “Ah, but it is ‘better to illuminate than merely to shine.’”
Nonetheless impressed, Fr. Timoner shared in a post-assembly interview that he and the other Dominicans are very aware of Fenwick and its mission here in Oak Park/Chicago. “We have [Fenwick] alumni who have been formed and molded right here!” he exclaimed. “We are happy to share the charism of preaching with our lay collaborators.” He added that Jesus never referred to Himself as a “priest” but rather as a teacher, one who has mastered a subject.
When asked about vocations, he pointed out that there are close to 800 brothers and friars presently in formation. “People say the church is shrinking, but this is not true in a global context,” Fr. Timoner said. “While there are aging populations in some parts of the world,” he acknowledged, “approximately 13 million members were added to the [Catholic] church this past year. Lay people are our partners in evangelism.”
Back at the all-school assembly, Fr. Timoner concluded by urging his youthful listeners to be compassionate people. “Remember that eyes are cleansed with tears,” he shared, “and that compassion heals.”
*The Master of the Order is the Superior General of the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominicans. In 2019 Father Timoner, who is a member of the Philippine Province, became the first Asian Master of the Order and next successor to Saint Dominic.
By Student Preacher Julia Overmyer ’23 (River Forest, IL)
Good Morning! We are gathered here this morning to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. If I were to ask everyone in this auditorium what they thought the Immaculate Conception was, there would be at least one person, if not more, that would say it is the celebration of the miracle birth of Jesus. Up until a while ago, I would have said the same thing. All I knew was that Mr. Mulcahey said that Catholics believed in it, but the Protestants did not. However, this feast day celebrates something different, someone different. Today we honor Mary. The woman who not only brought God into this world, but who very importantly was chosen by God to be born without sin.
My Mom has a phrase that she likes to tell both my sister and me. She says, “You are going to end up where you are meant to be, because God chose this path for you.” When I tell you I have heard this phrase applied to pretty much everything, I mean it. From the little things like my placement in a certain class, to the bigger things like what my life will be like in the future, my Mom would repeat it to me. The amount of times I heard this expression during the college application process was probably an all-time record. I can’t seem to escape it.
Yet, no matter how many times my Mom says this phrase to me, I consistently find it hard to understand. If God chose me to do something, if He has a plan for me, then why do I even bother trying to live out the life that seems to be predetermined for me? As much as I don’t like to admit, my dislike for this phrase comes from my fear of the unknown. Being afraid of what we don’t know is a natural instinct. Not knowing what lies ahead, whether being something unfamiliar or possibly dangerous, can ignite unease within us. However, we shouldn’t let this fear prevent us from pursuing our goals.
In today’s Gospel of Luke, we hear of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary to tell her she will bear a son. Luke writes, “And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.’ But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”
What strikes me as interesting in this passage is Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel. The Gospel says that Gabriel appearing in her room was not the thing that scared her, but it was what he had spoken to her. She questioned Gabriel’s greeting, “Hail, full of grace.” To us, we don’t see how this could be a fearful phrase, for we often repeat it when reciting the Hail Mary. However, to a 15-year-old Mary, being hailed and filled with God’s gift of grace by an angel in the middle of the night, was pretty terrifying. Yet she chose to place her faith in God’s plan over her fear of the unknown.
God chose her, even before she was born, to receive this message and fulfill this revelation. God brought Mary into this world without the pains of original sin so she could have Jesus. And although she did not know what was to come, Mary overcame her fear with faith.
Like Mary, we are all chosen by God to lead a certain life. The gifts that God has given us — being His grace and free will — aid us to follow our path of life. Even Mary, the mother of Jesus, was worried about God’s plan for her. Yet her undeniable faith in God not only allowed for her to accept His plan, but gave her a sense of peace. We should all strive to be like Mary; accepting God’s chosen plan for us, and conquering our fears. So I ask you to remember today and all days that we are each chosen by God to follow a certain purpose in our lives. Whether grand or small, for many or for one, God has chosen every single one of us to be what this world needs.