How Dominicans shaped Fenwick and the surrounding areas.
By Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P.
Saint Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) and his contemporary, St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), were 13th century religious innovators. As founders, respectively, of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders, their vision was to bring the good news of the gospel to the urban centers of Europe. The members of their religious communities, known as friars, would be present to the people of God — living and ministering in the same milieu as the people of God.
This move was revolutionary for the religious life of the time. Up to that time, the overarching model had been monastic life. The great monasteries of Europe were in the countryside. The monks worked the land and supported themselves through agriculture. They took a vow of stability — promising to remain physically attached — to their monastery. This ethos has been succinctly referred to as fuga mundi, “fleeing from the world.” The monks, who had, by entrance into the monastery, fled the world, would not go out to the people; the people would go the monks for prayer and education.
In contrast, Saint Dominic and Saint Francis began what we might call a “ministry of presence.” They and their friars would not be remote and removed from their brothers and sisters. Instead, they would live in their midst, take part in their lives, and minister to them on their own turf. They would, so to speak, embrace the world and be leaven in the world to transform the world. At the same time, they would not expend their energy in agriculture; they would live by the charity of others — recognizing that because of their ministry, the worker is worthy of his wage (cf. Luke 10:7).
Continuing the Tradition
The Dominican friars at Fenwick High School continue that ministry of presence first envisioned by St. Dominic. The friars of Fenwick are present to the Fenwick community in all aspects of the “Fenwick experience.” (And, the visible sign of their religious commitment, “the habit,” does indeed help us to stand out in a crowd!) Through our teaching, celebrating the sacraments, coaching, supervising, counseling, and cheering teams on to victory, the Dominican friars bring the good news of the gospel to the Fenwick community.
During the 2016-2017 school year, eight friars have been assigned to Fenwick by the Dominican provincial, Fr. James Marchionda, O.P. This commitment of manpower (under the general conditions of a clergy shortage) is a powerful sign of the significance of Fenwick High School in the Order’s ministerial priorities. They are:
- Richard Peddicord, O.P.—president
- Richard LaPata, O.P.—president emeritus, member of the Institutional Advancement department
- Dennis Woerter, O.P.—director of campus ministry, teacher, assistant soccer coach for boys’ and girls’ teams
- Michael Winkels, O.P.—teacher, assistant technology director, assistant hockey coach
- Douglas Greer, O.P.—teacher
- Paul Byrd, O.P.—teacher
- Nicholas Monco, O.P.—teacher, chess team coach
- Joseph Trout, O.P.—teacher, assistant cross country coach
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