Leading the “Men of Steel”

Players from Fenwick’s 1962 undefeated (10-0) football team share fond memories of their coaches/mentors.

Introduction by Mark Vruno

Tree leaves from 60 autumns have fallen since the mighty Fenwick football team of 1962 went undefeated and claimed the City of Chicago’s “Prep Bowl” title. With 10 wins and zero losses that season, the Friars outscored their opponents 313 to 32 — quite a dominant margin of victory! The Chicago Sun-Times named Fenwick as the No. 1 football team in the area that year.

All-Illinois offensive guard Joe Marsico, Sr. ’63 (5’11”, 205 lbs.) , carrying the coveted “Daley Bowl” trophy at City Hall, and All-American fullback Jim DiLullo ’63 (right) went on to play at the University of Notre Dame under Head Coach Ara Parseghian. (Marsico roomed with collegiate All-American DT Alan Page!)

Readers may remember that this was in the era before Illinois instituted the state-playoff system for high schools, so the parochial-school champion squaring off against the public-school champ was a big deal in the city. How big? The Chicago Tribune day-after headline read: “91,328 See Fenwick Rout Schurz, 40-0.” A staggering 15 players from that team went on to play Division 1 college football.

Sixty seasons later, 11 team members woke up some echoes from the past and share memories of their five coaches:

  • John Jardine (head coach)
  • Rudy Gaddini ’53 (backfield coach)
  • Future Hall of Famer Jack Lewis (line coach)
  • Tony Lawless (then the school’s athletic director)
  • Dan O’Brien ’34 (freshman football coach and athletic trainer).

The Coaching Staff

After Fenwick, John Jardine (1935-1990) served as the head football coach at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1970 to 1977, compiling a record of 37-47-3. Jardine’s best season came in 1974, when his Badgers went 7-4 and placed fourth in the Big Ten Conference. Noteworthy was the Badgers’ 21-20 victory over the perennial powerhouse Nebraska during the second week of the season.

Coach Jardine at Wisconsin

Jardine was a graduate of Purdue, where he was a starting guard in 1956 and ’57. He began his coaching career at Central Catholic High School in Lafayette, IN, in 1958, then moved to the head coaching job at Fenwick HS. His five teams at Fenwick produced an overall 51-6-1 record and the Friars played in the Chicago Catholic League title game in 1959, 1961 and 1962.

Jardine left the prep ranks following the 1963 season, returning to Purdue as an offensive line coach under Jack Mollenkopf. He coached the guards and centers and recruited the Chicago area. He then served as offensive line coach under Tommy Prothro at UCLA from 1965 to 1969. He became Wisconsin’s head football coach in December 1969. (Source: Wikipedia)

A more recent photo of Gaddini.

Post-Fenwick, Rudy Gaddini ’53 served as the head football coach at the now defunct Milton College in Milton, WI, from 1970-81, compiling a record of 61-43-5. (The college closed in 1982.) A native of Chicago, Gaddini attended Fenwick, where he was an All-State fullback. He moved on to Michigan State University, where he played college football for the Spartans in 1955 and ’56. (Source: Wikipedia)

Jack Lewis in 1964.

The late Jack Lewis ’40, a U.S. Marine who served in the South Pacific during World War II, was known for his discipline, according to his 2000 obituary in the Chicago Tribune. After coaching at his high school alma mater in Oak Park, Lewis took control of a struggling football program at Immaculate Conception Catholic High School in Elmhurst, IL, in 1967. Over the course of 25 years, he built a powerhouse that earned respect statewide. Coach Lewis was inducted into the Illinois High School Hall of Fame in 1987. Two years later, he was named to the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame and, in 1992, was awarded the Notre Dame Club of Chicago’s Frank Leahy Prep Coach Award.

Dan O’Brien ’34

The late Dan O’Brien ’34 was part of Tony Lawless’s football coaching staff for 34 years. His Fenwick freshman teams compiled 20 undefeated seasons in the rumbling, tumbling Chicago Catholic League (CCL). Ever versatile, O’Brien also was Fenwick’s head swimming and diving coach – a title he kept for 23 years. In the pool during that time, the Friars won 23 consecutive CCL titles under “the Dobber’s” leadership. His teams were undefeated in dual meets: 325-0. They lost only one invitational (64-1).

Coach/AD Lawless

Much has been written about Fenwick sports legend Anthony R. “Tony” Lawless, who was the first layperson hired by the Dominican friars in 1929 to direct the athletics’ program at then-new (all-boys) Fenwick High School in Oak Park, IL. Lawless graduated from Spalding Institute in Peoria, IL, in 1924. He played on the Fighting Irish’s national Catholic high school championship basketball team that year, before moving to Chicago to attend college at Loyola University. He later was inducted into Loyola’s Hall of Fame for both basketball and football. On the gridiron, Lawless played running back when Loyola and DePaul still had football teams.

Nearly 45 years have passed since Mr. Lawless died. For nearly half a century, the man worked for the students of Fenwick and the school since its inception. In addition to the old gymnasium bearing his name, Coach Lawless also has Chicago Catholic League annual awards named in his honor. (See the links below to read about his athletics/coaching prowess at Fenwick.)

Voices still echo in their minds

Memories of John Jardine from lineman George Vrechek ’63: “Even though Coach Jardine was only 24 years old when he arrived at Fenwick in 1959, he earned our respect quickly. If he said to do something on the football field, that’s what we tried to do. He was fair, tough and competitive, and he also had a sense of humor that surfaced on rare occasions. It got so that if he had a crew cut, we thought a crew cut was the way to go. If he had his hands a certain way coming back from communion, that’s the way we thought you should do it.

The No. 1-ranked, 1962 undefeated Friars (10-0).

“During my senior year, the Chicago Sun-Times quoted Coach Jardine saying something surprisingly flattering about my blocking and tackling abilities. I saw him in school the next day, and he quietly told me with a very slight smile, ‘Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.’

For many years, George Vrechek ’63 volunteered as a part-time journalism teacher at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago.

“Coach Gaddini has been great attending our prior 1962 team reunions, staying in touch with the players and returning to Fenwick for the Golden Friars gatherings. Somehow, we have gotten closer in age. The winged-T offense he installed confused our opponents. Guys came at you from every direction. Not knowing any other offenses, we didn’t fully appreciate whatever those guys were doing in the backfield at the time. We enjoyed running the ball.”

Jim DiLullo ‘63, All-American fullback and Chicago Sun-Times “Prep Player of the Year” in 1962: “I was always envious of Coach Jardine’s ability to whistle so loudly. He didn’t use a coach’s whistle.

“As a running back goes, Coach Gaddini handled our drills. One enlightened expression has made me smile all these 60 years — Rudy: ‘I don’t mind, and you don’t matter.’ So many times, I used this in life experiences.

“Tony Lawless was properly named. Everything he did and said was his law — and not a veritable concept, such as boxing selections. I always loved the December 1 news photo of the start of my 97-yard sprint. His arms and hands went up to convey a prayer that no one throw a block or clip any longer because, if I didn’t trip, no one could catch me.

Pigskin-carrying fullback DiLullo (at right, from Lombard, IL) would be named an All-American and go down in history as one of the best prep runners of all time. His first season of playing organized football was his freshman year at Fenwick in 1959!

“Jack Lewis was a special kind of individual experience. Once while talking to my father and me, he mentioned that ‘I WAS SUPPOSED TO RUN THE PLAY AS DRAWN ON PAPER WITH Os AND Xs.’ I smiled and kind of told him that running plays generate their own ‘field of possibilities.’ Sometimes the opportunities just appear. He definitely was a ‘lineman coach’ who rode a driving sled. I was very relieved that Rudy was my coach. Every play in our book was [designed] to SCORE A TOUCHDOWN … NO MATTER WHAT.

“No one person could be more caring than Dan O’Brien. He watched our health and well-being. One August night after summer practice, he called my parents to see if I was eating ‘OK’ because weighing out and in I had lost over 10 pounds of water weight. Yikes! Another hot day at practice. He cared!”

Tim Wengierski ’63, All-State halfback, shares some thoughts about Gaddini, Lawless and O’Brien: “A few days after we won the Prep Bowl, he walked up to the gym open microphone.  After a long pause, Rudy said, ‘I can only express the crescendo in my heart.’ There was instant jubilation in the packed gym! Coach Rudy was a terrific person in many ways, always a gentleman.

“Coach Tony Lawless [was] a great athlete, mentor and athletic director. He was always ‘on duty’ and ran a tight ship. I can hear him say, ‘Please boys — move along,’ with his hand at the belly button level! 

“Coach Dan O’Brien was a great trainer and coach extraordinaire! While he was taping my ankle during the first few weeks of school, he asked my name. I answered Tim Wengierski. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘if you are half as good an athlete as your Dad, Ray, or Uncle Julius, we are very glad to have you at Fenwick!’”

Ken Hayes ’65 was a sophomore at the time: “I spent a couple summers working at Fenwick for Carl, our maintenance manager, and Tony Lawless. A nice place to work, but the pay was only $1.00 an hour. One weekend Tony invited myself and John Stapleton to his summer house on the Fox River to paint his home. As you might expect, it was fairly difficult to say no to Tony — if we wanted to continue our football career.

A young Tony Lawless.

“We got to see the other side of Tony: a family man who loved playing with his grandchild, went swimming and was truly relaxing — and getting a great deal on his house painting! We finished early on Sunday and Tony lined us up with a neighbor to take us water skiing. There was a ski jump on the river, and his neighbor gave me instructions on how navigate the jump, since this was my first time. I made the jump, just barely! However, I did not see Tony screaming on the pier, ‘Hayes, you better not try the jump and break your leg! Football practice starts in a week.’ I did get another lecture from Tony later, but I was so happy I cleared the jump; it truly was worth it!”

John Gorman ’63, quarterback: “John (Jardine) was way ahead of the curve in 1961-63. We had a scouting department (Norris, Maddox and Shannon). They would break down film, and I would meet with them on one night during the week. Senior year, he allowed me to change plays, on occasion, on offense, and more so, on defense, where they had plotted certain schemes, for situations, especially against St. Rita.

“We prepared the way colleges were preparing, and with John being 26 and most of us just turning 18, we became friends. When I graduated, John got me a screen test in Hollywood, when he was an assistant at UCLA, under Tommy Protho. I wasn’t discovered, so back to Chicago, to prepare for the draft … not football, but the Army, but it never happened.

Coach Jardine signaling a play (1962 season).

“John was the assistant basketball coach, under Bill Shay, and when we played Loyola, they would play a suffocating man-to-man, and Colleran, a great defender, would be my biggest challenge, all year. John would cover me in practice, all week, beat the cr*p out of me, to help us prepare for the game.

“A mentor, a friend, a great coach, and a wonderful man, who left us way too early! He allowed me, as a kid, to have an opinion, that occasionally was put into action, which was a great confidence builder, that allowed me to work hard, and not be afraid to fail. John Jardine was a winner, a man of high character, and his footprint, is all over our championship season! 

“Dan O’Brien was our freshman football coach, and Sitz [future U.S. Olympic gold medalist Ken Sitzberger ’63] showed up, on day one, and wanted to be a quarterback. He wasn’t about to let the best diver in the nation waste his time and get hurt, while he coached the swimming team. He was told that he could show up every day, but he would never play one minute! 

Gaddini in his playing days!

“Rudy (Gaddini) was a terrific athlete and expected things to come easily as it did for him. He would push you, to reach your capability, in a manner that was quiet, supportive, but always efficient. He was big on stay calm, preserve your energy, and don’t over-think, but react! A great role model, coach and friend! 

On the Friday, before the Prep Bowl, I was in the training room, getting taped by Dan, and talking to Rudy. In walks Tony, and remember, everyone would get very quiet, when Tony Lawless, entered a room — out of respect and some amount of fear. Tony says to Rudy, ‘Hey boy, who sent Gorman to that interview, on television?’ Rudy said, ‘Coach, you’ll have to talk to John.’ In walks Jardine, who gets the same question. John’s answer was the show asked to interview the quarterbacks from both teams! Tony was not happy, and said, ‘Next time, send a lineman!’ However, he looked at me, and said, ‘Go do your job tomorrow!’

“How fortunate we were to have such wonderful role models.”

Matt Hayes ’63, lineman: “During the middle of our football season, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred. Not only were we talking about our football season but also about the future of our country. One day after practice, Coach Jardine advised us that Coach Gaddini was called up by the reserves for active duty. We were all shook up by that news. We now knew someone close to us that was actually involved in the crisis. Fortunately, the crisis passed and Coach Gaddini returned to coach our football team and help us win the Prep Bowl. Coach was proud to coach our team and proud to serve his country. Thank you, Coach Gaddini!”

Jim Daniels ’63: “John Jardine was always slow with a compliment when we were out on the field. He completely surprised me in the hallway, the day after we finished the senior play (Fenwick’s first musical). ‘Didn’t know you could do that,’ he said, ‘Good job.’

“I found out later, he sought me out, rather than a chance meeting.

“Jack Lewis was always gruff and had a tough visage. My sophomore year in college, he took over a local family bar and became head football coach at Immaculate Conception High. He learned I was playing football at Brown and invited me: a) to a come to the evening workouts of his team and run with the punt teams and b) drop in and ask for advice/company whenever I was near his place. It turned out to be a pleasure to do both.”

Denny DeLarco ’63: “During a practice, Coach Jardine had me running halfback plays and ran me about six consecutive times. (I was totally gassed.) Needless to say, I was getting rather slow and Coach Jardine said to me, ‘You’re running like an elephant backwards. Pick it the hell up.’ So, I dug down deeper than deep. My number was called, and I sped through the ‘D’ all the way. Coach J. said, ‘Guess you got it … just need a little goose.’ What a motivator!

Dick Ambrosino ’64 is in Northern Michigan U’s Hall of Fame. He was an All-American player and captain of the Wildcats’ undefeated 1967 football team who later coached at Fenwick!

 Richard Ambrosino ’64: “Coach Gaddini and I reconnected when I was the head football coach at DC Everest HS in Schofield, Wisconsin. My star QB Dave Krieg played QB for coach at Milton College. Dave ended up playing for [NFL teams] Seattle, Arizona, Detroit, Chicago and Tennessee for a total of 19 years. At the same time, I reconnected with Coach Jardine when he was the head coach at Wisconsin and sent him my All-State players. Thanks, coaches!”

Mike Barry ’64: “John (Jardine) was bigger than life. I was in awe of him. I wanted to be a football coach after my sophomore year. Years later I got a call from Coach congratulating me on being the 1990 National Champions at Colorado. We laughed and remembered Fenwick years. Then the following March, his heart transplant rejected.” [Editor’s note: NFL coach Joe Barry, Mike’s son, is the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator.]

Dan Dinello ’64, halfback: “John Jardine elicited my respect as well as fear, especially when I was an insecure junior on the 1962 varsity team. He epitomized the sign on his office wall: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ His gruff-voiced criticism of my blocking in spring practice really stung. Later, he held the blocking dummy and coached me after practice. He worked hard to make me better. 

“As a junior, I was grateful for the attention. It made me work harder to improve and to earn his approval. Coach Jardine also knew my financial situation: The only reason I could afford to attend Fenwick was because my mother, Mary, worked as a cleaning person in the sophomore section, so I attended tuition-free. He also knew I didn’t own spiked football shoes. He sent me out to buy a pair and paid for them. This showed that he cared about me. Coach Jardine used clichés like, ‘Play with reckless abandon,’ so I wanted to do that and impress him. Despite the tough exterior, Coach Jardine cared about all his players. He demanded good grades as fiercely as he demanded good blocking.”

Some of the team at an early-1980s’ reunion.

Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50: “I was privileged to be the main celebrant at Dan O’Brien’s funeral Mass at Ascension Church in Oak Park. Standing at the altar, I watched his coffin being carried in by eight Fenwick students, boys and girls wearing Fenwick letter sweaters. I must admit that I choked up a bit before I could start the Mass: a fitting tribute to a man who loved the school and its students his whole life to the end.”

Walter McCarty ’63: “I was a swimmer. Dan O’Brien was the swim coach and trainer. Somehow, I was roped into filming the games. We had a meeting with Jardine at the beginning of the season. Coach was very adamant that he wanted Gherke and me to ‘follow the ball!’

“After the first game, we were summoned to the coaches’ office. Jardine was apoplectic. He ran the first kick off on the screen. 

“’Who took this?’ he asked me. ‘What are you doing here?’ as he pointed to the screen!

“‘Just following the ball like you asked ….’ I had followed the football alright, up in the air!

“One of the things not everyone knew about O’Brien, was that every season he would invite the freshman swimming team from the University of Illinois to swim against us at a private meet at Fenwick. Every year they would arrive ready to kick our [butts]. And every year we would send them home with their tails between their legs. I asked Mr. O’Brien why their coach kept coming back? 

“O’B said it was because he needed to show his All-American prospects they could be beaten. When we left Fenwick, the swimming team hadn’t lost a dual meet in some 30 years!

That was Dan O’ Brien …”

NEWSPAPER HEADLINES & PHOTO GALLERY

Before (above) and after (below) city newspaper cartoons leading up to and following the Friars’ BIG game against the Schurz Bulldogs on Saturday, December 1, 1962!

Some gridiron shots from the Blackfriars 1962-63 Yearbook:

Continue reading “Leading the “Men of Steel””

Different Is Good

All-school Mass on August 22 celebrated the opening of Fenwick’s 94th academic year!

By Elise Weyer ’23 (Western Springs, IL)

Good morning, Friars. Welcome to the first Mass and the first day of the 2022-23 school year! It is so exciting to see everyone this morning and wonderful that we are all together again.

A week ago, I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a post that caught my attention. It said, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” As I sat down to write this reflection, I kept thinking about this quotation. We may think that it’s easier to go on our own track and take the easy way out when trying to accomplish a task. However, when we go together, we can achieve much more than we would alone.

St. Catherine of Siena

This phrase reminded me of another quote from St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” When we accept ourselves and accept others for who they are, we create a community of people who are striving to share the fire. Sometimes we think that we can’t trust in God or we feel far from Him. However, when we trust in His will and trust the people in our lives that He has sent for us, the difficulty of growth becomes much easier. 

South Bend in the Summer

At the end of June, I had the privilege of attending the Notre Dame Vision retreat with members of the Preaching Team and other members of the Fenwick community. During this week, we were able to experience small-group discussions, lectures on faith, reconciliation and adoration. One of the main stories we focused on was Agnes: The Lost Sheep. This story is an adaptation of the parable of the lost sheep (one of Jesus’s stories). This version imagines that Agnes is a sheep who has a different color coat from the rest of the other sheep. She is ridiculed by the other sheep for not fitting in, and they tell her that the Shepherd will never love her. Agnes feels so rejected that she runs away from the flock. She runs into a wolf who tells her that the Shepherd would not even know if she had disappeared. The Shepherd realizes that Agnes is missing and leaves the rest of the flock to find her. Agnes sees that she was foolish to let others make her think that she is not wanted and that the shepherd would abandon her. 

The parable of the lost sheep shows us that God loves us no matter what. He loves us with such fervor that he would die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. He knows each and every one of us by our names. We must remember that we are meant to be different. It is good to be different from your neighbor.

Sometimes we feel lost. We may be struggling with the relationships we have with others, things not going our way, and we may even feel abandoned by God. I have learned that many of these struggles happen for a reason. When we ask for kindness, God gives us the opportunity to compliment someone. When we ask for strength, God puts us through the ringer. We are taught to be a more loving friend, a more generous community member, and a more faithful sheep. 

As we grow in our faith, it becomes crucial to remain grounded in who we are: beloved sons and daughters of God. The influence of social media and the news makes it very challenging for us to feel truly loved and have confidence in our faith. There is a constant push and pull in what is “right” and “good,” “wrong” and “evil.”

Being who God intended us to be can most of the time mean not fitting in to what society expects. Jesus loves us just the way we are. We are created to be different, and this reality provides the opportunity to flourish.  Jesus is calling us to Him.

More importantly, He is calling us to use our talents and gifts in service to others. The Fenwick community allows all students, faculty and staff to work together to encourage each other to embrace their talents for the sake of discovering the best versions of themselves. The welcoming environment of this school celebrates the importance of being unique. We are not perfect. We make countless mistakes, yet Jesus continues to love us and forgive us no matter what. You cannot find a love better than His anywhere.

With the new school year ahead of us, and as we continue on the journey to discover our purpose and vocations, I want to remind us again of the quote from St. Catherine of Siena. “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” And, I ask you, what will your fire be? How will you answer God’s call? Remember: You are wanted. You are loved. You do belong. You are a Friar. 

MASS REFLECTION: Saint Catherine of Siena

Student preacher Kate Dugan ’22 shared this message with the Fenwick student body on April, 29, 2022.

We gather this morning to celebrate the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena. St. Catherine of Siena was born during the plague in Siena, Italy, on March 25, 1347. Though Catherine’s parents wanted her to marry, she was opposed to the idea and instead joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. At 21, she described herself as in a mystical marriage to Christ. She frequently visited hospitals and homes where the poor and sick lived. Catherine played an instrumental role in restoring the Papacy to Rome and forming peace deals during conflict and war in Italian city states. St. Catherine was also instrumental in the resolving of conflict between the two popes. She passed away at the age of 33. The exact reason is unknown, but she fell ill in January of 1380 and eventually passed away on April 29th. St. Catherine is the patroness against fire, illness and nurses, among many other things. 

One of the most well-known St. Catherine quotes says “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” REPEAT. Now I don’t know about you, but I do know that my faith has been tested time and time again. It was tested when school was shut down because of a global pandemic. It was tested when we were told both my Grandma and Grandpa had cancer. It was tested when my brother was in a car accident that should have killed him. It was tested when my Grandpa passed away from said cancer last year in May. But through it, I have somehow found a way to strengthen my relationship with God. 

In psychology class we learned about an idea that shapes the world view of many Americans. It is an idea called the Just-World Phenomenon in which someone believes that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. It’s something a lot of people in the world believe in, including me, up until recently. If the Just-World Phenomenon did exist and God could control who got hurt and who didn’t, then why did he let any of this happen to me and my family? How did he decide to take my Grandpa away from me so soon? It took me awhile and many long nights, but I finally realized that God had bigger and better plans for my Grandpa than I could ever imagine, and the only thing that I could do was pray for everything to turn out for the better, even if it meant losing family. It sounds corny, but everything has turned out exactly as it was meant to and has helped me to grow in my faith in God and as a person. 

As graduation draws closer and the daunting task of college approaches, I think back to the quote mentioned before: “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” Now, after having been in this school for four years, I can confidently say there were many times I was tested and many times I either failed or prevailed. Most of you have big aspirations for what you want to do with your life, and I ask that you remember this quote. “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” 

If you want something, it is hard work. Nothing ever comes easy. Every class here is designed to test your mental capabilities and your willingness to become a better and smarter version of yourself by the time you graduate. Fenwick wants you to take the lessons you learn here and apply them to the rest of your life and, if you do, you will do great things. 

St. Catherine’s life inspires us to have a life of hope and trust in God. A trust that God will bring the right things forward to you and present you with only what he believes you are able to handle. St. Catherine’s commitment to her relationship with God and her willingness to follow God helped her to have an extraordinary life, just as we are meant to do. You are all here for a reason. You are completing homework assignments and taking tests for a reason — all for that higher goal. St. Catherine’s story serves as a reminder that if you are doing your best, that is good enough for God. 

Kate Dugan (above) is a Fenwick senior from River Forest, IL.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY – Sports Matter for Girls: 50 Years After Title IX

For this year’s Women’s History Month, basketball alumna and Fenwick Broadcasting Club founder shares how Frair teachers guided her along a career path to sports journalism.

By Karli Bell ’12

Two years ago, an icon in the basketball world passed away unexpectedly. Kobe Bryant’s death was something that shook the sports world and shook me to my core. I lost an icon, a coach and a hero. Then, I had to go on air and talk about this in my sportscast.

I broke down. I tried to hold in the tears and emotions. But to me, I had a hole.

I spent upwards of 10 years on the hardwood. It was the one sport that I loved to my core (and still do) for a few reasons. I loved the constant flow of the game, having constant action, the selflessness, the mental challenges.

But it’s also the only sport that is gender equal when it comes to the core of the game. The only differences in women’s and men’s basketball are the size of the ball and the number of steps allowed to travel. It was a game that I could play with anyone, anytime and, really, anywhere. Growing up as the only girl on a Northwest-side Chicago block, it was a classic staple in my alleyway.

My time as an athlete is a time that forever shaped me. It taught me discipline, teamwork, selflessness, confidence and to put in 110 percent in everything you do. Work ethic is everything. If you put your mind to it, you truly can accomplish anything you want to do. 

Sports Matter.

Karli as a young Friar hooper.

When I ended my time as a basketball player, the world of sports had such an impact on me that I couldn’t just leave. Basketball and sports saved my life, in all honesty. It brought me so much confidence, empowerment and boosted my self-esteem. I couldn’t leave this space; that’s when I found sports journalism and media. 

Sitting in Mr. Arellano’s speech class is when I wanted to start working on my craft. I would ask him for advice on how to fix my delivery, my presence, if I had any nervous ticks. I wanted any and all feedback. He answered every bothersome, annoying question I had. He was the first teacher I went to when I ‘pitched’ what is now the Fenwick Broadcasting Club. 

Fenwick was training camp. I spent hours in Mr. Paulett’s basement English classroom, editing videos with makeshift software. I was in the tech office, reading a Microsoft Word script off a laptop to a small little camcorder or interviewing classmates about school events. I would post countless Facebook posts to promote viewership, as I’m now learning was maybe a bit too much. (Sorry, guys!)

I put all my effort into it, just how I used to put all my effort into basketball. Work ethic, confidence, selflessness, teamwork, discipline, communication, creativity. I learned all that on the basketball court. It all translates. Those times on the court are memories that stick.

Sports Matter.

Bell on the set.

Flash forward to now 10 years later: That work ethic translated to being in a top-three sports market before age 30. Communication transferred into networking and building a list of professional contacts. Creativity shows in countless stories, videos and photos. Discipline, teamwork and selflessness is used every day in the workplace.

CLICK OR TAP HERE TO CHECK OUT ONE OF KARLI’S VIDEO FEATURES.

Life lessons are learned on a court, field, diamond, track and mat. Sports are impactful. They have a profound influence on youth, but particularly little girls. Basketball showed I’m equal. The only thing that mattered was how you play the game. Let the work and practice speak for itself, which would be the best way for me to enter a male-dominated field.

Sports showed me a rigor and fire in myself that I couldn’t find anywhere else. They gave me a social circle and group of friends that every tomboy girl needs. They challenged me constantly, both mentally and physically. You learn respect for authority, to listen, to analyze; all of these being valuable lessons that were first learned on the court. 

READ ABOUT FENWICK’S TITLE IX-PIONEERING
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL COACH, DAVE POWER.

Continue reading “INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY – Sports Matter for Girls: 50 Years After Title IX”

2022 Lenten Reflection

By Student Preaching Team Member Grant Schleiter ’23 (Elmhurst, IL)

Lent is a time when Christians focus on the three pillars of fasting, prayer and alms giving. Today is Ash Wednesday, the kickoff of Lent, or as I used to think of it in grade school “the day when we compete to see who can keep their ashes on the longest.” Lent is known as a time of sacrifice. When I was little, Lent was always a competition in my family. Lent was always “who could give up the most difficult thing.” This competition was mostly between my sister and me, and it was a battle of who could succeed at a harder Lenten promise. One year, I took it so far I gave up added sugar, and it came to the point I was searching up menus of fast-food restaurants to make sure I was beating my goal. Having sugar-free yogurt every morning for 40 days is absolutely disgusting. I do not recommend it. 

But what I was doing was actually the exact opposite of what Jesus says to do. In the Gospel today, Jesus says, “When you fast, do not look gloomy. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet. When you pray, pray in secret.” Instead, I was making it known to everyone that I was struggling with a difficult penance — and was making it known that mine was more extreme. I was not sacrificing for God but rather for my own bragging rights.

As Fenwick students, we are called out to follow these three pillars. Prayer obviously is something we practice every day; at the beginning of second period we usually get to hear the enthusiastic voice of Charlize Guerrero, or maybe, every once in a while, the deep voice of Lee O’Bryan. 

Fasting is the pillar most people associate with Lent. Many people associate Lent with giving up food, but you can also change a practice of something, like working out every day, or being nicer to a sibling, or going on your phone less. Fasting from something that distracts you from God can free up more time to do something to praise God. Something as easy as reflection through prayer could be done, or maybe you take it a step up and do charity work to accomplish almsgiving. 

All of these actions help us become better people, and in becoming better people, we grow closer to God. In making time for God in your life, you are making time for goodness. Another thing about Lent is once you start to get into a routine, it is hard to snap out of it. When I did my sugar fasting, as soon as I hit Easter I had about 40 cookies and probably half of the lamb cake. All I was focusing on was “getting to Easter so I could enjoy sugar again.” Yes, some bit of fasting is to compensate for the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, which is your typical giving up foods you like; but usually we go back to these after Lent, so maybe this year focus on something that you could build into a new routine — something you can do that can make your life better. Maybe instead of looking at your phone in the morning, talk to one of your parents; or if your parents are not awake, maybe take some time for silent meditation. You could even read the daily Bible verse. Do something simple that can help bring you closer to God. Jesus died for our sins and there’s no point in going right back to them after Lent. Instead, use it as a time to realize what you can change in your life to bring you closer to God. 

Fenwick Student Preacher Grant Schleiter is a junior from Elmhurst, Ilinois.

Lent is a season where we must turn away from pleasures and see how we can redistribute our time for the needs of others and the needs of God. Lent is not a season for bragging; instead it is a season for serving. Focus on serving God and our neighbors. Do something that can help make a positive impact on others. Giving up sugar was something that did not make a positive impact on others; I think it only helped the Oikos yogurt brand. Do something that brings you closer to God.

Meet One of Fenwick’s Trailblazing Alumnae

As Women’s History Month 2022 continues, we give a shout out to Mary Kate Callahan ’13 (of La Grange, IL), who made IHSA history nine years ago.

At Fenwick’s Fall Sports Recognition Night on November 15, 2021, Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 introduced a special, guest speaker:

Mary Kate has been navigating life on four wheels for as long as she can remember. At five months old, a virus attacked her spinal cord, leaving her a paraplegic. Now, at 26, she has been around the world racing triathlons, advocating for what she believes in, and mentoring people of all abilities.

Mary Kate has crossed numerous finish lines; spending 11 years racing on U.S. National Team in the sport of paratriathlon, running marathons, and even breaking the course record at Ironman Louisville. She enjoys educating and spending time with people to show them how the fitness industry can be adapted for all types of athletes. Mary Kate has a passion for helping others find their own starting line to tap into their own potential and inner athlete. 

Further, Mary Kate is the reason the IHSA holds a State Series for athletes with disabilities! As a student at Fenwick, she stood in front of the IHSA advocating on behalf of athletes with disabilities. As a result of her efforts, there is now a State Series in place. Mary Kate was actually the first to compete at State! In my 18 years at Fenwick, she is the toughest, most determined, resilient athlete I have seen.

Ms. Callahan spent a few minutes addressing the Friar student-athletes in attendance in the Auditorium, helping them to keep their sports lives in perspective. Her remarks answered three key questions that she encourages all athletes to ask themselves:

  1. Did I try my absolute best — no matter what cards were handed to me each day? 

  2. Did I show up for people and help bring out the best in them when I had the chance? 

  3. And, did I do all of this while having fun?

Read Mary Kate’s full blog, “The Finish Line Is Just the Beginning.”

Last August, Ms. Callahan started a new job as senior consultant of Enterprise Transformation at footwear manufacturer Nike, Inc.

Curious Adults Can’t Read without Books!

A non-profit organization founded by a Fenwick alumnus from Oak Park is helping to advance literacy in the Chicago area.

By Franklin Taylor ’15, president and executive director of Our Future Reads

During the pandemic, I graduated from college. At the same time, I received a Fulbright Grant to go to Germany and teach English — a dream that I have had since my Fenwick German classes with Frau Strom and our German Club trip to the country. Since the pandemic pushed back this opportunity, I was able to find a job as a data analyst while I waited.

One day while working from home, I glanced around my room and pondered what to do about the giant mountain of books I had accumulated from attending Fenwick and Bowdoin College over the years. Some of the books I had really enjoyed reading, but others I would never pick up again. I thought “Do I throw these out? Who throws out books? Can I give these to someone who would enjoy them? Where can I even donate books in the area?”

These thoughts led me to reflect on the junior-year service projects we got to do as students at Fenwick. These memories motivated me to look on the Internet for places that would take in books for adult readers. To my surprise, I could only find organizations looking for children’s books. Since I was unable to find much information, I felt my Friar spirit kick in and marched down the field to do something about it. That is when the idea for Our Future Reads was born. I thought, if I have this problem, then I am sure many others share this problem, too. Instead of finding an organization to donate these books, I decided to do it myself.

Our mission statement at Our Future Reads is: For those that are curious, be curious! Through books, curiosity is born. People say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ we say it’s fine to do that, as long as you took the first step in picking it up. Our Future Reads is here to make sure those without readily available access to books get an opportunity to read whatever piques their curiosity.

Franklin played some football at Bowdoin College in Maine.

I learned many things at Fenwick, and the most important was to help others when you can; and at Our Future Reads we are doing exactly that. In just eight months, Our Future Reads has collected over 10,000 new and gently used books, established relationships with a number of other charitable organizations in and around Chicago, and donated over 2,200 books to people in need. Brian Heuss, a fellow Fenwick Football teammate and Class of 2015 alum, as well as [my brother] Jared Taylor (see below), Class of 2019, are on the board of the organization along with a good friend from OPRF. Class of 2015, Matthew Herbst. We have received amazing support from individuals and other local organizations who have conducted book drives to help Our Future Reads build its inventory to accomplish its mission to redistribute books to those in need.

Help us achieve our goal of increasing the literacy rate in the Chicagoland area by donating. If you, or your child or grandchild who is currently a Fenwick student, would like to hold a book drive to support our inventory at Our Future Reads, please reach out to me via email. For any more information, you can explore our website.

Let the Curious, Be Curious … and Let’s Go Friars!

Fellow alumnus and former football teammate Brian Heuss ’15 of Cicero, IL, serves as vice president of Our Future Reads.
OFR Board Member Jared Taylor ’19 dons a Fenwick German Club T-shirt! Jared, who studies economics at Knox College (Galesburg, IL), also played football for the Friars.

What Does It Mean to be a Catholic School Student?

Thomas wished for “Nothing but You, Lord:” Father Chris shared this homily today with Fenwick students at an all-school Mass.

By Fr. Christopher Johnson, O.P., Fenwick High School

Let’s pretend for a moment that you stumbled across a magic lamp in the attic of your grandmother’s house.  A magic lamp seems like a probable thing to find among other mementos and items from yesterday.  After finding this lamp, you rub it, a genie pops out and offers you one wish.  What will you ask for? All “A’s” for this semester and every semester to come? Admission into your dream college? Fame? Wealth? The opportunity to play or perform your favorite activity at the professional level? A successful marriage with perfect children?

What about a relationship with God?  

There is a story about St. Thomas Aquinas that describes him as fervently praying in the chapel of his priory one evening, in front of the crucifix. The crucifix suddenly began to speak, and Jesus tells Thomas that he has written well of Jesus and the faith. Jesus then asks what Thomas would like as a reward.  Thomas responds, “Non nisi te domine.” “Nothing but You, Lord.” 

Think about that. St. Thomas could have asked for anything he desired — a long life, good health, to be well known and well liked by people, to become the smartest person in all of human history, you name it.  Yet he says that he simply wants to be known and loved by God.  

Isn’t that amazing?

Can we honestly answer that God is the number one priority in our lives? 

Does he rank ahead of our desires for success — be it academic, extracurricular, familial, career?

Does God rank ahead of all our relationships? Whether they be romantic, familial or friendship?

Does he rank ahead of our desire for fame, wealth and esteem? 

Nothing but You, Lord. 

It’s Catholic Schools Week

This week the U.S. Catholic Church celebrates Catholic Schools Week. It is fitting that we celebrate our brother, Thomas, today since he is the patron saint of students.

What does it mean to be a Catholic school student? What does it mean to be a Catholic school? It means more than just wearing uniforms, or celebrating Catholic Schools Week each year with pajama day, field trips and class parties, as you may have done at your Catholic grade school.

St. Thomas Aquinas: the patron saint of students.

Catholic education is more than that. As Carl mentioned, St. Thomas was known for both his deep intellectual knowledge, but also his spiritual wisdom. We are called to pursue the same thing as Fenwick Friars. May you not only learn about math, science, writing, reading, history, economics and so forth during your time as a Friar. I pray that you also learn what it means to love God and to be loved by Him.  

Any student at any school can learn to add, subtract, read, write and memorize. That should be a given for anyone who has the opportunity to attend school. But most students do not have the opportunity to learn as Carl did — to ask the big questions — “What is the meaning of life?” “Who am I?” “What is my place in the world?”  The questions that reason and intellect alone cannot answer.

I pray that you have the opportunity at Fenwick to not only learn math, business, economics, science and the like, but to consider how people are to be treated. After you graduate from college and begin to work in business or any other industry, may you view the world through a Catholic lens. Consider the questions of:

I hope that you do not leave Fenwick simply glad that you got into a good college; won a state championship in your activity; were involved with some successful organizations; and proud of all you learned. 

Success inside the classroom and in the community is a good thing. Likewise with setting oneself up for good opportunities in the future. But that cannot be it. 

Keep God in your life

I hope you leave Fenwick with an understanding of who you are in light of your relationship with your Creator. God loves you and has given you an immortal soul. He has formed you in His image and likeness, and nothing can change that.

He has also made all your classmates and loves them more than you can imagine. They too share in God’s image and likeness.

Look to your left … to your right ….

All the people you see are God’s beloved children and deserve respect, compassion and love. The same goes for all those you encounter throughout the rest of your life. Treat them as such.

To listen to Father Chris’s homily, please click or tap the above video link, then fast-forward to the 15:40 time stamp.
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Knowledge, Wisdom and Faith

By Fenwick Student Preacher Carl Lukas ’22 (Riverside, IL)

Good morning everyone. My name is Carl Lukas, and I am a member of the Class of 2022. We gather here today to honor Saint Thomas Aquinas, who is a highly revered Dominican friar and scholar. He is probably the best-known Dominican in the Catholic Church, and his influence is seen throughout Fenwick. There is a statue of him on a staircase, he is depicted on stained glass in the chapel, and his image appears in numerous classrooms. 

It is evident that Aquinas is important in the church, but it can be difficult to see how his life is relevant to us in the 21st century. Thomas Aquinas lived in the 13th century and spent his life composing philosophical and theological works. He wrote of improving our relationship with God through our intellect, and he is instrumental in clarifying the teaching of the Catholic faith in a concise and systematic manner as well as promoting the importance of the Eucharist. Through Aquinas’s teachings, we can learn more about ourselves and the world around us, allowing us to strengthen our faith. 

I recently finished my first-semester World Religions course with Mr. Mulcahy. I was fascinated by the different religions across the world and what they believed. I learned about how different world faiths seek to guide their members in living a good life. I learned about Islam’s solution to the problem of pride, and how Hindus work towards breaking out of a cycle of rebirth. Through this class, I discovered that from the start of human history, we have always been searching for answers that cannot be found through the use of our senses and reason. The use of our senses and faculty of reason are useful in coming to understand the world around us. However, there are some questions that cannot be answered with human intellect alone. Rather, to make sense of the dilemmas we need something different, which we call wisdom. 

Wisdom and knowledge are usually mistaken. The two words are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. Knowledge can be gained somewhat easily. We go to classes every day and gain new knowledge on a variety of topics. We are then tested on these topics and sometimes let them slip out of our minds. We can know many different things, yet it is hard for us to understand why we need to know them. 

This is where wisdom comes in. Having wisdom is being able to apply your knowledge in your life. We can go on autopilot and learn new knowledge without having to truly understand why we are learning it. 

Wisdom is different from knowledge

However, to gain wisdom we must understand the world around us to apply our knowledge. This is why it was important to me to learn as much as I can about the world, including the beliefs of other traditions. All traditions are seeking an answer to a similar question but approach it differently. The desire to seek knowledge outside of simple academic knowledge is naturally sought after throughout the world. Now that I understand more about what others believe, I can strengthen my own beliefs by understanding the impact we have on each other. I am able to strengthen my faith by questioning the essence of my beliefs. 

To listen to Carl preach, please click or tap on the video link above, then fast-forward to the 1:27 time stamp.
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Conscience Bound

A Reflection on law for the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas.

By Br. Joe Trout, O.P.

As we celebrate Thomas Aquinas today, I think it is safe to say that only a small minority of Americans have read anything he wrote. To be fair, his writing is dense and dry. Some of it is only available in Latin. But I would also be willing to bet that a much larger portion of our population has come across one of his claims: laws which contradict the natural and eternal law are unjust and should not be followed. Martin Luther King, Jr. cites Aquinas in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (see image below) to explain why segregation laws are unjust and should not be followed. In 1963 this was a profound, counter-cultural and necessary message. (Every time I teach it, I do find a little bit of joy from seeing the ideas of a fellow Dominican used as one step towards making the world a better place.)

Given the events since the murder of George Floyd, the current fears of war with Russia, and the push to get people further into space, one could be forgiven for thinking that it’s still 1963. MLK’s writing certainly remains profound for us today. However, I think our time needs to be reminded of the basics which MLK took for granted. We need to read a little more deeply and remember the rest of what Aquinas wrote about the law (something MLK clearly did while getting his doctorate in systematic theology). Unjust laws are the footnote — they are not the main focus of legal theory. In a world where the claim that “an unjust law is no law at all” is thrown around right and left, the modern revolutionary is the one who respects authority. 

To be clear, I am not arguing that all laws are just or that we should be blindly subservient to the government. Nor am I saying we shouldn’t protest. It can be a powerful way to create needed change. Civil disobedience will always be necessary as systems will always be flawed as long as humans run them. My claim is merely that we have talked about the exception so much that we have forgotten the norm.

What is the norm?

Consider this: Before I graduated from college in Indiana, I got three speeding tickets, each costing about $150. One was for going 78 mph in a 65 zone, another for going 68 in a 60 (my cruise control was set at 63) and the last was for going 58 in a 55. Students laugh when I share this. Most of them don’t even know what the speed limit on 290 is. They certainly cannot imagine a world where going 10 miles over the speed limit on the highway matters. To be fair, Chicago does have norms for “safe” driving — they just don’t match the written laws. Can you imagine Chicago without any traffic norms at all? I wouldn’t leave the priory! 

Brother Trout

Or look at our use of alcohol. Each year in Moral Theology we discuss whether alcohol can contribute to our happiness; and students have some excellent reflections on the formation of friendships, the dangers of alcoholism, the horrors of drinking and driving, the goodness of simple pleasures in moderation, etc. Then we push it further: “Can it be good for a teenager to drink alcohol?” Invariably students bring up concerns about healthy neurological development. Rarely does anyone say, “No, it’s better for me to follow the law than to drink with my friends.”

Aquinas, on the other hand, insists we have a moral obligation to learn from and obey laws. Always. As MLK correctly explains, he does not argue that we don’t have a moral obligation to follow bad laws — he argues that unjust laws are not laws at all. This is a bizarre claim at first. He isn’t saying that they don’t actually exist or that no one passed them. He is saying that an unjust law fails to meet the necessary criteria for something to count as a law. Might does not make right. A law is “an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated.”1 Laws are supposed to teach us how to be part of a harmonious society. They help us to be good. For example, school-zone speed limits count as laws because they structure our driving practices around the goal of protecting children. They are made by a legitimate authority and are very clearly posted for drivers to see. Following such a law is simply a good thing to do — individually and communally we benefit from the harmony such a law creates. 

If a law isn’t actually directed to achieving a reasonable good (a major topic in its own right, which I have to set aside here), it’s an abuse of power and not a law. A law limiting families to one child is oppression, not law. However, a lot of laws have good reasons of which people aren’t aware or with which they disagree. We are not all experts. It’s important to hold government leaders accountable for creating good laws, but that’s also a lot of work. Sometimes I do just need to trust that a law has a good reason even if I don’t understand it. 

None of this tells us how to respond to unjust laws. Should we follow them? Aquinas’s answer is, unsurprisingly, nuanced.2 If the law is directly contrary to clear natural goods or divine goods, then do not follow it; they will not lead you to any form of goodness. Breaking these is the right choice. MLK explains why masterfully: “All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.” Following such a law clearly adds to the destruction of human dignity individually and communally. 

About those COVID-19 protocols

But laws can fail to be real laws in other ways. A secret law isn’t a real law — if it isn’t promulgated, one can’t learn anything from it. A law could aim at a good goal but fail to accomplish it because the law is based on false assumptions or insufficient evidence. A government can overstep its authority. Do we have any obligation to follow a misguided law? According to Aquinas, yes, these “unjust laws” often do bind our consciences. Why? Because disregard for authority damages society and that should never be taken lightly. Something is still gained from following them even if it isn’t ideal. I think the American drinking age fits here. I disagree with 21 as the drinking age and think it should be lowered. But I don’t regret following it when I was in high school and college, and I encourage students to do so, too. There is much to be said for learning how to listen to authority even when authority is somewhat wrong. 

If Aquinas is right on this point, we have a lot to ponder when it comes to COVID protocols. One might generously call them a rough draft of what an ideal pandemic response would be. Revisions keep coming and everyone wants to supply their own peer-edit. Whether these protocols actually accomplish the goal or not, they are a real attempt to care for the common good of society; conscience demands that we prioritize this. The problem is that the right means to the end isn’t crystal clear. Aside from the novelty of this virus itself, there are tons of unintended consequences to every choice and many social goods that seem to fight against each other (i.e. physical health, mental health, economic health). Like many people, I have gone down rabbit holes reading about the efficacy of various safety measures. But I’m not an expert and I’m not in charge, so I have stopped researching. Sometimes we all just need to trust others and do what we were asked to do.  

Other times you do need to push back. I think I would really struggle to strictly enforce masks if I were a kindergarten teacher. Some protocols do seem to have gone too far, and I understand the argument that those measures are too harmful to children for us to follow them. However, I do not see any similar argument for teenagers and adults. Even if it turns out that wearing a mask while I taught for the last year and a half did little to stop the spread of COVID (which I can’t totally rule out), I am sure Aquinas would tell me I did the right thing by complying. Being part of a harmonious whole and prioritizing public health is a good thing even if we did it badly. It significantly outweighs some facial discomfort. 

Laws can be wrong. My understanding of Aquinas could be wrong. Aquinas himself could be wrong. All of this is possible, and we’d be a bit foolish to think otherwise. We’d also be foolish to mistake the exception for the norm and critique laws more than we follow them. If we want to live well, find joy in society and one day enter into eternal joy with God, it’s time to remember the goodness of obedience. If it turns out everyone in charge was wrong, I hope we all have the humility to pray as Christ did: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

  1. Summa Theologiae, I-II, Q90, A4

See Summa Theologiae, I-II, Q 96, A4