Fenwick nurtured the service seeds planted by the parents of this alumnus, who has been employing the power of business to solve social problems for five decades.
By Mark Vruno
Fenwick High School and University of Notre Dame alumnus Paul Tierney, Jr. ’60 resides on the East Coast in Darien, Connecticut, and New York City. But his humanitarian roots were planted at home in La Grange Park, IL, and at St. Francis Xavier Parish & School.
“My mother and father always talked about the importance of doing good works for your fellow man,” says Mr. Tierney, who is three months into his retirement as chairman of TechnoServe, an international, nonprofit organization that promotes business solutions to poverty. The company works with enterprising people in the developing world to build competitive farms, businesses and industries. “Our clients are small, poor, grassroots,” he notes.
Tierney encourages the use of private equity and venture capital to fund entrepreneurial firms in locales such as Africa and Latin America. As he told Forbes magazine in 2010, he believes this funding approach “can be a superior alternative to the traditional development funds funneled through the likes of the World Bank,” the international financial institution that provides loans to countries of the world for capital projects.
Paul Tierney at a Glance
From La Grange Park, IL / St. Francis Xavier
Fenwick High School, Class of 1960
University Notre Dame, 1964 (magna cum laude)
Harvard Business School, 1968 (Baker scholar)
U.S. Peace Corps (Chile)
Growing up Catholic had a lot to do with his public-service interests, especially helping those less fortunate. “My parents taught that with great gifts, great action is expected,” points out Tierney, who has had a highly successful career in investments. The then-youngster heeded the advice of Mr. & Mrs. Tierney, whose ideals and principles, in turn, were honed and nurtured by the Dominicans at Fenwick. Fifty years ago, using the power of business to solve social problems was somewhat radical; it definitely was not a mainstream notion.
Tierney graduated magna cum laude in 1964 from ND, where he majored in philosophy. He applied to law school, business school and several doctoral programs but instead chose the Peace Corps, U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s volunteer organization founded three years earlier. “I was sent to Chile on an economic-development program to work with farmers in the agrarian reform movement,” he explains. “My job was to help people structure and improve cooperatives.”
While in rural South America, Tierney says he met a lot of bright people in development. “but few of them knew business or had practical skills.” So, after his service, he went to Harvard Business School (HBS) on a fellowship from the Ford Foundation“to learn how commerce actually works. By the time I finished my MBA program [in ’68 as a Baker Scholar],” he adds, “I thought that more effective work in economic development would be done in the private sector.” In a 2002 profile written by the Harvard Business School, Tierney says he realized he could make a larger impact on society if he first succeeded in business. “I’ve really had two careers,” he observed, “one as a for-profit financial entrepreneur and one as a crusader for economic development.”
Tierney set out on what would be a 30-year career in investment management, first starting a merchant bank in London and then overseeing financial programs at the U.S. Railway Association, which would become Conrail (now CSX). Next, he was a senior vice president at White, Weld & Co., which Merrill Lynch purchased. In 1978, he co-founded Gollust, Tierney & Oliver, the general partner for Coniston Partners, which was a $1-billion value investment partnership focused on strategic block investing and private equity. The firm split up in the mid-1990s.
“After about 15 years of building my own company, I felt like I should come up for air,” Tierney reflects. “I’d made some money, I had some experience, I saw how the real world operated, and I understood capital markets. But I still had a taste for the work I was interested in when I was in the Peace Corps.”
Technology in the Service of Mankind
Tierney started looking for ways of getting re-engaged and surveyed several organizations. “I found many relief organizations, but I didn’t find many development-assistance organizations,” he told HBS. “I wanted something that was hands-on and firm-based, not just a think tank or a Band-Aid.” A friend mentioned TechnoServe, and Tierney’s world changed
Businessman and philanthropist Ed Bullard founded TechnoServe in 1968 after his experience volunteering at a hospital in rural Ghana, West Africa. Bullard was inspired to start an organization that would help hard-working people harness the power of private enterprise to lift themselves out of poverty. He launched TechnoServe – short for “technology in the service of mankind” – to help poor people by connecting them to information and market opportunities. “It was a much smaller organization back then, with a single office in Norwalk, CT, and an annual budget of around $5 million,” Tierney remembers.
“I visited four of the countries TechnoServe operated in and, as I saw what was going on in the field, I became more and more confident that this was an organization with a good approach that was making a real impact.” Tierney kept stepping up his involvement with TechnoServe, starting as a volunteer member, then a board member, then chairman of the Executive Committee and, ultimately, chairman in 1992.
For 27 years he was at the helm, steering the philanthropic “ship” into countries such as Haiti in the Caribbean, India in South Asia and Mozambique in Southeast Africa along the Indian Ocean coast. Based in Washington, D.C., TechnoServe today has grown to more than 1,500 employees and operates in 29 countries. “Thirty-five years ago, there were only five or six [countries],” Tierney reports. TechnoServe has become a leader in harnessing the power of the private sector to help people lift themselves out of poverty. “By linking people to information, capital and markets, we have helped millions to create lasting prosperity for their families and communities,” proclaims its website.
One of his favorite success stories from the field is set in civil war-torn Mozambique, where Tierney encountered female workers in a cashew-processing facility who were grateful for their jobs. “It was very hard, grinding work, but these women told me they were happy to be able to do it in safe conditions,” he remembers. “They were sending their children to school with the money they were earning.”
At a coffee project in Tanzania, people literally broke out in song and dance, praising TechnoServe for the work it did, which has contributed to a greater level of education in the community. “It is gratifying to see how this type of work allows a second or third generation to continue on a trajectory of significantly increasing their standard of living,” he shares.
Meanwhile, at Aperture Venture Partners, the other half of Tierney’s time was spent assisting portfolio companies interested in healthcare in a variety of ways – from strategy and raising capital to M&A, business development and corporate governance. He also is co-founder, managing member and partner of Development Capital Partners, LLC, a New York-based investment firm with an exclusive focus on “frontier” and emerging markets such as Africa, India and Latin America. His son, Matthew, is the other co-founder.
Fenwick builds on foundation
When he thinks back to his high-school days 59+ years ago, Tierney cites the overall culture and style of Fenwick: “Its tradition of education and achievement,” he notes. Father Regan had a particularly strong influence over young Paul. “He was the best theology teacher, in my opinion, and made the most sense out of Christianity and Catholicism.”
Father Jacobs was Fenwick’s Dean of Studies in the late 1950s. “He was approachable,” Tierney recalls, “and talked a lot about [my] interests.” He has fond memories of Latin Teacher Fr. Hren’s invitation-only “Mozarteum” group that featured pizza and music. “For me, it added a level of sophistication to school,” says Tierney, admitting that Gene Autry cowboy songs were about the extent of his play-list genre early in life.
“At Fenwick, I participated in a lot of teams, clubs and activities,” he remembers. The 1960 Blackfriars yearbook lists Tierney as a member of the National Honor Society as well as the golf and debate teams. “Father Conway taught math and coached debate at that time,” he says. “We also competed in oratorical contests,” which is where Tierney developed his capacity to think on his feet, argue, debate and speak in public. He reflects: “These skills have served me well, always.”
Editor’s note: Monday, January 28, is the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Catholic Church and patron of students.
Readers interested in exploring the excellent videos of Bishop Robert Barron, the recipient of the Lumen Tranquillum Award from Fenwick High School this year, might start with the short presentation he gives on the man he describes as his hero: St. Thomas Aquinas. The bishop explains how it was at Fenwick, when he was 14 years old, that a theology teacher first introduced him to St. Thomas Aquinas. He describes it as a “bell-ringer” event and goes on to explain how it changed the course of his life. He seems to suggest that this seminal moment led him, through the grace of God, into the priesthood.
Besides his description of the encounter in his freshman theology class, there is another deep Fenwick link in Barron’s explanation of Aquinas. He lists three ideas, which he believes characterize the thought and teaching of Thomas. It is interesting to note how closely the three themes he describes resemble three main ideas characteristic of a Fenwick education. Many high schools talk about the “grad at grad,” or what a graduate will know and be. I would suggest that these three concepts, reflective of the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, might be a good description of a Fenwick student after four years on Washington Boulevard.
Bishop Barron first explains in the video that Aquinas believed there was one truth. He explains that people of Thomas’s time (we might note of our time as well) often thought there were two truths — scientific and religious. Aquinas refused to accept that. He knew that there could be only one truth. If science and religion seemed to be in conflict, there was a problem in either the scientific or the theological method. More thought and study were required.
‘Dominicans are not afraid of reason; we embrace it.’
At Fenwick, we sometimes express this same idea as, “Don’t leave your brain at the door of the church (or the theology classroom.)” It is a characteristic of Dominican education to apply rigorous study and thought to every aspect of our education, including our religious belief. We are not afraid of reason; we embrace it. We are convinced that reason and critical examination will lead to the Creator, not contradict creation.
And so we teach Fenwick students to question, to wonder, and to apply the lessons they learn from science and philosophy to their faith. Bishop Barron reassures us that Aquinas had no fear of reason. Neither should we.
Secondly, Barron describes the Thomistic understanding that we are contingent beings. This is a fancy way of saying that we depend on something else for our existence. That thing that is the First Cause, what does not depend on anything else for its existence, is what we call God. It was this explanation of the Proofs of the Existence of God that first rang the bell of 14-year-old Bob Barron. [A Western Springs resident, he transferred to Benet Academy in Lisle.]
I often say to myself, “There is a God and it is not me.” When we recognize that we are dependent on a power beyond ourselves (12-step programs would call it a Higher Power,) we are on the path to faith. We begin this journey with the destruction of self-centeredness and ego. Christian theology calls it “death to self.” In the gospel of John, Jesus tells us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces great fruit.”
I am not sure which way the doors open for the Fenwick library. If I pause and envision myself entering the library right now, I am fairly certain they open outwards. I think I might even be willing to bet money on that. However, I also remember many instances of pushing instead of pulling (or is that pulling instead of pushing?) and watching others make the same mistake. On three different occasions in the last year, I have been standing outside the door as a faculty member tried to open it incorrectly and one of us referenced the Far Side comic where a child attempts to enter the school for the gifted by pushing a door marked pull. Everyone chuckled.
When I was growing up, I admit I found that particular Far Side comic funny out of condescension – I was laughing at the fool. Perhaps that is a normal reaction for people on the near side of life experience. We can laugh at mistakes we never imagine ourselves making. Yet when we enter the complexity of life, the joke rapidly loses its humor (at least when you are the idiot at the door). It is indeed hard to laugh while you are gaining perspective in life and your ego is being checked. On the other side of experience, however, the joke actually becomes even funnier. Who hasn’t been the fool? Who of us doesn’t do inexplicably stupid things at times? Unexpectedly, the simple joke turns rich and deep.
What on earth does any of this have to do with theology classes at Fenwick? Permit me one last piece and then I hope it will be clear. For a few months I have been pondering a quote attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, “I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” This movement from simplicity through complexity to a new simplicity is what so much of life is about – jokes are funnier once you have lived enough to get them; skills are useful when you can do them without thinking; love purified by trials is the only type that truly inspires. These are all simple yet mature. Nor is the difference in simplicity hard to see. For example, both a kindergartner and Pope Francis can tell you “God is love,” but the similarity is deceptive. One who has seen the evils and pains of this world but holds fast to the fundamental claim that “God is love” says much, much more. Truth, authentic and simple, stirs the heart to laugh, love, or cry.
This movement through complexity grounds theology at Fenwick. Of course, no one will ever accomplish it during high school, but the road through ambiguity to truth is the one we strive to walk. For many it is an uncomfortable road as they are used to the simplicity of religion. They are not wrong – Christianity does give simple answers, whether that is the command to love like Christ or the content of the Apostle’s Creed. Too often, though, simplicity is misunderstood or seen in childish ways. Believing it can appear as stupid as pushing a door marked pull. So our goal is to wander into the complex to refine it. To ponder anything in hopes of finding the source of everything — that is what we do.
To me, this is what sets a Catholic education apart. Here you can openly wrestle with the biggest questions: what is the meaning of life? Is there anything after death? Does God exist? What is God like? How do I interact with God? Who is Jesus Christ? What does it really mean to love another person? What does it mean to be me? It is a daunting task for teachers and students alike. However, it is a more fruitful task when you aren’t left to do it alone. Together, as Fenwick Friars and members of the Body of Christ, we do have hope of seeing reality clearly even if we must do so through cloudy glass.
Life, study and teaching have confirmed this for me: no one really wants to remain lost in the questions forever. We really do want to know which way the door opens and not spend all day debating the existence of the door. According to Aristotle, all people desire to know. He placed contemplation of transcendent truth at the heart of life. Centuries later, a man named Jesus claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” That is a deceptively simple answer if there ever was one. But for the person who has wrestled with theology, it can also be a comfort and a joy far deeper than the humor of watching your colleagues push a door marked pull.
About the Author
Brother Joe Trout, O.P. (“BroTro”) is Chair of the Theology Department at Fenwick and an assistant coach for Boys’ Track and Girls’ Cross Country. He grew up in Fort Wayne, IN, and graduated from Purdue University in 2009 where he studied Math Education. For a year Br. Trout taught middle school math in Crawfordsville, IN, before entering the Dominican Order in 2010. He completed a Masters in Theology from Aquinas Institute in 2015, focusing his research on the relationship between morality and psychology based on the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas , O.P. As a Dominican, he also worked at Holy Rosary/Santo Rosario Parish in Minneapolis doing bilingual youth ministry, religious education and adult faith formation.
Notably, he is a Dominican Cooperator Brother — not a priest. Dominican Friars are mostly priests, but the Order also has had non-ordained brothers from the beginning. Br. Trout says he enjoys being part of a global effort to promote the brother vocation, presenting on it to Dominicans internationally.
Brian Hickey ’12 returned home to Western Springs, IL, from North Africa earlier this month. The Fenwick and Valpo alumnus reflected on his past four months teaching refugee children in Djibouti:
December 28, 2017
Although there is no evidence of Christmas in Djibouti, our community was able to celebrate and reflect on the Word becoming flesh. After living in the birthplace of Jesus for a year, Christmas will never quite be the same. There is a power the mind can hardly comprehend in experiencing where love came down in the form of a baby boy in a place that animals feed. In a few days, I also hope you get to celebrate the gift of life we have been given in living another year in this world.
It is easy to constantly have the difficult moments or stories at the forefront of my mind when speaking or writing about my experiences in the Middle East and Africa. However, there are also moments of joy and triumph amidst many personal challenges or communal problems that come living in an underdeveloped country. In the spirit of light coming into the world at Christmas to overcome darkness, I will highlight a few of these moments from the past four months.
Saturday Morning Soccer
It rarely rains in Djibouti. However, when it does it usually pours for a short amount of time and produces huge pools of water and minor flooding due to a nonexistent sewage system. This can cause frustration and annoyance. It poured briefly one Saturday while I was serving breakfast to our boys at Caritas. On Saturday mornings, we bring about 40 of the boys to an open area to play soccer.
The “field” turned into a slippery mess of rainwater, mud and cement. This only enhanced the fun as we slipped and muddied ourselves for a couple hours. All the boys were able to laugh at themselves and each other. It didn’t matter that we do not play on a real field, have proper equipment or are competing for a prize. We had one another.
5th Grade Mohamed
Mohamed is a new student at the school this year. When school began in September, he knew only a few English words. He soon became overwhelmed because everyone in the class was way ahead of him and he would usually sit in class all day staring off into space and not doing anything. Honestly, I sometimes wondered how long he would stay in the school. You would never guess this is the same student I have in my class today.
I’m not sure if I said something that gave him a spark or something else clicked for him, but Mohamed has become the hardest working student in the class. He is always trying to understand what we read or work on in class. Whenever he comes to ask me a question and subsequently understands, a giant smile comes across his face as he gives me a fist pump.
This smile and proclamation of understanding is another moment of joy that sticks with me. Mohamed also enjoys testing me with written Arabic words as I continue to try to understand the language. I believe most people, especially kids, are not “bad” or “dumb” but just need someone to believe in them.
Several times per week, I enjoy going for a run in the morning. There is a small stretch of sand along the sea on my running route. Many of the street children sleep on this stretch of sand along with other homeless people. It is obviously striking to see these boys waking up and wandering the streets before going to Caritas.
Often times as I run, I’ll hear the boys shout in my direction off the road. They love telling me at Caritas that they saw me running as well. The moments of great joy are when they come and run barefoot beside me for a distance. Many people driving or walking give a funny look to a street kid and a white westerner running together. However, they do not understand our relationship. This is always my favorite part of my day.
As you [may] know, last year I lived and worked in Bethlehem in the West Bank. Even more than my time in South Africa and Zambia, Bethlehem will always feel like home because it was my first full-time job and I built many close relationships. Three weeks ago, I had tremendous sorrow as old neighbors, close friends and former students felt neglect and betrayal due to our country’s announcement about Jerusalem. No matter one’s opinion about the announcement, the consequences are real for all those I came to love in Palestine. I could hardly believe my eyes as I saw a video, directly outside my old apartment, of the aftermath of a truck coming into Palestinian territory and mowing down residents before crashing into another car.
All the students I was able to communicate with in wake of the announcement and initial protests were certain that the 3rd Intifada [Palestinian uprising] is imminent. They feel that they will be even more forgotten by the rest of the world and lose the few opportunities they have. A family, who was always generous in taking care of me, is in danger of shutting down their restaurant (next to the separation wall) for an extended time due to constant protests. Other friends will be negatively impacted by what the announcement will do to the tourism industry in Bethlehem. Please pray for peace and that our leaders are cognizant of our neglected Christian brothers and sisters in Bethlehem as well as all Palestinians.
Finally, as the New Year commences I invite you to seek joy in every situation. Like the day of muddy morning soccer, forget what you don’t have and focus on what you do and the opportunities in front of you. Just as Mohamed has done, stop thinking about what you cannot do and chase the dream or opportunity you believe is too difficult or inconvenient. Just as I am energized by running with migrants and refugees, seek out a marginalized person or people group to invest financially or with your attention and time. This will bring you more energy or joy than simply investing in yourself.
A baby born, on the run from violence, in the Middle East has brought more meaning and light in my life (and hopefully yours) than I could have imagined. That light overcomes complacency or darkness in our lives and leads us to our final destination. Invest in that relationship this year whether it is investigating the doubts you have or spending more time with Him.
February 13, 2018
For as long as I can remember, I always eagerly anticipated springtime and the weather getting warmer at this time of year. Perhaps, it was just looking forward to March Madness, high school tennis season or our annual Spring Break trip in college. I am sure you are looking forward to getting rid of the snow and embracing warmer weather and sunshine. In Djibouti, the weather is getting to that point in the afternoon when you cannot be outside for more than five to 10 minutes before beginning to sweat.
The days can certainly feel long, but, as usual, the weeks and months have been going fast. Spring is almost here! The following are a few happenings/highlights since my last update.
In early January, we loaded up a few buses and took the Caritas boys to a nearby beach (away from the beach where many of them sleep). We spent most of the day on the beach playing soccer, throwing a football, blasting music and swimming in the sea. We also enjoyed lunch and snacks. At the end of our day at the beach, the boys received Christmas gifts consisting of shoes/sandals, a shirt, pants and some candy. This was the only Christmas gift that they received. I know this day will most likely be the highlight of the year for each of the boys. It was also probably my favorite day thus far in Djibouti.
As you can imagine, there are many stories from Caritas that stick with me. Rhakeem, only about four or five years younger than me, was a bit slow and off when I first met him. He would always seem to be just staring off into space, and he kept a small notebook with the names of the people at Caritas to remember. Sometimes, he would come up to me and say (in broken English) that his head was banging. Younger boys, not knowing any better, would say that he is crazy.
Rhakeem could be considered an ‘economic migrant’ when he fled desperate conditions in Ethiopia. Soon after, Rhakeem got in contact with a human smuggler that would bring him by boat to Yemen. Due to the instability and civil war in the country, many African migrants and refugees take the risk to go through Yemen in hope for greater opportunities in neighboring countries. They certainly do not know the true dangers that await in the war-torn country and are given deceitful assurances by the smugglers.
Although all the details are not known, when Rhakeem arrived by boat to Yemen he was held hostage possibly by smugglers or another group in the country. He was raped and struck in the head by an AK-47. Rhakeem was rescued by an aid organization and brought back to Djibouti, but not without certain brain damage and emotional trauma from the experience. Somehow, he made it to Caritas. Early last month, he was brought back to Ethiopia by the international migration force in Africa to hopefully receive the treatment he desperately needs. I always enjoyed interacting with Rhakeem. As with many here, it is frustrating and frightening to think about his needs and not knowing what his future holds.
Last month, Caritas hosted the inaugural “All Brothers and Sisters 5K Race.” When the idea came up for something like this in early October, I was skeptical that it would come to fruition because events like this do not typically occur in Djibouti. We brought the event to the proper authorities for permission and it took them a month to respond to approve the race. Three days before the race was to occur, the local authorities said we had to postpone because the president had a meeting the same morning. The government certainly does not like to make things easy for outsiders, especially when a Christian organization is seeking cooperation with an event.
Nonetheless, the race was rescheduled for the following Friday and we had over 250 people come, including several foreign militaries, kids from my school and others, a running team from Caritas, and ex-pats from NGOs and embassies. The event focused on bringing everyone together from Christians and Muslims to locals and foreigners. There is often tension and prejudice toward different groups in Djibouti such as Christians being referred to as ‘criminals’ or ‘pigs.’ It was a great event to experience these different people groups coming together in the name of Caritas.
As winter turns to spring, we also welcome the season leading to the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years later, we exalt and give our lives to a man given a criminal’s death on a cross. Of course, this was not just ‘a man,’ and the Roman capital punishment was only a tool to magnify what our Heavenly Father did to destroy death. I am not sure it can be fully comprehended that the creator of the universe did this for you and me to have abundant life at the present moment in the year 2018.
It is so easy to only stay focused on our own concerns, comfort, present or future. I know I can become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of severe poverty, despair or violence in the region that it is easy to just freeze and want to give up. However, this is when the knowledge of Christ comes to the forefront of my mind and the acknowledgment of the power that lives within me becomes fully alive. We are wasting our time if we are not making an impact for Christ wherever we are planted.
Whether working at a hedge fund or a faraway country, realize the space around you is to be used to bring Heaven unto earth. Look to the things that are above our culture and situation. Focus on what transcends current circumstances and remember that our victory has already been won. There is nothing left to claim or prove that can be greater than what has already been obtained.
April 10, 2018
Almost eight months ago, I set off to a country I did not know much about except that it was surrounded by war-torn countries: Somalia and Yemen. I certainly won’t forget walking off the airplane in Djibouti in the middle of the night and feeling like I’ve entered a sauna. Djibouti has had unique challenges and a culture distinct from the other countries where I’ve served. The days sometimes felt long, but the months went by quickly. In a few days, I will begin the 36-hour travel back to Chicago.
I’ve seen the effects of war and hunger, hopelessness and despair, but I’ve also seen sacrificial love in people providing for one another. I’ve seen differences in nationalities or religion transcended by a desire to counter suffering. I’ve seen the power of friendships in walking through whatever comes one’s way in life. I’ve seen joy in what looks like massive struggle. The following is what has stuck with me since my last update.
Walks of Life
Throughout my time in Djibouti, I’ve been fortunate to encounter people from various walks of life. I’ve met a team of people that have spent time in the some of the worst humanitarian situations in our lifetime. I heard firsthand accounts of ISIS in Mosul, blown-out cities in Syria, deep despair in South Sudan, and death of children in Yemen. I’ve met Yemeni and Somali refugees trudging through their new situations after having their lives uprooted by violence and war.
While I’ve formed friendships with members of the military from several countries, I also am friendly with people who sleep on cardboard during the night and see me when they begin their day on the street. I’ve truly experienced that as iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens another with one deep friendship I’ve had in Djibouti. I’ve walked with boys trying to survive life on their own on the streets of a foreign country.
Life Lost, Saved and Found
Last month, we received word that a 1st grader at our school had suddenly died. The boy had a high fever and his parents took him to a hospital. The hospital injected him with medication before being directed to another hospital. The next hospital also injected him with medication and it is believed the mixed injections probably killed him. Obviously, it was pretty shocking that a healthy young boy would suddenly die within a couple days of being sick. Many of the people here attributed the death to simply being “God’s (Allah) will.” They do not know that the God we know brings abundant life and is not a thief in taking the presence of this young boy from his family, friends, and school.
In addition to the work with the boys at Caritas, there is also a small medical clinic at the facility for the poor, migrants and refugees. Recently, a foreign pediatrician from one of the militaries was at the clinic for the day. A Somali woman came in to seek sustenance for her baby. The pediatrician checked on a cleft on the baby’s face and stated that the baby had to get to the local hospital immediately. While the woman was hesitant to go, it was determined that if the baby did not get treatment that day she would probably die. Thankfully, the child received the necessary treatment to keep her alive.
Over the past few months, there has been a local addition to our Christian community. A Djiboutian police officer, Ayele, in his late 20s has been volunteering at Caritas and been around our compound quite a bit. He comes from a Muslim background (as do nearly all Djiboutians) but has come to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and was first attracted to Christianity due to our services to the poor and vulnerable. There is certainly animosity toward Christians in Djibouti so, especially as a government employee, Ayele will face persecution in his decision to follow Christ. He will be baptized in a few weeks. Ayele’s story makes all the difficult conditions and challenges in Djibouti worth it.
At the beginning of August, I will continue my mission in a different capacity than Bethlehem and Djibouti. I will be attending the University of Notre Dame to study Global Affairs with a specialization for two years. I could not be more excited to join 35-40 talented students from around the world at Notre Dame. We will be interacting with policy influencers such as former White House chiefs of staff, CIA directors and heads of states. It will certainly be a change to go from the Middle East and North Africa to a place I’m quite familiar with in ND, but I’m eager for a challenging and rewarding experience in preparing to further impact the world for the Kingdom of God.
It is difficult to find the right words to finish out this last update. The last few years have left me shaking my head in wonder of how I’ve been able to have these life experiences I could never have even imagined several years ago. Yet, I realize this all blossomed from my knees in Stellenbosch, South Africa, as I said “yes” to God to take me where my trust is without borders.
The day after Easter I shared the story of Jesus from start to finish to my class as I further explained why we did not have school on Easter Sunday. I received numerous questions from my Muslim students and the class was as quiet as it has been since the school year began. I could tell it had a major effect on at least two Muslim boys in the class. One of them stared off into the distance for five to 10 minutes after asking if we will meet Jesus in Heaven if we make it. Another boy was asking me more questions the next day.
I know the Gospel shook those in my class to their core in hearing, for the first time, the radical way God seeks to have a relationship with us. If you had the cure for cancer would you not want to tell everyone about it? Well, we have the cure to laying down all bitterness, ego, pride and shame to live life abundantly and proclaim the good news of the empty tomb. We know the cure for death and have the ability to live forever. We have the opportunity to make decisions to impact lives that will echo into eternity.
Thank you for all your support and encouragement in many capacities over the past few years. As I’ve written, this could not have been possible alone.
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
A Fenwick alumnus saved his valedictory address from 72 years ago. We publish it here to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day.
By Jim Wilson ’45
In 1945, Fenwick Commencement Exercises took place on June 10th, one month after Germany’s surrender from World War II. In August of that year, the United States would drop two atomic bombs on Japanese cities.
For the past four years Fenwick’s graduates have been embarking on a pretty dark world. They have shouldered this responsibility of freeing that world from fear, slavery, and oppression. Because of the zeal with which they have met this responsibility we, of the class of 1945, are able to look beyond the tragedy of war and visualize a peaceful world, void of fear and oppression. We realize the responsibility of procuring a Christian peace that will be a fitting memorial, especially to those 38 Fenwick graduates who have given their lives in this conflict, and thereby made our graduation a step into a more peaceful world.
But some will ask: “Are we prepared for such a job? Are we taking enough with us from Fenwick? What have we achieved during our last four years?” These questions make us look back and meditate on our years in Fenwick. We see the progress we have made and the change that has come over us since we first became Fenwick boys. What we see makes us certain that we are ready to assume the responsibilities that the world will impose on us.
Scholastically we are prepared. We have learned how to think, how to reason. We have delved into many different fields, into the arts and sciences. We have not only learned how to form our own ideas but how to express them, both by speech and by the pen. Our high school days have been spent with our teachers, men expert in their fields, with whom association alone was enough to stimulate our intellects in the pursuit of knowledge. Intellectually, Fenwick has abundantly prepared us.
But a full education depends upon much more than scholastic or intellectual training. The mere sharpening of wits, the sheer procuring of knowledge can be used either for good or for evil. Intellectual enlargement is dangerous unless it is accompanied by a corresponding moral growth. Our years at Fenwick have certainly been a stimulus to this moral growth. This development, however, has not been entirely dependent upon religion classes. The application of God and of moral standards to the other subjects, the discipline, the religious opportunities at Fenwick have all been instrumental in giving us a full Christian education. The faculty itself is composed of men, of priests who have devoted their lives to the development of this moral growth and education. Continue reading “Visualizing a Peaceful World (in the mid-1940s)”