Different Is Good

All-school Mass on August 22 celebrated the opening of Fenwick’s 94th academic year!

By Elise Weyer ’23 (Western Springs, IL)

Good morning, Friars. Welcome to the first Mass and the first day of the 2022-23 school year! It is so exciting to see everyone this morning and wonderful that we are all together again.

A week ago, I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a post that caught my attention. It said, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” As I sat down to write this reflection, I kept thinking about this quotation. We may think that it’s easier to go on our own track and take the easy way out when trying to accomplish a task. However, when we go together, we can achieve much more than we would alone.

St. Catherine of Siena

This phrase reminded me of another quote from St. Catherine of Siena: “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” When we accept ourselves and accept others for who they are, we create a community of people who are striving to share the fire. Sometimes we think that we can’t trust in God or we feel far from Him. However, when we trust in His will and trust the people in our lives that He has sent for us, the difficulty of growth becomes much easier. 

South Bend in the Summer

At the end of June, I had the privilege of attending the Notre Dame Vision retreat with members of the Preaching Team and other members of the Fenwick community. During this week, we were able to experience small-group discussions, lectures on faith, reconciliation and adoration. One of the main stories we focused on was Agnes: The Lost Sheep. This story is an adaptation of the parable of the lost sheep (one of Jesus’s stories). This version imagines that Agnes is a sheep who has a different color coat from the rest of the other sheep. She is ridiculed by the other sheep for not fitting in, and they tell her that the Shepherd will never love her. Agnes feels so rejected that she runs away from the flock. She runs into a wolf who tells her that the Shepherd would not even know if she had disappeared. The Shepherd realizes that Agnes is missing and leaves the rest of the flock to find her. Agnes sees that she was foolish to let others make her think that she is not wanted and that the shepherd would abandon her. 

The parable of the lost sheep shows us that God loves us no matter what. He loves us with such fervor that he would die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. He knows each and every one of us by our names. We must remember that we are meant to be different. It is good to be different from your neighbor.

Sometimes we feel lost. We may be struggling with the relationships we have with others, things not going our way, and we may even feel abandoned by God. I have learned that many of these struggles happen for a reason. When we ask for kindness, God gives us the opportunity to compliment someone. When we ask for strength, God puts us through the ringer. We are taught to be a more loving friend, a more generous community member, and a more faithful sheep. 

As we grow in our faith, it becomes crucial to remain grounded in who we are: beloved sons and daughters of God. The influence of social media and the news makes it very challenging for us to feel truly loved and have confidence in our faith. There is a constant push and pull in what is “right” and “good,” “wrong” and “evil.”

Being who God intended us to be can most of the time mean not fitting in to what society expects. Jesus loves us just the way we are. We are created to be different, and this reality provides the opportunity to flourish.  Jesus is calling us to Him.

More importantly, He is calling us to use our talents and gifts in service to others. The Fenwick community allows all students, faculty and staff to work together to encourage each other to embrace their talents for the sake of discovering the best versions of themselves. The welcoming environment of this school celebrates the importance of being unique. We are not perfect. We make countless mistakes, yet Jesus continues to love us and forgive us no matter what. You cannot find a love better than His anywhere.

With the new school year ahead of us, and as we continue on the journey to discover our purpose and vocations, I want to remind us again of the quote from St. Catherine of Siena. “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” And, I ask you, what will your fire be? How will you answer God’s call? Remember: You are wanted. You are loved. You do belong. You are a Friar. 

Exploring Grudges and Forgiveness

A Fenwick Preaching Team Member shares his Ash Wednesday faith reflection.

By Will Chioda ’21

Friar Preaching Team Member Will Chioda is a Fenwick senior who resides in Hinsdale, IL.

I would like to start off Mass with a small but encouraging note: The last time we had an all-school Mass was almost exactly a year ago today, on Ash Wednesday. This feels like a step in the right direction towards getting closer to normalcy.

If anyone listening has had the immense pleasure of getting to know me, you might know that I am not a person who forgives easily. I tend to hold a harsh and lengthy grudge against a person. Most of the time, this defense mechanism against getting hurt again prevents me from deepening relationships and trusting others. The irony in this is that I am far from a perfect person. I have wronged, hurt and offended many, including a number of our fellow classmates listening right now. However, Jesus calls believers to be forgiving, which is something that I plan on focusing on during this Lenten season.

In my research and reflection on the topic of forgiveness, I noted a subtle connection between the dictionary definition of forgiveness, and a personal favorite prayer of mine, the Peace Prayer. While the dictionary says that forgiveness is the willingness to pardon, St. Francis’s prayer reminds us that it is in pardoning that we are pardoned. In other words, the motivation to forgive others is that, in return, our own wrong-doings are forgiven. In my case, there is no way I can fully love others if, in fear of being hurt again, I focus my attention only on what another person has done wrong. My strongest, most loving and supportive relationships are those in which differences and misdeeds are mutually acknowledged and forgiven. 

With the arrival of the Lenten Season comes a call from God. As students of faith, we are presented with the opportunity to foster personal growth and to create positive change. Lent is a reminder to repent, turn to the gospel and seek forgiveness for our sins.

READ BROTHER TROUT’S BLOG ABOUT HOW TO “LENT”
DURING A PANDEMIC.

Friars’ Student Preacher for October

A Fenwick junior urges her classmates to learn from sisters Martha and Mary in the Bible — and be more diligent with their prayer lives.

By Grace McGann ’21

Grace McGann, a junior, commutes to Fenwick from Western Springs, Illinois.

In today’s Gospel, we learn about two sisters named Martha and Mary. When welcoming Jesus into their home, Martha scrambles to clean and organize the house while Mary simply sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to his wisdom and prayer. Eventually, fed up and exhausted, Martha complains to Jesus about the actions of her sister. Jesus simply explains to Martha that her own anxieties and worries have gotten the best of her, and that Mary has made the better decision by choosing to pray alongside Jesus.

It’s easy, especially as Fenwick students, to see ourselves in Martha’s position. From what seems to be endless hours of homework, maintaining grades and also maintaining meaningful relationships, high school does come with a lot of things to be worried about. So many of us have gotten to a point where it feels like these worries consume us. It’s at moments like these where we must remember the Gospel. Jesus told Martha that she was too focused on worrisome things and that she should focus more on the thing that truly matters: prayer. We are all individuals with very busy schedules, but as Jesus said to Martha, we cannot let our worries take priority over our faith. In the long run, your grade in geometry is not going to have a significant impact on your life. Your faith, however, can set your soul on fire for the rest of your life, and that all starts with our prayer habits.

Yes, we do pray before every class and some of us might pray before every meal. But it is easy to find ourselves stuck in the rabbit hole where we are just going through the motions. We stand up, say a “Hail Mary” or even an “Our Father” and sit down. But how often do you think about what you just did? An easy step to take to improve your prayer habits is being aware of what you are saying. We pray before class, for example, because we are asking God to help us with our struggles, not to just focus on our struggles and completely and ignore Him in the process. There are thousands of ways to engage in meaningful prayer. For me, its praying before I go to bed.

Continue reading “Friars’ Student Preacher for October”

Student Preaching

At the 90th Celebration Mass for Fenwick on September 9, a Friar junior encourages his classmates to rise above social pressures and make morally good choices.

By Will Chioda ’21

In today’s Gospel , Jesus breaks the law by healing a crippled man on the sabbath day. The scribes and pharisees become angry with Jesus, and discuss what they might do to him.

Notice how Jesus responds to them: He says “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil; to save life rather than to destroy it?” His courage to do the right thing, despite what the law says sticks out to me. This brings about some key questions and points for self evaluation. In our own Fenwick community, do we find ourselves making decisions that are more socially popular, succumbing to various social pressures; or do we choose to make courageous and morally good choices?

At the end of each day, can we say that we did, or at least tried to live and love each other as Jesus did? Can we say that we treated others as Jesus treated the crippled man? Perhaps the answers to these questions are not what we would like them to be right now. But, with the guiding hand and example of Jesus Christ, it is always possible to grow as humans, change our hearts and minds, and engage in more loving relationships with those around us in and outside of the Fenwick community. 

Currently in Mr. Slajchert’s Moral Theology class, we are learning about Socrates teaching that living a morally good life, although it might seem like a burden at times, is truly the way to lead a happy and fulfilled life. In other words, living by the rules that God has given us allows us to live happily. Applying this more closely to our own Fenwick community, let us:

> show Jesus’ courage

> be more inclusive to others

> care for the poor

> support our peers here at Fenwick

When we consistently and consciously choose to live this way, as Jesus did, it will in time create a happier and more loving community both within and outside of the walls of Fenwick High School.

VIDEO:

See and hear Will deliver his reflection.

About the Author

William “Will” Chioda, a junior from Hinsdale, IL, is a member of the Fenwick Preaching Team.

‘Death to Self:’ Bishop Barron’s Calling Began at Fenwick

By John Paulett, Fenwick Theology Teacher

Editor’s note: Monday, January 28, is the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Catholic Church and patron of students.

Three years ago Bishop Barron (left) reconnected with Fr. Thomas Poulsen, O.P., his former teacher at Fenwick.

Readers interested in exploring the excellent videos of Bishop Robert Barron, the recipient of the Lumen Tranquillum Award from Fenwick High School this year, might start with the short presentation he gives on the man he describes as his hero: St. Thomas Aquinas. The bishop explains how it was at Fenwick, when he was 14 years old, that a theology teacher first introduced him to St. Thomas Aquinas. He describes it as a “bell-ringer” event and goes on to explain how it changed the course of his life. He seems to suggest that this seminal moment led him, through the grace of God, into the priesthood.

Besides his description of the encounter in his freshman theology class, there is another deep Fenwick link in Barron’s explanation of Aquinas. He lists three ideas, which he believes characterize the thought and teaching of Thomas. It is interesting to note how closely the three themes he describes resemble three main ideas characteristic of a Fenwick education. Many high schools talk about the “grad at grad,” or what a graduate will know and be. I would suggest that these three concepts, reflective of the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, might be a good description of a Fenwick student after four years on Washington Boulevard.

Bishop Barron first explains in the video that Aquinas believed there was one truth. He explains that people of Thomas’s time (we might note of our time as well) often thought there were two truths — scientific and religious. Aquinas refused to accept that. He knew that there could be only one truth. If science and religion seemed to be in conflict, there was a problem in either the scientific or the theological method. More thought and study were required.

‘Dominicans are not afraid of reason; we embrace it.’

Barron calls St. Thomas Aquinas his hero.

At Fenwick, we sometimes express this same idea as, “Don’t leave your brain at the door of the church (or the theology classroom.)” It is a characteristic of Dominican education to apply rigorous study and thought to every aspect of our education, including our religious belief. We are not afraid of reason; we embrace it. We are convinced that reason and critical examination will lead to the Creator, not contradict creation.

And so we teach Fenwick students to question, to wonder, and to apply the lessons they learn from science and philosophy to their faith. Bishop Barron reassures us that Aquinas had no fear of reason. Neither should we.

Radical Humanism

Secondly, Barron describes the Thomistic understanding that we are contingent beings. This is a fancy way of saying that we depend on something else for our existence. That thing that is the First Cause, what does not depend on anything else for its existence, is what we call God. It was this explanation of the Proofs of the Existence of God that first rang the bell of 14-year-old Bob Barron. [A Western Springs resident, he transferred to Benet Academy in Lisle.]

I often say to myself, “There is a God and it is not me.” When we recognize that we are dependent on a power beyond ourselves (12-step programs would call it a Higher Power,) we are on the path to faith. We begin this journey with the destruction of self-centeredness and ego. Christian theology calls it “death to self.” In the gospel of John, Jesus tells us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces great fruit.”

Continue reading “‘Death to Self:’ Bishop Barron’s Calling Began at Fenwick”

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.”

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.