For 88 years now, nearly 200 friars have rolled up their sleeves to help make Fenwick a beacon of light and hope.
By Father Jim Marchionda, O.P.
Dominican friar Father James Dominic Kavanaugh “worked all day long with the housecleaning brigade, putting his hand to any task that presented itself with a good will and cheerfulness that were an inspiration in themselves.” – from the Rosary Convent Annals of October 5, 1922
Years before Fenwick High School first opened its doors nearly 88 years ago, Dominican friars flourished in a multitude of ways throughout the developing western suburbs of Chicago. Dominicans have made major contributions and significant differences in the lives of countless high school and college students, parents of students, members of their own Dominican Family, and thousands upon thousands of parishioners in the villages of Oak Park, River Forest and beyond, for close to 100 years.
The opening quote above, referring to the dirty, dusty and dramatic opening days of Rosary College (now Dominican University) in River Forest, Illinois, established by our beloved Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, demonstrates the meaning, joy and power of collaboration that has existed between Dominican women and men for centuries. Fr. Kavanaugh, then chaplain at the Sinsinawa Mound (located near Dubuque, Iowa), came to Chicago with the sisters, rolled up his sleeves, got down on his hands and knees and did whatever work was necessary in preparation for the opening of Rosary College in 1922. For eight full days, he helped wherever and however he could. All those many years ago, Fr. Kavanaugh already resembled the brave, bold words that our own Pope Francis has used to describe and define anew how priests, bishops and all ecclesial leaders can best serve the church of today. “Roll up your sleeves and get to work!” (Pope Francis interview: “A Big Heart Open to God”)
Advancing the spirit of Dominican collaboration on the West side of Chicago, friars served as chaplains at both Rosary College and Trinity High School for many years. Residing at the Dominican House of Studies on the corner of Harlem Avenue and Division Street in River Forest, friars provided great spiritual formation to both men and women. It was in the early 1920s that Cardinal Mundelein gave the Dominican Friars permission to build the House of Studies on the condition that they also found a high school in the archdiocese. We are well-aware of the great grandeur that followed. On September 9, 1929, 11 Dominican priests opened wide Fenwick’s doors to 200 students, leading to the first graduating class of 1932. By 1936, a mere seven years later, Fenwick won its First Catholic League football championship. It did not take long for the Fenwick Friars to flex their cumulative muscles, demonstrating their great aptitude for sports, while at the same time raising the bar for the decades that followed!
Build and Rebuild
Even before Fenwick’s doors opened, other dynamic Dominicans such as Fr. Kavanaugh were making their own marks on the West side. Continue reading “Dominican Collaboration Spanning the Decades”