Alumnus Fr. Tom Logue ’11, who grew up in the Hinsdale, IL parish of St. Isaac Jogues, returned to Fenwick on January — to preach as a priest!
By Father Thomas Logue
My name is Fr. Thomas Logue, and I graduated from this school some 12 years ago now, and I was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ just this past May.
It’s great being back in this way to celebrate this Mass. I was on Kairos with a couple of the alumni here who are my age, and many of my teachers from my time as a student are still here, which is awesome. If I recall correctly, I think in Latin class, Dr. Porter told us we wouldn’t use Latin all the much.
So, I’ve just got to say, Dr. Porter, as a priest I get to use Latin all the time: checkmate.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Conversion of St Paul. And you might be wondering, “Okay, that’s cool, Father, but what’s with the gold thing you processed in with?”
Well, I’m glad you asked! My doctor happens to be a fellow alumn, and we have worked together in healing ministry; he lent me this relic of St. Paul — I believe it is a fragment of his bone. So we’re incredibly blessed that this real man will be with us as we come to worship the real Jesus together with him.
Now, as we look at what this man experienced, coming face-to-face with God the Son in resurrected human flesh, and who was struck blind for three days thence — all these amazing things — we have to remember that Luke — the guy who wrote this down — didn’t write it down for Paul:
“Hey, Paul, want to hear the story you told me again?” “Um, no.”
God, the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write this down for me and for you, so that we might believe. It was all written for you ….
So, that begs the question: All this crazy stuff happened to this man that fundamentally changed him from a murderer of Christians into the greatest Christian witness the world has ever seen — okay.
But, what’s the import for me?
It all centers on the one question Paul asks of Jesus: “Who are You, Lord?” . . . “Who are You, Lord?”
Because, for Paul up to this point, before encountering Christ, if someone asked him, “Have you ever heard of Jesus? Who is He?” he’d ultimately say something like: “Jesus is just some dead nobody who’s keeping my life and my culture, even my worship, from what I want it to be. Just some dead nobody who’s caused me a lot of trouble.
But the genuine revelation of the Catholic faith says something quite different, otherwise this school wouldn’t exist; the Catholic faith wouldn’t exist.
Who is Jesus?
Jesus is the God who holds us in existence.
He is God the Son who took on my broken human flesh, calling first the Jewish people, and through them the whole world — me and you — back into relationship with the True and Living God, Himself. And, to do this, from our lowly human flesh, as God and as a Man, He made a perfect act of love to God the Father when He consecrated Himself a sacrifice for me and for you, and then died a torturous death by suffocation in crucifixion, and rose three days later.
“Who are You, Lord?”
But even from 13 years of Catholic schooling growing up, I feel like many, many of my peers, and even a few of my teachers, and me especially, if asked, not just on a theology test, but through the way you can really tell what someone believes — by how we live — if you asked us, “Who is Jesus?” and looked at how we live, our answers might correspond to something like:
“He’s just a good moral teacher, or maybe a revolutionary.”
Or, “He just asked us to be nice or something; He died, but He didn’t rise from the dead — He’d have to be like, God or something, lol.”
Or, “He was just a made up idea that helps people be kind.”
In our culture, and in a culture like this, when we reject Christ, we don’t usually reject Christ outright. We make a new Christ that fits my view of things. And, as a priest who I know says, “that is a very effective way of murdering Jesus Christ, to change Him to suit our own desires.” It’s not the real Jesus we talk about when we do this. We are just making up our own.
And what I felt — and some of you might know what I’m talking about, though I hope you don’t know what I’m talking about — I felt like, ironically, the Catholic culture for me growing up, and the apathy I experienced towards the faith and towards our Lord in it, which seemed louder than the Gospel — that it almost vaccinated me against Catholicism.
You might be thinking, “Vaccinated?” You know, with old school vaccines (not the new mRNA stuff) if you want to make someone immune to something that is very contagious, what you do is you take the contagious thing, you isolate it, you kill it, and then you inject the dead thing into the person, so that when they encounter the real thing out in the world, their system just says, “Oh, I know what that is, and it’s not for me.”
But what have we done the past few generations with our Catholic faith but this very thing? We isolate the fullness of the faith and the real Jesus, we give to our young people a dead, seriously deficient version of the faith, and we’re surprised they don’t practice it — when in fact we’ve vaccinated them against it.
We do this to our Catholic faith, and this has happened to many of us here. C.S. Lewis says, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
Well, this was the message I got — that it’s moderately important: like basketball or a TV show. And since this, sadly, is how many of us were raised, when confronted with Christianity and the real Jesus who calls us to repent, who calls us to change — when, in fact, we don’t want to repent; when we don’t want to change — what do we do but try and invent our own Christ.
But, tragically, we know that when we invent our own Christ, that our own “Jesus” is totally impotent; that “my Jesus” is powerless to save or forgive me; that when I erect my own “Jesus,” in my own image, the only person I worship is me. And, if I’m honest, I am powerless to save myself … and so I lock myself within my own heart.
But the real Jesus, who comes knocking on the door of our locked hearts — the One who appeared to Paul — we know and believe that He can actually do something about my life. This Man who conquered death and is alive right now, with real Blood flowing through real veins as He sits at the right hand of the Father — that He can heal me; He can save me. He comes full of mercy, full of peace, forgiveness, with genuine meaning (not the futile self-fabricated kind) — real, genuine, objective meaning from the Person who is Truth Incarnate Himself — He offers this for those who will receive Him as Lord, as Master and as Savior.
Ask Him, “Who are you, Lord?”
In my own practice of the faith, my parents went to Mass, and though I felt an affection for the Lord, the liturgy and prayer in childhood (I was even considering priesthood non-stop since I was 5), as I got into junior high and the sort of vaccination I received against Catholicism began to take effect, along with my difficulties with some of my peers and distance from my family, I began to, like Paul, frame Jesus as someone else than who He really is:
“Maybe he’s just a good teacher, probably not God,” I pondered. But this was just a cover for the fact that, even though I was interested in Jesus, I doubted that He could really be interested in me. I felt rather unloved and unwanted, and began to paint the lies on my heart over the face of God.
By the time I got into high school here at Fenwick, I was pretty convinced I was an atheist, and that Christianity was some weird scheme or money grab; it was just something I had to just endure and put up with until I graduated. But through the testimony of the priest who taught me freshman year, I began just to crack open the door of my heart, and a little bit of light began to shine into my darkness. I was beginning to believe. And, at the time, although I was dead scared of going to confession, I felt tugged towards it, and it terrified me.
My sophomore year, I was sitting next to my atheist friend up in the front row of the nosebleed seats here in the Auditorium when all-school confessions were being heard, and I finally overcame that fear and, by the grace of God, returned to confession for the first time in 9 years. It was incredible.
But I was still clinging to sin in my life, and it was slowly eating away at me. It wasn’t until my senior year about this time of year, actually — that things came to a head.
I went on the Kairos retreat and had such a profound encounter with the real Jesus that all I could do was weep on the floor in my bedroom, overwhelmed by this love I hadn’t known before, but was utterly familiar, and had been present all my life, in all of my pain. And laying prostrate before the crucifix in my room (like I saw one of the Dominicans do at his ordination), I looked up at the cross through tear-blurred eyes and said, “I will do whatever You want me to do, Jesus, just tell me what it is.”
Well, spoiler — He made that pretty clear.
Needing the Lord
But, due to my surrounding myself with less than quality friends, the following week (again, about this time of the year), I got in some very big trouble in pretty much every aspect of my life. Got 15 detentions and demerits. I was in trouble in school and out of school; it was a huge mess. I bet you didn’t think a priest alum would say something like that!
I realized through the experience of my big mess up that some ofthe friends I thought were my best friends that I had invested in for 6+ years were in fact just using me. And in my hunger for acceptance, after naming the serious wounds of rejection I’d felt for years, I found myself drifting further and further from the Lord.
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 thosewithout readily available access to books get an opportunity to read whatever piques their curiosity.
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!
The Friars’ championship football run in November brought great joy to a loyal alumnus and American hero on his final days.
Friar alumnusVernon Breen ’44 passed away on December 14, 2021. A year ago in the Fenwick Alumni News (FAN e-newsletter), we wrote about then 95-year-old Mr. Breen, who had been recognized by the Chicago Bears as part of the NFL’s “Salute to Service” in 2020. Sgt. Breen served in the U.S. Army during World War II, fought in the Battle of the Bulge and helped to liberate the Dachau concentration camp — receiving a Bronze Star for his heroics.
On December 13, 2021, one of Mr. Breen’s grandsons wrote via email to Head Football Coach Matt Battaglia:
Dear Coach Battaglia,
Congratulations on a very successful season and winning the state championship. Our grandfather, Vernon Cecil Breen is an alum of Fenwick high school, he graduated in 1944 and is still a die hard Friar fan. After graduation, Vernon was drafted to serve in WWII. After his service he returned home and worked at Central Ink Corporation and moved to Glen Ellyn.
Your team’s football season brought much joy to him this year. He keeps us up to date on the Friar’s athletics, though his main love is the football team. The last couple of months his health has declined, but was still able to watch the Friars win the state title game. My father in law said after the game was over, our grandfather was humming the fight song.
We wanted to share how much he still cares about the school and football team. Thank you for bringing him some much needed enjoyment. Best of luck in the future and again congratulations on a tremendous year. Go Friars!
P.S. – Vernon has the flag proudly hanging in his bedroom! (See below.)
The coach’s response that same day:
Thank you for sharing! This is such a great story and really humbling for me as a coach to realize something as simple as a football game can bring so much joy to those around us.
I hope Vernon is continuing to feel better! Could you please share with me a mailing address? I would love to send him a note signed by the team.
Then, on December 15, Vern’s daughter, Maureen, followed up with this note:
Dear Coach Battaglia,
I would like to add my congratulations to you and the Friars as well.
The state championship did bring a lot of joy to my dad. Sadly, he passed away yesterday. But we are so happy for him that one of the last things that he was able to enjoy was the state championship. You mentioned in your email that something as “simple as football” could bring so much joy. Sports is always about so much more than a simple game, something I learned in 1960, when at 5 years old, my dad began bringing me to Fenwick football games.
We attended several games a year, and those were treasured moments that I will never forget. I remember the first game I attended, taking in the stadium, and the excitement of the crowd. I had never seen a football game before and I had a million questions. I can still see that sunny fall afternoon in my head and the very moment when he explained to me what a first and ten was. From that day on, football, the Friars and sports in general was something that I loved sharing with my dad. I think that my family is not alone with that concept. Football and sports creates bonds, not just among teammates, but among the fans as well.
Again, congratulations. My dad was always proud to be a Friar.
Maureen Breen Barunas
Before Fenwick, Mr. Breen attended Horace Mann School and was a St. Giles parishioner. For four years, he was an avid participant intramural athletics while he was a Friar student.
In the fall ’21 Friar Reporter(page 16), we reported that alumnus Dr. Tord Alden ’85 was hired into informatics at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital (Chicago) by fellow Fenwick Friar Dr. Michael Kelleher ’75, a pediatrician who spent 17 years at Lurie (Children’s Memorial).
In 2020, Dr. Kelleher became the chief medical officer of Amita Health (Mercy Medical Center, Aurora, IL). For 11 months he chaired the COVID-19 Vaccine Steering Committee, which administered more than 50,000 doses to area health-care workers, first responders and patients.
“I had Roger Finnell for four years,” remembers Dr. Kelleher. “Roger [Fenwick Class of ’59] was a young man when I was at Fenwick. He is a wonderful math teacher and a great human being! I still remember what ‘e to the pi I’ equals.” [Euler’s formula: e^(i pi) = -1]
Kelleher also ran track and cross country for Coach John Polka for four years. “Mr. Polka was my biology teacher, too. These two men had a formative influence over me,” he notes, adding that, in the early 1970s, he was taking “regular and honors classes, which they now call AP [advanced placement], I think.”
Sneezing into med school
Graduating in three years from Northwestern University (Evanston) with a B.A. in biology, Kelleher went on to the University of Minnesota to earn a master’s degree in ecology. His study emphasis was on population genetics and statistics, but severe allergic reactions forced him to change his mind. “I had terrible allergies and couldn’t do the field work,” the doctor recalls.
Kelleher had thought about pursuing medicine in the past, and he received his M.D. in 1986 from the University of Illinois College of Medicine (Urbana and Rockford, IL). His post-graduate training took place at Wyler Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago, where he competed a residency, became chief resident and was a Pediatric Critical Care Fellow (1990-93). He also served for five years on U of C’s faculty.
Before coming home to Chicago, Dr. Kelleher spent five years in Iowa City as the head of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Once at Lurie (Children’s Memorial), he progressed up the ranks, first handling electronic medical record implementation and ascending to chief medical officer from 2003-19.
“My values were formed at Fenwick High School,” Dr. Kelleher insists, citing the service ‘mission’ of Catholic education as being integral to his experience. “There, our teachers inculcated us to provide service to others. They said that it should be a goal in life.” It’s no coincidence, he says, that several of his ’75 Friar classmates also went into the medical field.
In November, Friar alumni, faculty, parents and students were asked why they are thankful for Fenwick High School. Here are some responses.
A few current students chimed in, as did a Fenwick parent: “I am thankful for the wisdom and knowledge that is shared at Fenwick … [and] that, even though we may come from different backgrounds, we all share in the love of Christ,” writes Cybelle Miranda, mother of Alejandra ’25 of Chicago. “May God continue to bless us all!”
Senior Rasheed Anderson of Elmhurst believes that “the quality of education is second to none. Fenwick teachers truly care and want students [to] reach their potential. Fenwick is a positive part of my life … and has shaped me into a better man ….” Classmate Pam Martinez ’22, of Berwyn, adds: “Fenwick has challenged me academically … and helped me learn my potential.”
The biggest voices praising their beloved alma mater came from alumni, of course. Here’s what some members of Friar Nation have to say:
“I’m thankful to Fenwick because of lifelong friendships,” writes Dr. Lia Bernardi ’99, assistant OB-GYN professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She is pictured (at left) on a 40th-birthday trip to Mexico with classmates Colleen Ryan, Katie Moore, Lauren Dillon, Rachel Fitzpatrick, Julie Wilkens and Caitlin McKiernan.
Jim Grant ’87 adds: “Fenwick exposed me to a completely different academic, athletic and social world than I had known. Every step challenged me and made me a better student, athlete and person. When I went to college, I truly felt like I had an advantage having been through the rigors of Fenwick and all the lessons I had learned. Nothing in my life, before or after, shaped me as much as my time at Fenwick did.”
Timothy Fitzpatrick ’71 says it’s “very difficult to put what Fenwick did for me into words, as reflecting on the experience brings back so many memories.” Major Fitzpatrick, now retired (U.S. Army) articulated his feelings:
“I would say first that Fenwick welcomed me into an experience of challenge from day one in a very Catholic environment,” he continues. “If you look at the Holy Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit I think that is how we were approached as individuals. If expressed as Logos, Ethos and Pathos or as the cognitive, physical and spiritual/affective aspects of human dimensions, each was challenged and deliberately developed with great care.
“In education the classic logic and rhetoric provided a life time foundation in reason and the ability to formulate and express ideas. The emphasis on physical development provided the greater understanding of self and how the physical affected our cognitive ability and our spirit. The emphasis on math and science further developed reason. Math developed an ability to see the world in more than its surface, but in all dimensions, which saved my and others lives later in my career.
“Forever thankful for Fr. Aschenbrenner’s German language program and his methods. Going to Germany, Austria and Switzerland was an incredible experience that showed me a world beyond what popular culture portrayed. The contrast between good and evil experienced at the Berlin Wall between freedom in West Berlin and oppression in communist East Berlin was stark, leading me to make the decision to join the U.S. Army in order to defend freedom.
“Finally, I am thankful for Fenwick’s emphasis on prayer, Mass and Eucharist. This has been of great comfort to me in peace, under duress and at war.”
Alumni and Faculty
Not to be outdone, alumni-turned-faculty members took time out of their hectic schedules to share some thoughts. “Fenwick has always been a prominent part of my life,” writes World Languages Chair and alumna Samantha Carraher ’96. “It all started on the sidelines of a football game when I was about five years old. It was there that I met my dad’s former teacher and a man who would become such a positive influence in my life … My dad told me, ‘You should get to know this man because you will be attending Fenwick some day, and he very well may be your teacher, too.’ And my dad was right.
“I am grateful to Fenwick for going co-ed and giving young women an opportunity to become a part of the experience and the tradition,” Ms. Carraher notes. “I am grateful to the teachers and coaches who always looked out for me and had my best interests at heart, especially … Mr. Arellano, Coach Power and Mrs. Megall. I will forever appreciate the phone call from Mr. Arellano urging me to apply for a position teaching Spanish right after I graduated college. I am now in my 21st year of teaching at Fenwick and can honestly say I love my job. I am grateful to our supportive administration, tremendous colleagues (many of whom are dear friends) and our phenomenal students who make coming to work every day such a wonderful experience. Thank you, Fenwick, for being a place I consider home.”
Learning Resource Coordinator and alumna Grace Lilek David ’08 (at right) can relate. “I’m thankful for a school that I’ve called ‘home’ for the majority of my life!” she says. I’m thankful for our students, who genuinely want the best for those around them. They support one another through the highs and lows, and it’s truly special to witness. And, I’m thankful for my colleagues who work tirelessly to make Fenwick such a wonderful place.”
“I am grateful to be surrounded by colleagues and students who have a passion for learning, a genuine care and concern for one another, and a desire to achieve at the highest level,” says Science Teacher and alumnaBrigid Baier Esposito ’96.
Fellow alumni, English Teacher and Head Boys’ Water Polo Coach Kyle Perry ’01 offers a two-word reason as to why he’s thankful for Fenwick: “the pool!”
Tracy Bonaccorsi, Athletics Administrative Assistant and Girls’ Lacrosse Head Coach, concludes: “I’m thankful for Fenwick because I’m blessed to come to work each day and work with three gentlemen that I’m lucky enough to call friends, not just my co-workers. Just like our sports teams here at Fenwick, we make a great team as well in Athletics!”
Fenwick won its 1st ever football state championship in DeKalb, IL, on Saturday.
The Friars (12-2) beat Kankakee 34-15 on Saturday at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb to claim the Illinois Class 5A State Championship! Our talented boys dominated, jumping out to an early, 28-0 lead in the first half and never looked back. It was a total team win highlighted by stellar catches (Bryan Hunt, Jr., Eian Pugh and Max Reese), spectacular throws and runs (QB Kaden Cobb), hard-nosed blocking (Jimmy Liston, Rasheed Anderson, Will Rosenberg, Pat Durkin, Aaron Johnson, Lukas Mikuzis and the rest of the offensive line). Defensively, the Paris twins (Conor and Martin) stood out, as usual, as did Suleiman Abuaqel, Den Juette, Mirko Jaksic (junior), Harry Kenny, Conor Stetz (junior), Aden Vargas, Jacque Walls, Quin Wieties, sophomores Luke D’Alise & Will Gladden and freshman Nate Marshall. They executed defensive coordinator Coach Titcus Pettigrew’s game plan to near perfection.
Running back Danny Kent (above) rushed for more than 200 yards on 28 carries and was named Player of the Game. This marks Fenwick’s first state title in football since the IHSA first introduced the playoff system in 1974.
“It has been amazing how I have been fully embraced as a Friar, and I could not be happier to have helped deliver this first-ever football state championship to Fenwick High School and the community,” says Head Coach Matt Battaglia, who joined Fenwick in late 2019. “Special thanks and congratulations to all the players and coaches who made this possible, especially our seniors! Thanks, and Go Friars!“
Athletic Director and alumnus Scott Thies ’99 adds: “Congratulations to Coach Battaglia, our student-athletes and all who contributed to Fenwick’s first state championship in football! It was so awesome to see generations of Friars come out in support of this team. We are all super proud!”
The Fenwick Boys’ Cross Country Team made Illinois High School Association (IHSA) history on November 6. “Ours is the first CCL [Chicago Catholic League] team to ever win a state championship in cross country,” Fenwick Athletic Director Scott Thies ’99 proudly reports. “A HUGE congratulations to Head Coach Dave Rill and assistants Gus Coronado, Brixton Rill and Dan Wnek!”
A breakdown of how the Friars ran and placed:
Grayden Rill 8th place 15:06.34
Nate Mckillop 20th place 15:17.35
Dean O’Bryan 33rd place 15:37.33
Zac Daley 43rd place 15:44.54
Lee O’Bryan 87th place 16:05.68
Carl Lukas 123rd place 16:21.04
Christian Kline 205th place 17:07.96
Grayden Rill ’23 (Chicago), who has been the team’s steady leader all season, and Nate Mckillop ’24 (Elmhurst, IL) earned All-State honors for their performances. But it was sophomore Dean O’Bryan (La Grange, IL) who really raised some eyebrows this past Saturday in Peoria by running at personal-record pace, beating his own best time by a whopping 40 seconds! “Dean might have won it [the title] for us,” proclaims Head Coach Dave Rill ’87. “He was consistently our sixth-place runner all year, then comes in third [33rd overall] at state!”
Grayden Rill adds, “Saturday’s race was our end goal since summer, and we had a good day. Shoutout to our sophomores who stepped up! We now have two sophomores, Nate Mckillop and Dean O’Bryan, who are both in the top five best sophomores in Fenwick history — and they are a lot of the reason we took home the title Saturday.
“I am so proud of all of my boys,” the All-State junior continues. “We have worked so hard since track last year for this goal, and all those miles payed off. I loved seeing all of my teammates buy into the sport and buy into this goal that we made back at camp in the summer: to be one of being one of the best teams in the state. And from this goal we turned into the best team in the state and the best cross-country team in Fenwick history.”
“This state championship is extra special for me,” concludes Coach Rill, who was an All-American while at Fenwick, because two of his sons are part of the team. “I’ve been able to coach Brixton [Class of 2014], who now is an assistant coach, and now Grayden. I cannot tell you how proud I am of these guys. We went from being last place at the last state meet to first. We believe this is only the second time that has been done.”
Fenwick community mourns the loss of Hall-of-Fame alumnus swimmer and former English teacher from Class of ’65.
With great sadness, Fenwick announces the sudden passing of fellow Friar George Wendt ’65, who died this past Saturday doing what he loved: swimming. Mr. Wendt, 73, who held a PhD., was inducted into the Fenwick Hall of Fame in 2013. He also had taught English at Fenwick and was Department Chair before leaving to run his family’s metals business.
From Fenwick High School’s morning announcements on September 10, 2021:
Twenty years ago, 19 people hijacked four planes with box cutters with the intention of using each plane as a smart missile. Three of the four planes hit their intended targets: the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The World Trade Center was a symbol of our thriving economy and the Pentagon a symbol of our military. The fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania because those on the plane understood their fate and decided that no other American would be the victim of terrorism.
As a result of this attack, the United States invaded Afghanistan to hold those that committed these heinous acts accountable.
Throughout both today and this weekend, please keep in your prayers all of those who died in the 9/11 attacks. Keep in mind the families of those that continue to suffer from their loss. Pray for all of the first responders that continue to suffer from the effects of these attacks today … their suffering is both physical and emotional.
Finally, keep all of our soldiers, public servants and their families in mind who served, and in some cases died, in Afghanistan defending our country against these acts of aggression.
In our monthly Fenwick Alumni News (FAN) e-newsletter earlier this week, we asked members of the Fenwick Community: Where were you when the United States was attacked on September 11th, 2001? Here are somememories of that fateful day 20 years ago:
Angela (Mostardi) Wold ’02
I was in Mrs. Zach’s calculus class my senior year at Fenwick. After we heard the news we turned on the TV just as the second tower was hit. No one knew the ramifications that moment would have on the rest of our lives!
Also, I was a leader of the Kairos retreat set to leave that afternoon. The retreat went on as planned, and it was a strange time to be without communication to the outside world — but in a way that made the retreat even more special and brought us together.
Jeanette (Stamm) Fair ’03
I will always remember sitting in Fr. Tom’s 01 period when another student, Dom Volini, was late that fateful day. He walked in and informed the class that “something was happening” and that there had been some sort of plane crash. At that point, no one knew what was occurring. By the time I made it to 02 with Ms. Zach amidst a buzz of chatter in the hallway, we soon realized that something much bigger was afoot. I remember wanting so badly to watch the news but administration deemed it healthier to go about the day as the breaking news would only be a terrifying distraction since so much was still unknown at that point. I raced home after school to see what was happening and will never forget the image of my older brother standing at the kitchen counter TV with his head dropped and tears falling from his eyes and realized in that instant that this was a national emergency we will not soon recover from.
The terror that ensued in the following days was palpable. The constant questions in the halls of Fenwick, “was Chicago next?”, the worries of students, “my dad is a fireman, he may go to New York,” the misinformation, “I heard there was a car bomb found on Madison,” had all completely replaced the day to day gossip and banter that us high schoolers were accustomed to.
Fenwick will always hold a dear place in my heart for my time spent there but I know once a year I will reflect on that time in a different light. As it was there that our country changed forever.
Lisa Danno ’05
I was arriving in Mr. Groom’s 2nd-period world history class as a freshman, seated second seat, second row. I remember the two guys sitting next to me, Matt Abu-taleb and Ben Bakos, asking if we heard what happened. Mr. Groom touched on what happened and why things like that happen, then eventually moved on to our lesson for the day. I remember it being hit or miss whether or not your teacher wanted to play the news on the sad little TVs mounted in their classrooms. I remember student-athletes trying to figure out if their practices were still on that day. Our volleyball practice was not cancelled. And I remember a friend and classmate,Caitlin Ferrera, hearing from her mom, who worked in the Sears Tower, hearing they had to evacuate as a precaution. I remember doing my Alegebra and Spanish homework that night with my family and the news on as we watched rescue crews and Bush’s address.
Dan Logas ’05
Memories can be fuzzy and unreliable, but I remember where I was and how I felt very clearly.
9/11 will be forever tied in my mind with Fenwick. I was a freshman, just starting out on my Fenwick journey. I had known only a few peers prior to coming to Fenwick and was still gathering my footing. I started the day with Mr. Draski’s biology class and then proceeded to recess from the West wing to my Health class with Coach Perry.
As I walked into the classroom, I sat down at my desk and it became clear that this was not any normal day. Coach Perry had turned on the TV and was watching the news coverage. I remember a feeling of confusion. Why was the TV on? More importantly, what’s this on the news? What was going on with the smoking building from New York? Was there a fire? There were so many questions, but no clear answers. As I remember, Coach Perry didn’t really address the class; he may have said something brief, not that I think he would have known what to say. We all simply joined together and watched due to a lack of better answers.
Then, we saw the second plane hit the twin towers. My heart sank. This was something awful, but I still wasn’t sure what was going on. We prayed. We all began to understand that little would be the same moving forward. This was a defining moment in our time.
The rest of the day was met with our various teachers leading prayers and making sure that we were all doing okay. I can’t recall, if not the same day, but probably the next day, we resumed learning.
When I reflect on 9/11, I remember the sadness and horror of that day. But almost more distinctly, I also remember the compassion and empathy that filled the halls of Fenwick. The prayers offered up in every class. The opportunity to talk with our teachers about how we felt. But as we felt able, we began to return to our pursuit of knowledge. In such a time of uncertainty and as a Freshman in a new environment, it felt reassuring to resume learning as we all learned to cope with the challenges presented in the post-9/11 world. It felt fortunate to be so supported by the faculty and the Fenwick community as we all learned to deal with the new world that had been wrought by that day.
John Nerger ’74 was working at the Pentagon:
It was a stunningly perfect day in Washington, not a cloud to be seen in the clear, vibrant blue September sky. The weather gave no clue at all to what was about to happen in the early morning hours in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. As I was commuting to my job in the Pentagon, I remember being disappointed I wouldn’t be able to take a customary lunchtime run over the Potomac River to the Washington Monument on such a glorious day since I had an important all-day meeting to attend. The day before, we had scrambled to find a larger conference room since a greater number than expected were planning to attend. Not long after our meeting started, word reached us quickly after the American Airlines jet struck the west side of the Pentagon, and we exited to see billowing black smoke and hear fighter jets streaking overhead. At first, we thought it was a bomb, but eyewitnesses told us otherwise. Since we weren’t allowed back into the building most started their journeys back home amid the heavy traffic and the chaos. Cell circuits were jammed, making phone calls virtually impossible. A couple of us wandered into a nearby hotel lobby and joined airline flight crews staring in horror, disbelief, and silence at the TV screen. Several Army colleagues and I began the standard military operating procedure of accounting for all co-workers.
Our Pentagon offices were split into two locations separated by a short 1-minute walk, but one smaller section was situated adjacent to the point of impact. We soon discovered one colleague working in that area, an Army major, had been evacuated to the Washington Hospital Burn Center in critical condition and two others, both civilians, were missing. We feared they perished though we kept calling area hospitals hoping they’d turn up. They didn’t; the two had no chance at survival since this part of the Pentagon bore the impact’s full force. The original conference room we reserved for our meeting was nearby and had been destroyed as well. I cringed to think how close many more of us had come to being there and felt guilty about surviving when others were not as fortunate.
I finally left for home late afternoon when there was nothing more for me to do and traffic had lessened. I returned to many hugs at home and saw that my middle-school son had chewed his fingers to their nubs. His teacher apparently thought it a good idea to keep the TV on in the classroom as my son watched the replays while wondering about the whereabouts of his father.
The next day, virtually everyone returned to work, even though firefighters were still battling the flames. The hallways were filled with smoke but there was work to be done. My office was intact but flooded with several inches of water due to the firefighting efforts. Those of us who couldn’t get back to our offices just found somewhere else to work. For weeks afterwards, I remember weeping privately at home before beginning my pre-dawn commute so I could stoically make it through the day. Soon, Pentagon corridors were covered with quilts, pictures, and notes of encouragement from school children, churches, and civic groups across the country. It was hard to look at them with a dry eye. The next several months were filled with opportunities to mourn our lost colleagues, comfort their families, and console each other.
Cleanup at the Pentagon began immediately and not long after, a lengthy reconstruction. Thankfully, the Army major survived multiple surgeries during the first few weeks of his recovery though there were many more to come. When I first visited him, he was in pain and wrapped like a mummy, yet his spirit was strong. “Mr. Nerger, there must be a reason I’m still here,” he said with certainty. But then, so it is with me, and so it is also with you, regardless of your proximity in space or time to the tragic events of that day.
Chris Ritten, VP of Institutional Advancement and Fenwick Past Parent:
Working on a Morgan Stanley fixed income sales floor in Chicago with direct “squawk” boxes to all trading desks in New York, my first inkling that anything was amiss on that otherwise typically busy Tuesday morning was when the Head of our US Treasury trading desk came over the squawk — before anyone knew anything — and said, “Don’t quote any Treasury prices. Something is going on with the broker feeds. They’re not right.”
Minutes later the TV sets on the sales floor — always tuned to CNBC at the time — cut to a live view of the World Trade Center. As we stared in disbelief, when the second plane hit the south tower one of the salespeople leapt to his feet and declared, “This is war!”
I immediately thought that my five young children will grow up in a world very different than the one I did — heavily armed security forces at all events and transportation hubs, pat downs and metal detectors a part of everyday life. There was a distinct loss of innocence that moment.
When it became known that other planes had been hijacked and rumors swirled about possible targets, downtown Chicago buildings emptied out, especially the skyscrapers. I immediately drove to my kids’ schools — to see them in the flesh through eyes blurred with tears of relief and anguish. I then went to our church, St. Giles, next door, to pray.
Only later did I learn that the world’s largest U.S. Treasury bond broker, Cantor Fitzgerald, was headquartered at the top of the north tower.
David Dunlap ’85 was working for Cantor Fitzgerald in Texas:
I had moved to New York City at the end of 2000 to help build an energy desk in Houston for Cantor Fitzgerald. On that morning, we had been watching CNBC as usual and, as the rest of the world, saw the first plane hit the North Tower, where my fellow coworkers were working (floor 102). We had our squawk boxes set up between Houston and New York as we had to be in constant contact throughout the trading day. Their initial reactions were, “It looks like a small plane has hit,” to “It’s starting to get smoky in here and we’re being told to move to the conference rooms.”
As we lost communication, we all watched in horror as the second plane hit. We knew this wasn’t an accident anymore. My coworker, whose brother-in-law worked with us in New York, tried to keep upbeat knowing how tough Rob was and how “he will figure out a way to get out of there.” Shortly after, as the first tower fell, we realized they were all gone.
The next two weeks were spent in New York helping with the families and the few people left from our company. Since we essentially had no more HR [human resources] department, I helped with talking to my friend’s parents about insurance and other odds and ends.
On our drive over the bridge to NYC, it was our first look at the new skyline. The smell of Ground Zero was like nothing I’ve ever smelled in my life. Twenty years later, it still makes me angry and also very sad for the friends I lost that day and the years they have all missed. I think about it often and always hope that we all never forget what happened that day.
Math Teacher Roger Finnell ’59:
I walked into my classroom that morning at about 8:45 and turned on the classroom TV so that the whole class could watch live history being made. I could see one tower next to a large cloud of dust.
It took a few seconds for me to realize that the dust had been caused by the first tower collapsing. We watched intently and, in another ten minutes or so, saw the second tower collapse. My first remark to the class I remember as, “I think everybody was expecting a terrorist attack, but no one expected one this bad.”
Everyone walked around in a state of shock the rest of the day, but teachers remembered to remind their classes not to blame one whole group of people for the actions of a few terrorists.
Jeff Oakey ’88
I was an active-duty Navy officer assigned to a ship based in San Diego. I was also less than 24 hours into my honeymoon in Las Vegas. Our ceremony and honeymoon had already been delayed, so our 10-month old son was with us.
We woke up late that morning and I noticed that the airport seemed pretty quiet. I put it out of my mind as we dressed and went down to eat. I stayed with our son while my wife went to the buffet. As our waitress poured coffee, she told me about a plane hitting one of the WTC towers. When my wife returned with her breakfast, she relayed about another plane hitting the Pentagon. We agreed to finish our breakfast and check the TV news when we got back to the room. I remember the disbelief curdling into horror as the first tower fell five minutes after we turned on the TV. Stunned, we immediately started calling our friends who worked in either New York or the Pentagon. Then we checked out and drove back to San Diego — five hours across the desert with unending bad news on the radio and American flags already sprouting up in every town, truck stop and overpass.
My wife dropped me off at the naval base’s main gate (no vehicles could enter) and I walked the mile to my ship, which was preparing to sail. After a week or so off the California coast watching only fighters in U.S. airspace and verifying the flight path of every aircraft taking off from nearby Tijuana, the ship returned to port. As I walked in the door of our apartment, my son stood up with a huge grin and I saw him walk for the first time.
Weeks later we celebrated his first birthday together and then my wife and son went to her Dad’s house because our scheduled February deployment had been moved up to November. By January 2002, we were sending Marines into and over Afghanistan. Our group of ships and Marines hunted Al Qaeda leaders from Afghanistan to Northern Africa before finally heading home in July.
The combination of powerfully good and bad feelings has long left me conflicted about 9/11. My honeymoon, my son’s first steps, the death of thousands of innocents, and the opportunity to help my military family do something to protect our nation from further attacks. Twenty years later, the conflicted feelings remain, more muted now, but occasionally gathering enough strength to toss me out of sleep. I’ll spend a groggy hour remembering how quickly I went from honeymoon to combat patrol off the U.S. coast, then how we took the combat overseas and away from those loved ones we missed so much.
Theology Teacher Pat Mulcahy:
I was teaching in Room 46 (the Bell Tower) on September 11, 2001. We had TVs in the corner of each classroom at the time, and I remember the TV looping through the second plane crashing into the Tower. Several years before, A Dominican with great vision began a required course for seniors on the study of World Religions. That Dominican’s name was Fr. Bob Kelly. He dragged me into teaching the course with him, which I had absolutely no desire to do at the time. To this day, we are the only Catholic high school that I am aware of which requires a course like this for seniors.
In November of 2001, I became aware of a talk being presented at the Islamic Foundation in Villa Park entitled, “Getting to Know Your Muslim Neighbor.” I attended with a number of my seniors. I was never more proud to be an American. The place was absolutely packed with people who didn’t want to jump to conclusions about an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. At this event, members of the Muslim community spoke about their religion and what it meant to them. To me, this was America at its best.
As I’ve watched several programs recently (Frontline and Netflix) as we approached the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it saddens me deeply to see how unable we are to listen to one another any more on a variety of issues.
Mickey Collins ’03, FenwickDirector of Scheduling & Student Data
I was sitting outside the library finishing my pre-cal homework for Ms. Caponigri. Went to 1st-period pre-cal class [with] no idea what was unfolding. Headed to 2nd-period class — Fr. Saucier US History in Room 03. Kids started asking if we knew what had happened. By end of that period, I was pulled out of school by my mom only to walk into our house to see replays of the planes crashing and the towers falling. Went back to school for XC practice — we were bused to practice (first and only time ever), and while running our workout, we all noticed the complete lack of planes in the sky. It’s the most eerie feeling I’ve ever had.
U.S. Army Major Timothy Fitzpatrick ’71, MAJ (Ret.)/Dept of Army Civ (Ret.) and Distinguished Member of the PSYOP Regiment; Bronze Star Medal/Master Parachutist/Army Distinguished Civilian Service Medal; College of Naval Warfare (2009)
On 11 September 2001, I was at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, the headquarters of United States Special Operations Command. I was working as an Army Civilian for U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Battle Lab, working on future concepts and experiments, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Representatives from all components of SOCOM were there to talk about future operating concepts and what that would mean in terms of doctrine, organization, training, education, materiel/equipment, leader development, personnel policy, facilities, policy, and authorities. We were on Day 2 of our working group when someone came in and said a plane just hit a building in New York. At first everyone thought some small airplane crashed but then someone said come on in where a large, flat-screen TV was as this was big. We gathered round just in time to see the second airliner hit. There wasn’t a sound or a movement in the room and I think everyone instantly recognized that we were being attacked.
We went back to our work area to try to get something done, but it became evident that the whole headquarters was buzzing as general officers and staffs were assembling. Then news of the Pentagon hit came in and the other missing airplane. This extensive and well planned assault clearly meant we were at war. It was decided to break up for the day and get with our commands for instructions but if possible we would assemble the next day to complete our work. We went back to the hotel and were glued to the TV news. As all air traffic became grounded it was clear we weren’t flying back to Fayetteville, NC. The plan became to drive into MacDill the next morning and see what we could get done and continue the rest of the week.
On the morning of 12 September, we attempted to drive our rental car into MacDill, but traffic was backed up for miles given the tight security measures taking place. We made it to the McDonalds on Dale Mabry about a mile from the gate. The folks at McDonalds had made hasty trays with straps around their necks and were going car to car with pre- packed breakfast and coffees as no one could get into their drive through, selling at a discounted flat rate to avoid change. We were monitoring the news on the radio when we got a call to forget the workshop and get home.
I called home to talk with Karen and let her know we were driving home when she turned the phone over to Caitlin, my 13-year-old daughter. She asked me, “Dad, does this mean we are at war?” I told her yes, that this was the Pearl Harbor of her time and, yes, we were indeed at war. She was silent for a bit and said that is what she felt the day before.
We attempted to get a flight out but everything was grounded. We called the Rental Car company and told them we were going to take the rental car to Fayetteville, but they insisted we return it. We again told them we would return to their Fayetteville NC location at our airport and hung up before they could object. We then headed North.
I called both sons at Appalachian State University. Our twins, Danny and Timmy, were freshmen there. After talking to Tim I called Danny. Danny had joined the North Carolina National Guard in 2000 and had just completed Infantry Advanced Individual Training as an 11B infantryman in a Bradley fighting vehicle mechanized unit, the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team. He had been alerted by his unit to make sure all his stuff was ready but no word on any mobilization. He clearly understood the implications.
Upon arrival at back at Bragg, security measures also affected getting on and off post but I returned to work. Our primary effort shifted from future concepts to how we would meet any shortfall needed to deploy units and then sustain them. A big effort was in identifying funding and other requirements to ramp up training and producing Special Forces, Civil Affairs, and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Soldiers to fill units. Also, the mobilization and certification of National Guard Special Forces and Army Reserve Civil Affairs and PSYOP units to deploy with any Special Operations or Conventional forces (barracks, training areas, training support, ammunition, radios — everything).
My son Danny did not deploy immediately, but they did undergo two combat training center rotations at Fort Polk LA, and at Fort Erwin California (the desert training center personally picked out by GEN Patton in WWII for realistic and punishing Desert training. In the fall of 2003. Danny got a text message while in class, and he got up and stuffed his books in his pack and started to walk out when the prof asked him where he thought he was going. He answered, “Iraq.” Forty other students from his brigade also got up and departed campus at the same time; 400 in a month, which was quite a shock to the App State. Danny deployed to Iraq in early 2004, spending almost a year fighting insurgents in the desert areas near Balad Ruz, and Tuz Khurmatu. His unit fought some significant actions. Before his unit departed they did several weeks of training on Fort Bragg and I was able to put his company through some weapons simulators I had acquired for Special Ops where retired SF instructors worked with them as well as on how to call in air strikes and artillery, getting more soldiers in his unit proficient on that than normal, and it showed in later training and combat. MAJ Danny has since deployed again to Iraq as a Scout – Sniper platoon leader, and then to Afghanistan as a company XO. His wife, MAJ Shawna Sneller Fitzpatrick, has also deployed twice to Iraq including a year of flying UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters in combat.
This 20th anniversary of those attacks is deeply marred by the events of the last few weeks and the incomprehensible capitulation to an existential enemy. The suicide attack at Kabul airport on 26 August 2021 resulted in the death of SSG Ryan Knauss, one of the last PSYOP Soldiers to complete training as I retired from my civilian job as the Deputy PSYOP proponent at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. He leaves his young widow Alena.
Please pray for all those who were killed that day and those recovering from their wounds from that same attack and the hundreds of Afghan dead. In my mind and the minds of most veterans I talk to it appears that we have reset, re-equipped, funded, and facilitated our worst enemies back to where they were on 10 September 2001. We are absolutely gutted over this. This war is not over and continues as the suffering at a massive scale in Afghanistan mounts, is destabilizing the entire region, and emboldening our enemies globally.