More than a Half-century Later, Fenwick Is Still Teaching Lessons to #254

How did a rough-and-tumble kid survive being a gang member on Chicago’s mean streets in the early 1960s to become a successful entrepreneur? Fenwick had something to do with it — as did his nearly lifelong love of boxing.

Introduction

Terracina’s 1964 Fenwick Yearbook photo.

There were 269 students in Roy Terracina’s 1964 graduating class at Fenwick. His academic rank among those boys was near the bottom: 254. “That’s why I wear these cuff-links,” the businessman and entrepreneur explained to three groups of current students in mid-April, standing on stage in the school’s auditorium and pointing to his wrist. “These remind me of where I was and where I started. I ran with a gang and got into trouble,” Mr. Terracina admitted. But he also stuck it out and got through Fenwick, by the grace of God.

His message to today’s Friars included anecdotes about some of his mistakes, his great love of family and his understanding of how faith has played an important role in his life. “My purpose is simple: to reach the bottom half of each class,” Terracina shared, “and to give them hope that the education they are getting is preparing them for the future; that the combination of studies and peer motivation mixes to make this a special, four-year education. I wanted a message of how special their time is here at Fenwick, even though they may not realize it today.”

After his high-school graduation, Terracina attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, where he majored in finance. In the early 1990s he borrowed $1 million from a bank and bought Sterling Foods to provide packaged food to the military during the first Gulf War in Iraq. Eleven years later, Terracina sold the food-packaging business and transitioned to his present career at US Global Investors and CEO of Sunshine Ventures, Inc. (See bio.)

Mr. T settled in on stage at Fenwick and felt right at home. “I remember this place,” he told students earlier this spring.

“I speak to youth groups and groups of young entrepreneurs about 10 to 15 times a year,” Terracina told the Friar Files. “However, no experience matches speaking at a place that means so much to me, as Fenwick truly changed my life.” Fenwick is unlike most places he talks, “where I normally have to ask the teachers to keep things orderly,” he shared. “Recently, I had to send a group to the principal’s office at a local elementary school in my home base of San Antonio. But Fenwick students indeed are different: well behaved and sponges for learning.”

Here is Roy’s story, in his own words:

“If I Had My Life to Live Over”

By Roy Terracina ’64

My teen years where filled with family stability, hard work with my father and a lot of confusion over who or what I was. I would travel by bus, elevated train and walk to get to a high school, Fenwick, that I didn’t feel a part of.  I knew going to Fenwick was the right thing to do, but I knew it because I was told it was as opposed to ‘feeling’ it was.

My freshman year was particularly puzzling because my close friends from my younger years were all going to either public schools, or a much less academic Catholic school. My evenings as a student were filled with friends who attended mostly public schools and were learning trades, while I was trying to learn Latin and physics. The childhood friends quickly saw that I was different, as did my peers at Fenwick. So the reality is that I didn’t fit into either place. I felt lost, confused, bewildered and went with the flow of the day. When my friends were out on weeknights doing what inner-city kids did, I was to be home studying, but my heart and mind were not there.

I did what I had to do to get by, and yet found myself working twice as hard as my neighborhood friends, and still not keeping up with the Fenwick standards. I was small, and in a football-first high school at the time, did not manage to engage in sports.

In the neighborhood, we were out making trouble: fighting, chasing girls and, in general, not doing the things I needed to do to build my academic career. I found out that I loved competition, especially in sports, and particularly liked to lose my temper and fight. My friends would use me as the guy who would tease others into fighting since I looked like an easy mark. When I would get into it with someone much larger, the rest of my friends would jump in and “handle the situation,” and eventually I got tired of that and learned that my speed was enough to outmaneuver most larger boys.

Continue reading “More than a Half-century Later, Fenwick Is Still Teaching Lessons to #254”

Why Theology?

The Doors to “The Far Side”

By Br. Joseph Trout, O.P.

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.

1986 humor from Gary Larson.

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.

Putting Our Faith into Action

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.

Homelessness plagues Chicago’s suburbs, as one Fenwick junior has seen firsthand.

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.”

This past March, Fenwick students collected items for the 4th annual HOLA (Hispanic Outreach & Latino Awareness) Food Drive. The humanitarian effort stocks the pantry for three months at St. Pius Parish, which provides more than 45,000 meals annually to people on Chicago’s Lower West Side.

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.

To help provide weekend meals for impoverished children, Fenwick senior Chris Sedlacek co-founded Feed Our Future, a non-profit corporation in La Grange. (www.feedourfuturenfp.com)

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.”

Preaching Through Artistic Creation

Father Mike looks back at how the Fine Arts program got its start at Fenwick nine years ago – and how art plays an integral role in a well-rounded education.

By Fr. Michael Winkels, O.P.

Senior Victoria Brzostowski solders a stained-glass window.

A valuable part of an educated person’s life should include an interest in and appreciation of art. That is certainly true of a Fenwick education. Besides Science, Mathematics, English, Foreign Languages and History, an understanding and appreciation for Fine Arts helps to complete a well-rounded student in the Dominican tradition. The Dominican motto is Veritas or “Truth.” The search for truth encompasses all aspects of human experience. In a Dominican school, art is one component that is essential in the formation of our students as they seek veritas.

After my ordination in 1976, a Sinsinawa sister encouraged me to explore my interest in art. In 1979, at the encouragement of the Order, priests who have been ordained three years were encouraged to begin studying something complimentary to theology. I enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where three years later I received a B.F.A. degree in Studio Art.

At the invitation of Fr. Richard LaPata, I joined the Fenwick community in 2000, working in the area of Technology. I continued working in my art studio whenever I could find the time. In the Fall of 2010 I was asked to develop a Studio Art program. With the support of the school and several generous financial donations of one of our families, we gradually purchased the necessary equipment and supplies.

Sophomore Aldo Scudiero experiments with the screen-printing process.

The program started out modestly with seven students the first semester. From the beginning it was our intention to not just study about art but to introduce students to a variety of ways of helping them make art. The “Survey of Studio Art” class was the first class offered. It has remained the backbone of the Studio program. In this class, students are introduced to 11 media: drawing (pencil, conté crayon, charcoal), water color, acrylic painting, ceramics, wire sculpture, screen and block printing, digital photography and batik. They gain a wide range of experience in both two- and three-dimensional art as they learn about the theory of color, understanding of shading and value, negative and positive space, composition, form, texture and perspective. At the end of the semester they choose one media that they particularly liked and do a more detailed project as a final. As I remind the students even today, you will not be good at or enjoy every media we do, but I guarantee that they will like something in the Survey class. And that has proven to be true.

After students complete the Survey of Studio Art class, they can sign up for a 2-Dimensional and/or a 3-Dimensional Studio Art class. Each of these classes can be taken at four different levels. Students continue to learn and develop in their favorite media as well as improving their artistic and creative skills. At each level of these advanced classes, students learn additional art media, e.g., etching, aquatint, lithography, stained glass, ceramic wheel work and making of mobiles.

Showing Off

Students checking out the Fenwick Art Show this past January.

Each semester, the classes end with an Art Exhibit of all student work. Invitations are sent out to family and friends inviting them to come to school to enjoy the fruit of a very busy and productive semester. It is a joy to see the smiles of confidence on students faces as they hear family and strangers comment on their talents and hard work. Many students are surprised at what they have been able to accomplish and are gratified for the opportunity to expand their educational opportunities.

Continue reading “Preaching Through Artistic Creation”

FACULTY FOCUS

Spanish Teacher Mrs. Denise “Dee” Megall celebrates her 25th year at Fenwick in 2017-18. ​

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What is your educational background?

DM: I have a B.A. in Spanish from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, and an M.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from Loyola University in Chicago. I have also studied in Guadalajara, Mexico, through Arizona State University and took classes at the University of Madrid.

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at FHS?

DM: I began my teaching career at Trinity High School in River Forest in 1970. I am a Trinity graduate and four years later I was back there teaching. I was on the faculty for six years until the birth of the first of our three sons. I stayed home raising the boys for 16 years. I was working on my Master’s degree when I started at FHS in 1992. I have taught the mothers of many of my Fenwick students due to my early years working at Trinity.

To what teams did you belong as a student?

DM: Trinity only had intramural volleyball and basketball teams when I was a student. I was on the volleyball team all four years. The game was completely different from what it is now. We just kept hitting the ball back and forth until someone missed. Only one girl in the school would spike the ball and we all just thought she was being rude!

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

DM: I love to read. My next book is The Bridge at Andau, which is about the Hungarian Revolution. I am very interested in this topic due to family history. In 1956, when my husband was eight years old, his third cousin escaped from Hungary during the revolution and came over and lived with the Megalls from age 18 to 28. We just celebrated his 80th birthday, which was a wonderful family occasion. I also enjoy doing needlepoint and knitting in my spare time.

What activity do you run?

DM: I schedule the group photos for the yearbook. We start in mid-October and finish the majority of the pictures by November. This year is the 26th year that I have coordinated the organization of the yearbook club pictures.

When did you decide to become a teacher and why did you choose this field?

DM: Until I had to answer this question I had forgotten that one of my favorite games as a child was “Go to the Head of the Class.” It was a game that showed desks on the board and you had to move cardboard students up the row as they answered questions correctly. Little did I know it was a foreshadowing of my future! I kept getting good grades in Spanish and developed a love for the language. My early success in school motivated me to pursue a major in Spanish at the collegiate level. I originally intended to go into business, but my mother suggested that I take some education classes and student teach. I student taught at a school very much like Fenwick, and the minute I stepped in front of the first class and started teaching, I loved it! The students make it so much fun! When I tell them that I have been in my classroom for their entire lives they can’t believe it and they always ask me why I don’t get bored. It is because of them. Every day is different and every class is different. They are the ones that make it fun and exciting for us.

What personal strengths do you find helpful in your teaching?

DM: I am organized and I try to make my expectations as clear as possible. I try to be fair and I admit when I have made a mistake. I give homework geared to help the students practice what they have just learned in class. I try to correct their tests and quizzes as quickly as possible and return them just as quickly because I know they are anxious to find out how they have done. Language learning is a cumulative process and everything the students learn builds upon itself, so it is important they understand it and can use it correctly each step of the way.

What is the greatest challenge facing students today?

DM: I think the greatest challenge facing students today is the ability to control their use of technology. Every time my students have written an essay regarding their computer/iPad/iPhone use they acknowledge the time wasted looking at pictures, playing games, scrolling through Instagram and numerous other distractions they have available to them at all times. The majority of my students say the same thing – that if they turned off the technology they would get more sleep, have better grades, do their homework, study more, and spend more time with their family members. I hope our students learn to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities technology has to offer while still allowing for positive life experiences outside of “screen time.”

What is your greatest success?

DM: I love it when students I taught the previous year stop by my room to tell me how well they are doing. They are so excited and proud of themselves. It is also so heartwarming to hear from former students who are majoring or minoring in Spanish or who are now spending a semester in a Spanish-speaking country. I cherish hearing about all of their wonderful experiences and their success in using the language outside of the classroom. In addition, some of my proudest moments are hearing from past students who are now teachers who have written to me to say thank you, as they now realize firsthand what it takes to be a teacher.

The Modern Civil Rights Era and Police Accountability

GUEST BLOGGER

April 4, 2018

Fifty years ago today, 39-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot dead by hate. Civil-rights concerns remain front and center in 2018, as trial lawyer and Fenwick alumnus Tony Romanucci reflects.

By Antonio M. Romanucci ’78

When the term “civil rights” is invoked, many think of images of Martin Luther King, Jr. standing at the forefront of a street march protesting or standing at a podium challenging the leaders of this country for equality and inclusion. However, the reality is that civil rights is far older than MLK and, from its genesis, has evolved into something far more prevalent which dominates the news headlines of today.

This past November, Romanucci (right) represented client Esperanza Davila in a civil lawsuit against Chicago Police Officer Patrick Kelly and the City of Chicago. Ms. Davila says her boyfriend, 21-year-old Hector Hernandez, was wrongfully shoot and killed by police. (Chicago Sun-Times photo.)

Fenwick has a lot to do with my pursuit of justice over a legal career spanning more than 30 years now. The Catholic education I received emphasized inclusion, diversity and equality amongst us all. That helped shape my views towards the realization that we all should be treated with dignity, respect and equality. How many times do you think you have recited the pledge of allegiance? Surely, in the hundreds if not the thousands of times. At least 700 times over four school years at Fenwick alone! How many times have you said the words “and liberty and justice for all” and actually thought about what you were saying — and realized that our forefathers were setting the stage for our country’s future as a melting pot of people, made up of all sorts of races, ethnicities and backgrounds? If only they could realize how prescient they were but also how ominous the future was going to be despite their desire for equality amongst all.

Our country had to fight a brutal internal war to abolish slavery that cost this country economic, moral, emotional and philosophical scars that, to this day, cause deep controversy. Witness the takedowns of the statutes of General Robert E. Lee within the past 12 months because parts of the South remain loyal to a past that most of this country would rather forget. One of the unfortunate consequences of the Civil War left many African-Americans looking in from the outside. Many argue those ills have not been remedied since, despite the passage of the Ku Klux Klan act of 1871 and its nascent 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, the civil rights movement associated with Brown v. Board of Education; the tumultuous times of Emmit Tills and Rosa Parks; the aforementioned MLK era; and then, of course, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which strengthened the rights of private citizens to sue municipalities, cities, states and government when they infringe on one’s constitutional rights.

April 5, 1968 – Chicago was burning: In the aftermath of King’s murder, rioting broke out on the city’s West Side, not far from Fenwick. The violence got so bad that the National Guard was called in to protect citizens.

Indeed, modern-day civil rights are an extension of the CRA and the powers that now lie in the hands of citizens to tell local, state and federal governments that the constitution and its amendments are sacrosanct and cannot be willfully violated — ever. The civil rights lawyer is a protector of those citizens and ensures that government violations are dealt with and, if necessary, paid for. Rest assured that without the civil rights lawyer existing, there would be no civil rights to protect in this country. I have become a civil rights trial lawyer. I am deeply proud of what I do for our people and our country.

Michael LaPorta (at left, in wheelchair) accused his longtime friend and off-duty CPD officer Patrick Kelly of shooting him in the head after a night of drinking in 2010. Kelly, who had a checkered past on the force, claimed that LaPorta had shot himself in a suicide attempt. Last fall LaPorta was awarded $44.7 million: the largest verdict ever reached in Chicago for a police-misconduct lawsuit. He was represented legally by Tony Romanucci (right), who sought justice amid the police department’s “Code of Silence.” (Chicago Tribune photo.)

The first thing required to determine if there is a viable claim to move forward with an action against a governmental entity for a civil-rights violation is whether or not the constitution was violated. Specifically, when it comes to my personal practice, was there a violation of the 4th, 8th or 14th amendment? What we are looking for is a determination whether there was an unlawful search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment for a detained citizen or a deprivation of due process, respectively. The vast majority of clients we represented involve the 4th Amendment search and seizure issues.

Continue reading “The Modern Civil Rights Era and Police Accountability”

Fenwick’s Vision Is Keen and Full of Life

Guided by Jesus, our brother, and St. Thomas Aquinas, our students’ minds want to know and their wills want to love.

By Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P., President Emeritus of Fenwick High School

Father LaPata is a 1950 graduate of Fenwick.

Hardly a day goes by when some institution, business, or government isn’t asked to share its “vision.” Fenwick is no different. It is important that our school be called upon to offer its vision to the public. The only difference is that we have a theological vision. And what exactly is it?

First of all, the Gospel tells us that Jesus has come to bring life and to bring it more abundantly. Because Fenwick has as its mission to continue the ministry of Jesus, it is our responsibility to bring not only “life,” but abundant life to our students. How do we as an educational institution do that? In other words, how do we become life-giving?

Well, St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us that human life consists in an intellect and a free will and in the exercise of these faculties. It is in the development and use of the mind to know and a will to love that we experience our human life. God’s grace, building and supporting these powers, is able to bring it abundantly. And so the vision we have of Fenwick is its ability to actualize to the fullest every student’s ability to know and love, always supported by an underlying Christian Faith.

Do we fully succeed at every moment to realize this vision in each student? Perhaps there may be times when we fall short, but the vision is always there and will always remain.

They Said It: Science Is a Fact, Not Fiction, at Fenwick

‘Preparing the scientists, researchers and health-care workers of tomorrow.’

by Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P., President Emeritus

For example, the dictionary defines excellence as “a quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” Does Fenwick have, as a matter of fact, the right to describe itself in these terms and to embrace the word “excellent” as an integral part of its motto?

Father LaPata is a 1950 graduate of Fenwick.

As a former president of Fenwick, I could write a long essay giving many particular examples of the excellence to be found in the school’s multiple departments — from its teachers, its curriculum and its extracurricular activities to its actual educational outcomes. But perhaps what is even more persuasive is the testimony to Fenwick’s excellence given by those who have little or no ties to our school.

Recently, I was invited to have lunch by and with a group of men whom I did not know. They were not alumni nor family members of our students. After some pleasant conversation I asked them what the real purpose of our meeting was. They explained that in the recent past each of them had a loved one who succumbed to the ravages of cancer. In response, they had a benefit golf outing to raise funds for the “fight against cancer.”

As it happened, these gentlemen gave half of the proceeds to the Northwestern University Research Center. And, to my surprise, they said they were giving the other half to Fenwick because “we know you are preparing the scientists, researchers and health-care workers of tomorrow, and you are doing it well.”

These men seem to know how well we educate our students in the sciences, in part because of our reputation for excellence. What a remarkable testimony to what Fenwick claims in its motto!

The Philosophy of Education

By Gerald F. Lordan, O.P., Ph.D., Social Studies Teacher and Faculty Mentor

There are five principal educational philosophies in America:

  1. the Idealism of Plato
  2. the Realism of Aristotle
  3. the Experimentalism of Dewey
  4. the Existentialism of Sartre
  5. the Thomism of Aquinas

Philosophy is the love of wisdom. A philosopher seeks to ask the right question — and not to give the right answer. Philosophy has three principal questions: a) What is real? (metaphysics), b) What is true? (epistemology), and c) What is good? (axiology)

The axiological question is so broad that it often is divided into two subsections: What is right? (ethics) and What is beautiful? (aesthetics)

Approximately 90% of American children attend public schools. They are usually taught under more than one of the first four philosophies. Approximately 10% of American children attend private schools. Of that amount, about nine of ten are in parochial schools, and some 90% of them are in Roman Catholic schools. These children are usually taught under Thomism.

The private-sector students who do not attend a parochial school usually attend an independent school. These schools usually have a focus on either Idealism or Existentialism. I believe those schools which focus on one philosophy better serve their children. Furthermore, it is my opinion that those schools which focus on Thomism best serve their children.

Here’s Why

In the Chicago metropolitan area, we have schools which are examples of all five educational philosophies. The curriculum model of an Idealist-philosophy school is Scholar Academic. The Scholar Academic School trains the next generation of academic discipline scholars – that is chemists, poets, mathematicians, etc. Students are valuable for what they know.

The curriculum model of a Realist-philosophy school is Social Efficiency. The Social Efficiency School trains the next generation of workers – that is engineers, accountants, architects, actuaries, librarians, etc. Students are valuable for what they do.

The curriculum model of an Experimentalist-philosophy school is Social Reconstruction. The Social Reconstruction School trains the next generation of change agents dedicated to the advancement of a democratic, capitalist, political-economic order. Students are valuable for what they believe.

The curriculum model of an Existentialist-philosophy school is Human Development. The Human Development School prepares the next generation of self-actualized individuals. Students are valuable for the people they may become.

The curriculum model at Fenwick is Thomism. Fenwick prepares the next generation of virtuous servant leaders of society. Students are valuable as human beings with the potential to be full of God’s grace. There are neither superiors nor inferiors in a Thomist-philosophy school, but rather superodinates and subordinates. They are trained to be members of the Hero Generation.

The Hero is the poor boy or girl made good; the person on horseback who rides into a polis, a city, in the midst of anarchy, a situation in which there is bad government by the many with mob rule and wildness in the streets – a scenario in which nobody’s life, liberty and property are safe. The Hero says, “I know what to do. I have a plan. Follow me.” The Hero inspires the people and leads society to serenity.

About the Author

 

Gerald Lordan

Dr. Lordan is entering his 27th year of teaching at Fenwick. Originally from Massachusetts, Lordan completed his under-graduate studies at Northeastern University and received a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Maryland. He earned his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Boston College.

Dominican Collaboration Spanning the Decades

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

Saint Dominic meets Saint Francis: Stained glass window from St. Dominic’s Church in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.)

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”