On June 26th, 28 people from all over the United States came to the village of Fanjeaux, France, to spend 10 days together exploring faith. What drew us to this beautiful and remote region of Southwestern France was the Dominican Spirituality Pilgrimage: “Deepening the Dominican Spirit.” Organized by the Sisters of St. Dominic and Fenwick President Father Richard Peddicord, O.P., this trip traces the footsteps of St. Dominic. He began his mission in the 13th century in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains in Fanjeaux.
We stayed in the convent of Ste. Dominique. Our days were comprised of day trips, talks on Dominican life and spirituality, mass, reflection, free time and daily communal meals of delicious French food. The places we visited included:
Toulouse, the city where Dominic gathered the first friars.
Carcassonne, the walled medieval city where Dominic preached.
Montsegur, the mountain refuge of the Cathars.
Prouilhe, the first convent founded by St. Dominic in 1206 and still running today.
Sorèze, the village where Father Lacordaire established a Dominican school.
Fr. Peddicord led the talks, including “Truth as a Motto of the Dominican Order,” “Art as Preaching” and “The Life of St. Dominic.” We learned that Dominic was a holistic thinker who valued the quest for truth and believed in contemplation, prayer and sharing one’s knowledge. I was impressed by his faith, his commitment to truth and his compassion for all people. Dominic’s vision for spreading the gospel led to the creation of the Order of Friars in 1216.
Fun fact: Do you know the difference between a friar and a monk? A friar goes into the world and shares his faith through preaching and good works, while a monk is cloistered.
Catholic high school’s spiritual leader does not take for granted the partnership
forged with the greater, local community over nine decades.
Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., President of Fenwick High School
Ninety years ago next week, the Dominican Order
established a college-preparatory secondary school on Washington Blvd.,
bordered by East Ave., Scoville Ave. and Madison St. When Fenwick High School
opened on September 9, 1929, some 200 boys ventured through its wooden,
church-like doors. Many of them walked to school from their homes in Oak Park
and on the West Side, while others coming from farther away in Chicago took
Over these many years, Fenwick has survived and
thrived, despite the Great Depression (which started six weeks after the school
opened!), world wars and changing times, including enrolling female students in
the early 1990s. However, the mission at the outset has stood the test of time:
Guided by Dominican Catholic values, our priests, instructors, coaches,
administrators and staff members inspire
excellence and educate each student to lead, achieve and serve.
Fenwick today has a co-educational enrollment of
nearly 1,150 students as well as two Golden Apple-winning teachers on its
esteemed faculty. Our school’s impressive list of alumni includes a Skylab
astronaut, Rhodes Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, a Heisman Trophy recipient and
other leaders making a positive influence locally and internationally.
From our beginning, Fenwick and Oak Park always have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship. “Fenwick and the Village of Oak Park have a long history of working together,” Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb has stated. “From its inception, our fortunes and our futures have been intertwined.”
As an investment in our future in Oak Park, last month we began construction on a six-story parking structure seeded with generous funding by former McDonald’s CEO and alumnus Michael R. Quinlan, Class of 1962. By next summer, some 325 cars will be taken off the streets, so to speak.
“With this new garage, Fenwick will be taking a major step toward reducing its impact on the neighborhood,” Mr. Abu-Talen noted at the August 13 garage groundbreaking ceremony. The private school “has always worked to be a great neighbor …,” and “also is a key partner in the development of the Madison corridor.
“Fenwick has been a great contributor to Oak Park in many ways,” the Mayor continued: “first, as an educational institution of national reputation; second, as a Catholic school filling the needs of a diverse and inclusive community.”
We are, indeed, proud of our racial and socio-economic diversity. More than 30% of our talented student body identifies as something other than Caucasian, and we provide nearly $2.5 million in need-based financial aid annually to our students through the generosity of many benefactors.
They come to Oak Park
As Mayor Abu-Taleb notes, “Fenwick always has been a reason why many families choose to live in Oak Park — and the reason many others visit the Village and support our local economy.” Last school year, our students came from more than 60 cities, towns and municipalities, including these top 20:
Welcome to Pleasant Home for the 28th Fenwick Fathers’ Club Frosh Family Picnic. We started his event in 1992 to welcome Fenwick’s first coeducational class. Three of the members of that Class of 1996 now serve on the Fenwick faculty. Pleasant Home, like Fenwick, is located in St. Edmund’s Parish. The first Catholic Mass celebrated in Oak Park was held in the barn that serviced this building.
Fenwick is the only high school in the United States sponsored
by Dominican Friars. Dominicans lead lives of virtue. Humility is the greatest
of all the virtues. We are humbled by the confidence families place in us by
sending us their adolescents for formation. It is a teacher’s greatest joy to
be surpassed by his students. We are pleased to see so many of our former
students here today as parents of students in the class of 2023. We are pleased
to welcome our first fourth generation Friar! We have a member of the class of
2023 with us today who follows in the footsteps of a great grandfather,
grandfather and father.
Every high school in the United States has a legal obligation to the state legislature, which charters it to train patriotic citizens and literate workers. As a Dominican school, Fenwick follows the Thomist educational philosophy. A Thomist school has an obligation to our Creator, the Supreme Being to train moral, servant-leaders of society. The late Ed Brennan, a Fenwick alumnus and CEO of Sears, was once asked what course he studied in his graduate school of business that best prepared him to be the chief executive of a Fortune 500 Corporation. Mr. Brennan replied, “Nothing I studied in business school prepared me for my job. The only class that prepared me was Moral Theology during my junior year at Fenwick High School.”
Training moral, servant-leaders
Our freshman students will learn this year in history class that we are in an Axial Age. Everything changes in an Axial Age. We have had an Agricultural Revolution, which made us farmers. We have had an Industrial Revolution, which made us factory workers. We are entering an Information Revolution, which will make us computer scientists. We study the past to understand the present to shape the future. We do not know what challenges beyond our present comprehension the future may bring. We must be prepared to be the moral, servant-leaders of our society so we can enable others to meet these challenges. Therefore, Moral Theology is the most important subject that our students study.
The Dominicans are the Order of Preachers and have the
initials, O.P., after their names. All of our students will study speech as sophomores.
The lessons we learn in class are important or we would
not bother to teach them. Even more important, however, are the lessons we
learn inside our building but outside of the classroom. Three of the Dominican Pillars are Prayer,
Community and Study. Once a month we assemble in our Auditorium to celebrate
Mass. It is appropriate that we meet in community to pray before we study.
The most important lessons we learn at Fenwick are taught
outside of the building. All of our students will make a Kairos religious
retreat during their senior year. This is the most important thing we do at
I am going to identify three activities that will
enhance our Fenwick Experience. The first is for adults. The second is for
adolescents. The third is for families. These suggestions are based on
educational research. They are neither my opinions nor intuitive thoughts. Pedagogy
is the science of education. These suggestions come from empirical pedagogical
research and enjoy a measure of scientific certitude.
Adults should be active in parent associations. Vibrant parent associations are in indicator of excellence for a school. Do not just join. Do not just pay dues. Get active. Make a difference.
Adolescents should participate in student activities. This does not mean just sports. It includes all manner of student clubs such as speech, drama, student government, art and music.
Families should eat dinner together. They should shut off the television. They should put down the smart phone. They should talk with one another.
The mom of five Friars addressed fellow Mothers’ Club members at the 2019 Fenwick Senior Mass & Brunch celebration earlier this month.
By Susan Lasek
Good afternoon Fenwick mothers, guardians, the Senior Class of 2019, Father Peddicord, Mr. Groom and Faculty. I am honored to be here speaking to you about my family’s Fenwick experience: a faith-filled journey that began in August of 2009 and will end on May 24 of this year.
Boy, 10 years go by quickly, especially with five
children, all with different personalities and interests who participated in a
variety of clubs and sports offered at Fenwick. Why did my family choose
Fenwick? Well, I go back to two very precious gifts that were given to me and
the gift of family and parenthood
the gift of faith
Both Mark and I were lucky enough to grow up in
families that were very close and where family was always #1. We also feel the
gift of faith is immeasurable — one that our families value very deeply. This
is why Mark and I decided to send our kids to a Catholic high school. After
researching all the private and public schools, Fenwick was our first choice,
hands down, no questions. We felt that it was important for our kids to be
reminded of their faith every day. We felt they would have an excellent
education that would prepare them for college. Bottom line, as a mother: It was
most important for my kids to be in a safe and faith-filled environment.
Why Fenwick? “It was most important for my kids to be in a safe and faith-filled environment.”
What made Fenwick unique in our mind was the entire Fenwick community. You are not just going to high school; you are joining the Fenwick family. You are joining a community that will be with you for the rest of your life. Whether you are the class of 2019 or the class of 1990, it doesn’t matter because you are all part of the Fenwick family.
Some of the things that make Fenwick unique and stand
Prayers are included in every aspect of a
student’s life, from the start of the day, to sporting events, theater and
How beautiful it is that Father Peddicord
greets everyone by name after school and wishes them a good rest of the day?
Kairos is one of the most emotional,
faith-filled experiences that touches every student. The three-day retreat
brings students together who may not know each other very well and provides an
opportunity for support and friendship.
Fenwick is truly a college-prep school.
Every one of my children that went off to college thanked us for sending them
to Fenwick because they felt so well prepared for their college education and
What is Friar Nation: “You are joining a community that will be with you for the rest of your life.”
To sum it up, we are thankful for the leadership that
helped guide our children from being impressionable kids to strong,
independent-minded young adults. We are grateful for their experiences that
provided a strong base of faith and knowledge that will carry them into the
next phase of their lives. We are appreciative of the entire leadership and
staff at Fenwick for genuinely caring for each and every student. Teachers at
Fenwick forge great relationships with their students, providing support,
guidance and instruction.
Overall, Fenwick instilled a sense of tradition in our
kids that make them feel as though they are a part of something bigger. I’d
like to close with the following phrase our kids hear during the morning
announcements at the beginning of every school day:
our experiences are defined by our choices. Today, make great choices. Make
today a great day or not, that choice is yours!”
Fenwick is forever in our hearts and minds. God Bless
About the Author
Sue Lasek and her husband, Mark, reside in Hinsdale. All five of the couple’s five children have attended Fenwick. A quick update on each one:
Mark II, a current graduate (Class of ’19), will attend the University of Wisconsin – Madison this fall and study physics with a minor in finance.
Josephine ’18 just finished her freshman year at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is studying nursing.
Charlotte attended Fenwick from 2011-13. She will graduate from DePaul University on June 15, 2019, with a degree in neuropsychology. Charlotte had the opportunity to work with DePaul/NASA on a project that involved researching astronauts’ brains.
Chris ’14 is currently working on his degree in architecture at College of DuPage and is working on a few projects with area architectural firms.
Rich ’13 graduated from University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2017 with a degree in economics. He is employed by Core Spaces, one of the country’s top leaders in student housing. Rich manages the Ambassador Program across the United States and conducts market research for the firm; he also is involved with business development.
While students sleep in, instructors and school administrators reflect on the spiritual side of their teaching ministry.
By Brother John Steilberg, O.P.
During the course of the school year, the faculty and staff at Fenwick participate in Dominican Formation Days. These late-start dates for students are an opportunity for the faculty and staff to reflect on who we are as a Catholic and Dominican school. Dominican formation stems from our need for ongoing education and formation in Catholic values vital to the mission of our school. We would like to share some thoughts shared by our faculty and staff after attending our most recent Dominican formation day in February.
One faculty member commented, “Dominican formation helps us better understand the Dominican tradition central to our school identity and helps us strengthen community with one another.” Another faculty relayed these sentiments: “It is important for us to participate in Dominican formation so that we can continue to grow spiritually as a community and to continue to remind us of our mission.” Another stressed the need to extend our mission to how we live, teach and preach here at Fenwick every day. “I would see the purpose as continuing to reflect on how we can best understand and live out our Catholic Dominican identity in specific ways.”
Dominican formation centers on the Four Pillars of Dominican Life:
The Four Pillars are a descriptive way of explaining the essence of and daily practice of Dominican life. The Dominican friars here at Fenwick live out the pillars in a very intentional way and oftentimes in a very external way. But all of our faculty and staff, in a wide diversity of actions, live out the pillars as part of their particular Christian vocation.
“Our job at Fenwick is to do more than teach and support academically, but to show through our actions the meaning of Christ’s love.”
One teacher described this shared mission of both the Dominican friars and the staff in this way, “As teachers, we must be able to model the Dominican Catholic values of the school.” Another teacher asserted, “Also, to remind us that our job at Fenwick is to do more than teach and support academically, but to show through our actions the meaning of Christ’s love.”
The Fenwick Community
Each year, our Dominican formation programs focus on one of the four pillars in particular. This year we reflected on “community,” how we are called by God to live together as Christian people. As a community, we discussed questions such as:
What is the most important thing we do that brings us together as a community?
What issues divide us at times?
What items do we need to work on?
We also examined where are the margins of our community are and how we can bring the gospel message to those margins. Our conversation was heartfelt and lively around these difficult questions.
What Makes Fenwick Different?
In later meetings we discussed our identity as a Catholic school. What makes us different, being Catholic and Dominican, from other schools in the area? One teacher explained it this way: “Every school prepares its students to lead, achieve and serve. Not every school’s mission is predicated upon a deep theological commitment to the dignity of the human person.” One faculty member explained, “to be Catholic is to be counter-cultural. Our identity and our values need to be true to who we are — even though that may not be popular or generally accepted.”
“Not every school’s mission is predicated upon a deep theological commitment to the dignity of the human person.”
We then discussed how to avoid going too far in emphasizing what makes us different, so that we can preach Jesus’ universal message of the gospel that is meant for all of mankind. This can be a challenging balance: to be true to our Catholic identity yet open to diversity, welcoming to all people, and proclaiming God’s mercy available to every person.
Finally, we discussed where God is in this picture here at Fenwick. Faculty members expressed this idea: “God is [present] in relationships with other people, with our students and our colleagues.”
As we strive to build a faith community, what does that say about what we believe about God? What is God asking of us, as a faith community, as a high school? These are challenging questions. These are questions that may take a lifetime to answer. But that is what we are about here at Fenwick. We seek the Truth.
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.”
Fenwick’s newest Dominican brother explains how student members of the Class of 2019 have ‘met Jesus’ through their junior year Christian Service Project.
By Br. John Steilberg O.P.
The Gospels reveal to us a very basic story line just after Jesus’ resurrection on the first Easter Sunday. Soon after discovering the empty tomb, the disciples meet Jesus repeatedly. They kept meeting Jesus personally at various places and moments. After encountering Jesus in person, they were motivated and inspired to go and tell others. Our junior class knows all about this basic cycle of encountering Jesus personally, then going out and telling others about their encounter.
Just like those early disciples right after the resurrection, our juniors are meeting Jesus. Our juniors have been encountering personally in the face of the poor, the lonely, the forgotten, the unloved. At Fenwick, as part of the Christian Service Project where Gospel virtues, Catholic morality and Catholic social teaching are combined with our theology curriculum, our faith is put into action. Our juniors are currently completing a service project where they have been out in the community performing the corporal works of mercy and meeting Jesus face to face in those they serve.
Let’s listen to our juniors describe how they encountered Jesus.
“You know, you see the homeless on the streets downtown and such. But by working at this shelter, I have gotten to know many of the people from this area who come there needing help,” the student says. “I am shocked at how much need is in my own neighborhood.”
Another junior has been working at a food pantry. Serving there and meeting many of the neighbors in need has had an effect on her and how she views what is happening in her community. She even mentions the effects it has had on her own family and their approach to material things. She explains, “Every night after serving at the food pantry I sit down and talk to my mom about what happened. Just the other night we were talking about how many people come to the food pantry in need of food. Mom and I talked about how well off we are. We discussed how maybe we really don’t need so many things. We talked about how maybe we do not really need to buy that second loaf of bread.”
Friends of Fenwick, pay close attention to what these two juniors have shared. This is God speaking. This is the Holy Spirit at work in Friar Nation. This is what it means to be a friar. Listen carefully to their words and you will listen in to their personal conversation with Jesus.
We are very blessed here at Fenwick. We have been given so much by God, and we have so much to be thankful for. One thing I am thankful for is the incredible and inspirational service of our juniors this past year in the Christian Service Project. They are inspiring. Let us all take a moment to thank them personally for their service and give thanks to our Heavenly Father for sending us young people willing to serve others through the corporal works of mercy.
About the Author
Brother John Steilberg joined Fenwick’s Theology Department last summer, at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. He teaches freshman theology and organizes the Christian Service Project, whose mission is to put faith into action. “It is an opportunity to meet Christ in the poor and marginalized of our community and an opportunity to serve others as taught by the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he explains. “All Fenwick Friars participate in the Christian Service Project as we bring the corporal works of mercy to those in need.”
Family of Friars, Nuns and Sisters welcomes faculty member Mr. Joseph Konrad and alumnus Dr. Victor Romano ’76.
Joe Konrad (left) and Dr. Vic “Rocky” Romano
Congratulations to faculty member Mr. Joseph Konrad and alumnus Victor “Rocky” Romano, M.D. ’76, who recently made lifetime profession of promises as part of the Lay Fraternity of St. Dominic! “This is important to for a number of reasons,” says Father Douglas Greer, O.P., the Theology Teacher who started our local Bishop Fenwick Chapter five years ago. “Joe and Rocky’s presence increases Dominican presence and character within the Fenwick community, further enabling us to accomplish our preaching mission.
“Their presence is also a witness to the vibrancy and variety of our 800-year-old Order, which is alive, thriving and growing,” Fr. Greer continues. “We have thousands of members spread across the branches all over the world.”
Members of the Fraternities of St. Dominic are non-clergy laymen and laywomen who are fully incorporated members of the Order of Preachers and live out their Dominican vocation in the world. Lay Dominicans, who in the past have been called Third Order or Dominican Tertiaries, have existed almost as long as the Dominican Order itself. Founded with their own rule in 1285, the Lay Fraternities of St. Dominic was officially recognized by the Church on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas in 1286.
Lay Dominicans “are accordingly distinguished both by their own spirituality and by their service to God and neighbor in the Church. As members of the Order, they participate in its apostolic mission through prayer, study and preaching according to the state proper to the laity,” according to the Rule of the Lay Fraternity #4. They come from every background, joining the Dominican charism to their state of life in the world. In this unique Dominican way, they live out their special vocation “to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.” (Lumen Gentium 31)
What this means is that “they help us preach the gospel in ways consonant with being lay and mostly married people,” Fr. Doug explains. “So, their preaching ministry will not consist in pulpit or liturgical preaching. Instead, it will consist in preaching through the lived witness of their lives as Christian disciples. In Dominic’s time before we were called the Order of Preachers and (later) Dominicans, we referred to ourselves as the sacra praedicatio, ‘the Holy Preaching.’ Thus, there was a consonance between what we did, who we were and how we lived. The witness of our lives is a primary and fundamental form of preaching ministry.”
One Fenwick priest was there in Texas on November 22, 1963, when our country and a new Catholic high school in Dallas were brought to their knees.
By Father Richard LaPata, O.P., President Emeritus of Fenwick High School
There are some memories that are fleetingly dismissed as soon as they surface in our minds. They are recalled for a split second and then disappear, perhaps never to return again. Other experiences in our lives are sometimes deeply embedded, often return and impress themselves once more in all their detail.
A memory that I will never forget has never laid dormant for long. It visited me once again as I read of the recent release of documents concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
It was the summer of 1963. I was a young priest, happily engaged in my first teaching assignment at Fenwick. But Fr. Marr, our Provinicial, had other plans for me and eight other Dominicans. We were assigned to help found a new Catholic high school in Dallas, TX.
I was not particularly pleased to go to Texas, a place I had never been and knew very little about. But I found wonderful families down there who were welcoming, generous and delighted to have nine new priest-teachers in their community. At any rate, we opened the school in late August and shared an exciting time creating a new educational endeavor with eight Dominican Sisters who also were assigned to Bishop Lynch High School.
Then fall came and November came, and an American tragedy occurred. On November 23rd, President Kennedy and his wife came to Dallas. Riding in a motorcade on downtown Dallas streets lined with thousands of people, he was shot and killed, seconds before reaching his planned destination.