While students continued to endure the pandemic’s negative effects, the senior retreat personified the Dominican Pillar of Community.
By Nick Polston ’21
The iconic Fenwick atrium is my favorite part of the entire school. In the morning, walking through this part of the building signifies an exciting day ahead. In the afternoon, the speckled, marble floor glints in the sunlight that shines through the glass entrance, and I contribute to the after-school commotion as I joke with my friends. For over three years, however, I often failed to acknowledge an integral piece of this room’s welcoming beauty.
Four large banners hang above the atrium’s second set of doors, each one embroidered with a pillar of the Dominican faith: Community, Service, Study and Prayer. I learned about these values extensively in my theology classes and read about them in Fenwick newsletters; however, with all the time I spent in that Fenwick atrium during my first three years of high school, I surprisingly never took the time to stop, look up and reflect. Of course, there were plenty of mornings when I walked into school with my head down, going over some mental notes for a first-period test or simply tired from homework and football practice the night before. Only Mr. Ritten’s cheerful emphatic “GOOD MORNING!” was enough to lift my gaze. Yet all the while, those banners hung there, watching over me. It was not until my Kairos experience senior year that I truly recognized the importance of those four pillars.
It is difficult to write about my Kairos experience without giving away the activities and traditions that make the retreat so impactful, but I will do my best. Arriving at Fenwick for the three-day retreat was scary at first, even as I sat in the comfort of the atrium. I was surrounded by classmates whom I did not know well, much less with whom I could see myself sharing in the intimacy that I believed Kairos engendered. However, once we boarded the bus that would take us to the Bellarmine Retreat House, we began to talk with each other about the colleges we were attending, the sports we played and some of our favorite Fenwick memories.
After arriving an hour later, we were placed in our ‘small groups.’ Admittedly, I was nervous once again after my group assignment; it was comprised of classmates with whom I had not had a conversation since freshman year history class, and I nearly regretted my decision to attend Kairos without my close friends. Over the course of the next three days, however, my small group truly became my family. It is still shocking to me how 72 hours with a group of people I had only seen occasionally in the halls of Fenwick could turn into a support system that I know I can count on forever. Being with my small group gave me the courage to express myself and listen to others, because I knew that I was in a trusted, safe environment.
The Pillar of Community
As cliché as it may seem, Kairos gave me the perspective to truly appreciate not only the similarities between myself and others, but also the differences that make us all so unique. It was at Kairos that I began to understand the importance of Community in the Dominican faith. Judgement, shame and negativity were left at the door of Bellarmine House and replaced with courage, love and support. Kairos created a bond between my classmates and me that has yet to fade and may just remain with me forever.
I once read that praying with others is an amazing way to grow spiritually, as you carry the burdens and intentions of others with you as you pray. Kairos was especially unique in this manner. After sharing stories with classmates and internalizing the struggles and triumphs of peers, praying together at the end of the day was yet another way my Kairos group became closer as a community. I realized that prayer should not only serve as petition and intercession but as praise and thanksgiving for the blessings God gave me in my life.
One of my Kairos leaders told me, “You get out of Kairos what you put into Kairos,” and I certainly found this to be true over the three days we spent at Bellarmine Retreat House. Everyone is affected differently by their experience at Kairos; however, if you put effort into participating in the activities, expressing your feelings and listening to others, this retreat will be one of the best times of your life.
My advice to future students who will attend Kairos is to treat the experience with respect. Respect the courage of fellow students, teachers and leaders. Respect the amount of trust they have in you, and you, too, will find the courage to express yourself. Kairos is a refreshing, life-changing three days that changed my perspective on life. When I return to Fenwick, I will never fail to look up and see the four banners that hang above the atrium entrance. Living my life by incorporating the four Dominican pillars is to inherently “live the fourth.” Those who have been on Kairos know what I mean, but to the future students who are waiting to go on their Kairos retreat, I guess you will have to wait and find out.
Fenwick’s senior-class retreats have been different in 2021, but things are slowly returning to a more “normal” state.
Call it “Pandemic Prayer Power” perhaps, but the coronavirus cannot stop the Fenwick Friars’ KAIROS senior retreats, which have taken place — safely and socially distanced — this winter for members of the Class of 2021!
“This year has brought many different challenges,” says Kairos Director Mrs. Maria Nowicki, “but getting back to Bellarmine [retreat house in Barrington, IL] in February was needed, and I know that God had a hand in helping us get there. Our young people have a lot to deal with, and they need God and [need] to know His great love for all of us.
“It has been beautiful to see our students sharing stories of faith and inspiration or simple moments, like 30 kids trying to build a snowman together, especially after the many hardships of the last year,” Mrs. Nowicki continues. “My heart has been touched with the incredible amount of gratitude the senior class has shown when there is so much they could be down about.” What three recent retreatants took away:
“I know I am young, but I can say truthfully that I am going to try and ‘Live the 4th’ every day for the rest of my life. I believe it has shaped me more into the person I am supposed to be and will have a forever impact on how I choose to live my life.”
“I learned to value my friendships and family more, to never forget everyone has hardships that I may not be aware of, and that God loves me and everyone He created so much.“
“On Kairos I found that if God brought you to it, He will bring you through it.”
Catching up with recent college graduates and 2016 Fenwick classmates Bridget Corcoran and Brendan Jones.
Fenwick Graduation: 2016 Hometown: Elmhurst, IL Grade School: Visitation College: Saint Louis University Major: Investigative and Medical Sciences (IMS)
Internship: My sophomore year at SLU I accepted a position at St. Louis Children’s hospital as a phlebotomist and laboratory assistant. I had the opportunity to work with the greatest kids, exercise the diagnostic laboratory science I learned at SLU, and collaborate with some of the most prestigious pediatric medical professionals.
Career aspirations: I am applying to Physician Assistant (PA) schools all across the country. I have three interview offers already and cannot wait to see where I end up!
Fenwick achievements/activities: Some of my activities at Fenwick included: 4 years on the Poms team, 3 years on the soccer team, Banua, Write Place tutor, Friar Mentor, Latin Club, Illinois State Scholar and Student Council.
Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: Although it is almost impossible to pick just one, I would have to say Mr. Trankina. Taking Anatomy with Mr. Trankina my senior year was my first didactic medical experience and really got me excited about pursuing a career as a PA. He also went out of his way to help tutor me in AP Chemistry during my study hall, which really showed his dedication to his students and their success.
Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: Besides Anatomy, a close second in my most influential Fenwick classes would have to be AP Language and Composition (APLAC) with Mrs. Visteen and Mr. O’Connor. It was my first purely discussion-based class on such a wide variety of topics that it undoubtedly prepared me the best for college classes.
Best Fenwick experience/the one you would like to live again: I would easily choose to relive my Poms performances at the homecoming pep rallies every year. During these performances, I felt so much pride in being a Friar and loved every minute of energizing the crowd with a dance we put so much hard work into. I can definitely still remember the choreography for these dances four years later!
What Fenwick experience changed you the most: My four years participating as an Irish dancer in Banua taught me so much about supporting my classmates, appreciating our talent diversity, and working hard to put on the best show. The love and support I felt from the Fenwick community during Banua season was undeniable and showed me how lucky I was to attend a high school with such an uplifting environment.
Fenwick Graduation: 2016 Hometown: Riverside, IL Grade School: St. Mary’s College: Marquette University Major: Economics
Post-graduate plans: After graduating from Marquette University in May, I was fortunate enough to accept a position as an Operations Assistant at Guaranteed Rate in Chicago. I help mortgage brokers and their clients throughout the lending process. During these hard times, it is rewarding to help people make their dreams of buying a home come true.
Catching up with future coach Keshaun Smith ’14 (with son, Kameron) andfuture teacher Laura Kelly ’19.
Fenwick Graduation: 2014 Hometown: Maywood, IL Grade School: Irving Elementary College: Illinois State University (Normal, IL) Major: Recreational Management Internship: Crossfit Iron Flag and Athletic Performance
Career aspirations: To train children and teenagers to become
drastically better at whatever sport they are playing. Eventually, I will begin
coaching football or basketball. Now that I’ve graduated from college [last month],
I am taking over my dad’s furniture-moving business (Smith Furniture
Fenwick achievements/activities: three-year varsity basketball starter; two-year
varsity football starter.
Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on
you: Ms. Carraher/Megall
Fenwick class that had the most influence on
you: Spanish III with Ms.
Best Fenwick experience/the one you would like to live again: Coming in early in the morning before my second-period class freshman year to tutor for Spanish. I had never been taught Spanish before high school, unlike all of my classmates. I struggled the first semester, until I began tutoring with Ms. Carraher. This turned out to be the best thing I could’ve done because it made me comfortable speaking with my professors [in college], especially when I needed extra help.
Fenwick experience that changed you the most: My junior year. I remember driving to Ms. Megall’s house to get tutoring in Spanish III. I realized how tough her class was early in the semester and I made sure I was going to pass Spanish III. This changed me because instead of ignoring my struggles as I did first semester freshman year, I took action and actually passed Spanish III. I was afraid of Ms. Megall’s class because I heard about how hard it was and how ‘mean’ she was. As I began to get to know Ms. Megall, I realized something and this is what changed me: I realized Ms. Megall was actually a very sweet woman and I would never listen to anyone else’s opinion about another teacher again until I see for myself. Ms. Megall’s class is challenging but if you put in the work, I guarantee you will succeed.
Note: Before transferring to ISU, Keshaun played football at Loras College in Dubuque, IA, then basketball at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.
Fenwick Graduation: 2019 Hometown: Western Springs, IL Grade School: St. John of the Cross Current School: Fordham University (New York City) Major: Digital Technology & Emerging Media with minors in Italian and Theatre Performance
Summer internship: Unfortunately, my opportunity to be a
counselor at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in northern Michigan for the
entire summer was postponed. However, I just accepted a position as the Arts
Administration Apprentice at BAM Theatre in Hinsdale. I have worked at this
program for several years as an intern and assistant director, but now that
arts education is occurring in a virtual format, I am able to take on a new
position and can explore how teaching and performing can still happen remotely!
Career aspirations: In eighth grade, I was voted “Most Likely to
be a Teacher,” but I never really understood why … until I came to Fenwick and
met Ms. Lamoureux and Ms. Hennessey. At some point in my life, I would love to
be a secondary educator and theatre director so I can work with young people
and shape their lives just as my favorite teachers have shaped mine. Using the
major I am pursuing at Fordham, I am also very interested in working in media
management for entertainment companies like Netflix or Spotify.
Fenwick achievements/activities: Middle America Regional Champion in the Optimist Club Oratorical Contest with Mr. Arellano, National Honor Society, Illinois State Scholar, Tri-M Music Honor Society, Italian Honor Society, nine productions in the Blackfriars Guild, Honors Chamber Choir, girls’ tennis team, contributor and Diversions editor for The Wick, Write Place tutor, Kairos leader and rector.
Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you: Ms. Hennessey was my
Italian teacher for four years, and I am extremely blessed for that. I decided
to take Italian on a whim, not knowing anything about the language, and it
ended up being my favorite class for four consecutive years. She is more than
an amazing educator, she is also a wonderful mentor. While she taught me about
Italian grammar and culture, she also helped me through some difficult times in
In the spring of
2011, on the verge of graduation from my MFA poetry program, I applied for
every high school English and Spanish opening in Chicagoland, from Waukegan to
Wheaton to Orland Park. I grew up in south Oak Park, and my husband and I had
just purchased a house here. On a lark, I submitted my resume to Fenwick, even
though no job was posted. So, why am I here? To start with, I figured it would
be cool to live seven blocks from school.
Having attended OPRF, I was minimally familiar with Fenwick, aware of it as the local Catholic school that went co-ed while I was in high school. Kathy Curtin called to set up an interview. At the time, one of my mom’s best friends, Kathy Miller, had a sister who taught at Fenwick and agreed to meet with me in the teacher cafe before my interview. So my introduction to Fenwick was coffee with the unforgettable Mariana Curtin, who charmed me with her sincerity, warmth, wisdom, humor and occasional curse words.
To my great fortune,
it turned out that Fenwick did have a need for one more English teacher, in a
year that saw 17 new Fenwick teachers, several of them in the English
department. I walked home from the interview, not quite a mile, and when Pete
Groom called to say yes, it felt like providence.
That year marked a
huge transition for me. I had taught and coached for 10 years before taking a
break for my MFA, but for the past three years I had been paid to attend a few
classes and write poetry. I read for hours every day and wrote hundreds of
poems. I played basketball every week and even watched TV. It was dreamy. Then,
I graduated, moved back to Chicago, bought a house, got married, got a dog, got
a new job, and — yep, got pregnant. You know, just a few small changes.
I had long been told
by doctors that it might be hard for me to get pregnant or to carry a pregnancy
to term due to my unusual womb that has an extra wall in the middle, like a
valentine heart. So Gabriel, our wedding-night baby, came as a bit of a
surprise. In August before school started, I walked over to Fenwick and found
Pete Groom shooting baskets with one of his kids in the gym. I sheepishly
informed him that I hoped I would
need a maternity sub in March, and in the meantime I would need to back out on
coaching volleyball and basketball due to the high-risk nature of the
pregnancy. I was more than a little nervous to be such a ‘problem child’ right
out of the gates, but Pete met the news with a resigned but affable, nodding,
red-faced smile that seemed to say, ‘Ah. Of course you do.’ (You all know that
look.) I then apologetically explained the situation to Trish [Grigg in Human
Resources], who just smiled and said, ‘That’s what God wanted.’ Somewhere else
I might have been at risk of a pink slip, but not at Fenwick.
That first year, so many people helped me to find my way — both figuratively and, indeed, literally (as in the time I was assigned to sub in, uh, Room 46??). Andy Arellano, Jerry Lordan, Mary Marcotte, and John Schoeph shepherded me through. And a quick shout-out to Rick O’Connor, too, whose camaraderie in our first year meant the world.
respect and blessings
The first and most compelling reason that I have stayed at Fenwick is the people. I both like and respect all the people I answer to, and I have never before at another school been able to say that so uniformly. And my colleagues, all of you, are amazing. Truly. I am wowed by your dedication, expertise and enthusiasm every day. If I’m having a tough time, Pete Gallo will both crack me up and pray for me. When I need to respond to a tricky email, John Schoeph will sit down and talk it through with me. Coach [Kevin] Roche sets the bar so high that he makes us all better people. Arthur [Wickiewicz] greets me with an exploding fist bump daily. Hope [(Feist) Zelmer] gives me Hope. Maria Nowicki gives me hugs and pumpkin bread. Theresa Steinmeyer tells everyone, ‘You’re my favorite and sincerely means it every, single time. When I suffered my second of three miscarriages, Brigid Esposito brought me two roses and made me feel seen. Time and again, we lift each other up.
I am also here because I have a deep and abiding love for grading. KIDDING. NO. Like all of you, I am primarily here because of my students. Because my students are motivated, engaged, prepared, respectful and helpful, I am able to do my best work in the classroom. I can manage serious discipline issues, but here I mostly don’t have to. My students are allies in learning, and their intellectual curiosity propels us forward. With students so ready and eager to learn, I am free to show them what more is possible, to acquaint them with new ideas and engage in closer readings. Beyond their high level of academic accomplishment, my students’ decency, kindness, creativity and insight daily show me what more is possible. I’m here because Nate Jakaitis [Class of 2016] still sends me the latest cool thing he wrote in college; because Abbey Nowicki [also ’16] also sends me pumpkin bread; and because Robert Metaxatos [’17] takes the time to write me a letter by hand because he is reading Crime and Punishment and I first introduced him to Dostoevsky years ago in our Brothers Karamavoz reading group. My students are incredible people. They are incredible blessings.
I have been fortunate to teach subjects here that speak to my own intellectual passions — American literature and creative writing. And I think it’s an open secret that I sneak in 12 chapters of Moby-Dick when everyone else does two. I’m at Fenwick because six years ago my AP students were jealous of the Honors classes who got to read those 12 chapters and asked me to stay after school with them on Mondays to discuss the entire book. I’m here because every year since then, my Moby-Dick readers have recruited the next year’s crew. I’m here because when I brought our lunatic notion of Moby-Con to Pete Groom and Jerry Ruffino, they didn’t say no. They came aboard, as did dozens of you. I’m here because you tolerate (or dare I say even enjoy?) my whaling and sailing puns. It made my heart full that so many colleagues stepped up to chaperone and read at Moby-Con, that Father Peddicord was game to play Father Mapple, that Ernesto screened four film versions, that Rick O’Connor live-streamed the whole event with his Broadcasting club. Those students will never forget our marathon voyage, and I don’t know whether it would have happened at another school.
All of this adds up
to true community, and people filled with genuine affection and compassion for
their coworkers and students. People say teaching is a thankless job, but at
least at Fenwick, I disagree. My students depart class daily with a parade of
thank-yous — I mean, even in study hall! Seriously!
‘God wants me to be here’
One thing that makes Fenwick special is that we treat our work here as a vocation, a ministry. We are called to this work, and we are here to shape more than minds. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our Kairos program and the teachers and student leaders who work tirelessly to offer that spiritual experience to our students.
As a Protestant, I
had no idea what to expect in coming here. Would I be out of place? How would
people here treat the non-Catholic minority? Would even the statues give me the
side-eye? I could not have imagined that Lucy White would ask me to speak at
Kairos about the Christian Family or that Maria and Mary Beth would invite me
to speak today at a Dominican spiritual retreat.
I am here because God
wants me to be here. (Please write this down and look up when you have
finished: I am here because — sorry, Kairos humor — but that is why I’m here.) As a religious
institution, we are a community of learning and also a community of prayer. We
celebrate God in our service to one another. And when you’re in need you can
always be sure that Pete Gallo is not the only one praying for you.
To wrap up, I’d like
to just tell a few anecdotes that speak to my time at Fenwick:
Most faithful Friars can recite the four pillars of Dominican
life: 1) prayer, 2) study, 3) community and 4) preaching. Fenwick’s Kairos
retreats blend together three of these pillars (community, preaching and
praying), but it truly personifies prayer most of all. The nationally
recognized Roman Catholic program is a two-and-a-half day, off-campus
experience designed for high school students.
The word Kairos (from the Greek καιρός) “means ‘God’s time,’ ” translates former Theology Teacher Lucy White, who oversaw the senior retreat program at Fenwick for seven years before retiring in spring 2018.
“It is an opportunity for seniors to go apart and experience God,
others and themselves in a new way. Fenwick is unique in that, in keeping with
the Dominican tradition of preaching, the students, with adult supervision, are
the leaders of the retreat,” Mrs. White continues. “We train the student
leaders to give talks, lead small groups and guide the retreat. It is an
opportunity for the students to be honest, open and supportive of each other in
a safe, prayerful environment. Students open up and are supported by their
peers in their struggles, pressures and fears as well as their successes. The
senior class bonds as a whole, making life-long friendships. Many seniors say
that it is their best experience of Fenwick.”
Young alumnus Kyle Gruszka ’17, from Chicago and now a third-class (year) cadet at the United
States Air Force Academy, recounts: “Kairos really opened my eyes and helped me
connect to my classmates in ways I couldn’t even imagine.” A graduate of St.
Giles School in Oak Park, Gruszka is studying astronautical engineering in
Over more than three decades, nearly 10,000 Friar students have embarked on the student-run retreats. “I was on the very first Fenwick Kairos in December of 1985,” recalls former Campus Minister Fr. Dennis Woerter, O.P., D.Min. ’86, adding that fellow alumnus John Quinn ’76 was a faculty team member present at that inaugural retreat. Mr. Quinn remembers Kairos’ roots at Fenwick. “Father Peter Heidenrich, O.P., now deceased, was the driving force/founder of the program [here] ,” reports the long-time history/social studies teacher and former basketball coach.
Spanish Teacher and alumnus Jim Reardon ’86 served as a captain of that first Kairos, which was held at the Dominican House of Studies (Priory) in River Forest. A decade later, ’96 classmates turned Spanish and science teachers, respectively, Samantha Carraher and Brigid Esposito, were among the first female retreatants at Fenwick. Social Studies Teacher Gary Richied ’95 was the rector for that first co-ed Kairos in Fenwick history.
Fr. Heidenrich sought a spiritual component beyond classroom
instruction. “He wanted to create a cutting-edge retreat program,” Mr. Quinn
elaborates, wherein students could serve as living examples for each other. He
traveled around the United States to different Catholic high schools and
conferences, “probing and mining,” according to Quinn. “The vision was to seek
out young people of great leadership and faith potential to be ministers of
With the school being comprised solely of boys during Kairos’
inception, the wise priest thought it was critical to obtain buy-in from
coaches at the time, including Jim Nudera (football and wrestling) and Mike Latz ’81 (wrestling) in addition to theology teachers
such as Br. Carlos Griego. “Young men were being asked to take on very
different roles as faith leaders,” explains Quinn, then the Friars’ head
varsity basketball coach. “Bringing in coaches as part of the Kairos leadership
team was an integral part of Heidenrich’s strategy.” Strong support from the
top down came from then-President Fr. William Bernacki, O.P., notes Quinn,
followed later by Fr. Robert Botthof, O.P. and Fr. Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50.
Adds Athletic Director/alumnus Scott Thies ’99, “Kairos is a great tool for breaking down the barriers that
often exist among different groups of teenagers.”
Fr. Woerter continues: “We all have an inherent desire to be and
feel loved. Despite what may be going on in a student’s life, Kairos is an
opportunity for him or her to simply experience love. Love of God and love of
neighbor are two elements of the Great Commandment,” notes Woerter, who left
Fenwick this past spring to become associate pastor with the St. Paul Catholic
Center (Newman Center) at Indiana University. “Kairos allows the student to
feel loved by both God and neighbor. I have witnessed the life-changing effect
of Kairos, not only for individuals, but for entire classes.”
In mid-October, 51 members of the Class of 2020 — 25 boys and 26
girls — bused to the Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House in Barrington, IL, some 50
miles northwest of Oak Park and Chicago. Fenwick facilitates six such retreats
each school year, explains Math Teacher Maria Nowicki, who is in her second
year of directing Kairos, which falls under the Campus Ministry umbrella. Two
similar groups had their Kairos this past June and September, and three more
will occur in December and next January and March.
“Our hope is that these young people grow stronger in their faith,
get closer to God and actually feel His love during their time at Kairos,” Mrs.
Nowicki says, emphasizing that the program is run by the students. A core team
of 10 seniors, “who have made their own Kairos,” lead each retreat, she points
out, while two others serve as rectors. “These students put on the retreats for
their peers,” Nowicki notes, “and are assisted by a team of six adults.”
Kairos days and nights are rich in personal, heart-felt
reflections and intimate sharing. More often than not, hearing their peers open
up emotionally forges bonds and strengthens connections between classmates.
What does it mean to Fenwick students chosen to be retreat leaders?
Joe Zawacki ’20, one member of the current senior leadership team, shares: “The
opportunity to be a Kairos leader has to be the blessing for which I am most
grateful in my life right now. The chance you have to preach God’s love and
then witness it in action among the retreatants as they learn to embrace Kairos
is indescribable,” says Zawacki, a musician and soccer player who hails from
Oak Park and is a member of the Fenwick Math Team. “I don’t see anything better
in life than this retreat and its power to bring our grade together, from one
retreat to the next.”
Classmate Kennedy Berschel ’20 adds, “As a Kairos leader, I have never grown more respect or
appreciation for the people I surround myself with every day at Fenwick. The
overwhelming sense of trust, vulnerability and love displayed on every retreat
is something that can only be described as God’s presence.” Berschel plans to
study and play women’s soccer (she is a midfielder) at the University of
Illinois next year.
Fellow senior and soccer defender Joe Sedlacek asserts, “The Kairos retreat has by far been
the highlight of my four years here at Fenwick as I have actively been part of
a life-changing program that unites an entire class into one, loving family. It
taught me that no matter how different we may seem from each other, we are
similar in a multitude of ways and can build lasting relationships.” Sedlacek,
who grew up in La Grange Park and attended Park Junior High School, adds, “I am
eternally grateful for the Kairos experience and hope every student feels the
What recent alumni are saying
Young alumna Meredith Kisla ’15, who graduated from high school four and a half years ago,
relates, “Leading and rectoring Kairos was my greatest experience at Fenwick. I
had the opportunity to deepen my relationships with my classmates, myself and
my faith over the course of three days, and truly believe it has shaped the way
I carry out my life.”
Kisla, who hails from Western Springs (St. Francis Xavier) and
graduated from Saint Mary’s College (Notre Dame, IN) added, “Kairos is such a
wonderful experience, and I am forever grateful for the many lessons, friends
and memories I gained from each retreat.” This past spring, she began a career
in public accounting in London, U.K.
Her 2015 classmate Pete Salvino, a former Friar football player and recent neuroscience/electrical
engineering graduate of Johns Hopkins, “was lucky enough to take part in Kairos
twice; the second time as a leader. It really was unlike any other experience I
had at Fenwick and gave me new appreciation for the type of people my classmates
are.” Salvino grew up in River Forest and went to Roosevelt Middle School.
Other recent Fenwick graduates echo Salvino’s praise for the
retreats. Daniela Echiveste
’16 credits Kairos as the
one Fenwick experience that changed her the most. “The experience made me
realize how blessed I am and to always keep in mind what other people are going
through in life,” says the native Chicagoan (John Spry Community School) who is
majoring in advertising management at Michigan State.
“Kairos really helped each person become
closer to those around them and helped us realize that everyone has a story,
and we don’t know what others have been through,” adds Elmhurst native and
fellow alumna Margaret
now a senior nursing student at Saint Louis University. “Showing kindness to
someone who is secretly going through a rough time can make a world of
difference to them. I am going to carry this with me through my nursing career
and offer love and kindness in all that I do.”
Jakarie Gates, their 2016 classmate and a senior at Morehouse College in
Atlanta, notes, “Kairos taught me not to take the important things in life for
granted: love and appreciation. Kairos made me appreciate time more.” Gates,
who aspires to work in public relations/social media after graduation, also
grew up in Chicago and attended St. Malachy Catholic School. He has been active
in the North Lawndale Reads project through the Steans Family Foundation.
Anastasia Velliotis, another ’16 classmate, notes, “I absolutely loved Kairos because
I feel that is when our class really connected the most. Being able to hear
everyone’s story was incredibly inspirational and something that I will truly
cherish and remember forever.” Velliotis, originally from Western Springs (La
Grange Highlands Middle School), now is a senior in the University of Illinois’
Gies College of Business.
Adds Lina, Anastasia’s
mother, “I do believe the Fenwick Mission that inspires excellence and educates
each student to lead, achieve and serve resonates with Friars long after they
graduate. Fenwick should be proud!”
“The Fenwick Mission — that inspires excellence and educates each student to lead, achieve and serve — resonates with Friars long after they graduate.”
— past parent
So what goes on at Kairos?
There is an air of mystery surrounding Kairos. Seniors
sort of know what it is, but they are not truly certain of what happens at the
big retreat. There are wake-up and clean-up logistics, of course. “Kairos is
simply something which needs to be experienced,” stresses Brother Joseph Trout,
O.P., Chair of Fenwick’s Theology Department. “Knowing the sequence of events
does not tell you what Kairos is any more than outlining a married couple’s
daily schedule really tells you what it is like to be married.”
Alumnus Charlie Myers ’17 reflected on
his own retreat experience three years ago. “Kairos was hands down the Fenwick
experience that changed me most,” concludes Myers, a junior marketing major at
Bradley University in Peoria, IL, who was raised in Chicago (Catalyst Circle
Rock Elementary School). “But I won’t say too much — to not spoil it for the
Classmate Lauren Lombard ’17, of Western
Springs (St. John of the Cross), perhaps says it best. “Kairos at the beginning
of my senior year showed me the love that surrounded me at Fenwick and allowed
our grade to unite around each other for the remainder of our time together.”
Now a college junior, Lombard is a chemical engineering major at the University
of Notre Dame.
The environment of Kairos is extraordinarily
supportive, explains Isabelle Bucolo ’20, a senior retreat co-leader for
the 2019-20 school year. “Because of this, most people have found it to be a
comfortable outlet for them to open up to others and to themselves. I am
typically an open book,” admits Bucolo, an Elmhurst resident and accomplished
alto singer (All-District) in the Fenwick Choir, “but Kairos has given me even
more of an opportunity, and a great platform, for me to tell my story in order
to help others. Kairos shows us that we have our own built-in support system. I
think Kairos is incredible for this reason: not only are you helping yourself,
but you are helping others.”
praise for Kairos
“I would love to relive Kairos,” admits alumna Eryn Kulik
’16, a senior advertising major at the University of Illinois in
Champaign-Urbana. “Kairos is a retreat that will bring classmates together to
form life-long friendships. It is also a way for students to get to know God
and themselves. Through Kairos I have learned to love and appreciate everything
and everyone around me in a more positive way!” says Kulik, a double Friar (St.
Vincent Ferrer) from Elmwood Park.
“My Kairos experiences shaped who I am today,” reveals
Vulich ’15, a former college swimmer at Bellarmine University in
Louisville. “I learned something different as a retreatant, leader and rector.
The retreat that stands out the most was my final Kairos and helping Fr. Dennis
navigate the process. I owe that retreat for making me believe in my leadership
skills,” recalls Vulich, a La Grange Park native (Cossitt Elementary and Park
Junior High); she now is a Wellness and Recreation Graduate Assistant at St.
Ambrose University in Iowa.
“The Fenwick experience that changed me was Kairos,”
Blakeney ’18, who plays football with his twin brother, Lorente, at
Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL, where he is majoring in
health science. “Before attending the trip, I had my doubts on whether I would
even enjoy myself. I ended up reconnecting with a lot of people I used to talk
to and meeting people who I’d never had a conversation with before.” The
Blakeney brothers grew up in Chicago and attended Washington Irving Elementary
Rachel McCarthy ’17, an English literature/psychology double major at Illinois Wesleyan University, adds: “To me, Kairos was a powerful experience of acceptance and healing.” Ms. McCarthy grew up in Riverside and attended St. Mary School there.
Fenwick Graduation: 2018 Hometown: La Grange, IL Grade School: St. John’s Lutheran Current School: The University of Wisconsin-Madison Current Major: Animal Science (Pre-Vet)
Summer Internship: I do not have a formal internship through the university this summer, but I work as a groom for a few Argentine polo pros. I gain experience through working with the horses as well as by assisting the vet when the horses need treatment. I am also involved in a biomedical research lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This lab work will extend through my entire undergraduate schooling.
Career aspirations: I aspire to go to go to vet school.
Fenwick achievements/activities: I was a member of the National Honors Society, Tri-M Honors Society, Friar Mentors, was an Illinois State Scholar, a Eucharistic minister and was on the State Team for WYSE. I also ran track for three years and was in choir for four years.
Fenwick teacher who had the most influence on you:Mr. Kleinhans had the most influence on me. I learned a great deal in his physics class, but most of all I learned from his example as a role model, teacher, mentor and WYSE coach. Some of my favorite class memories are from his “feel good Fridays” where he connected life experience to prayer and the importance of being a genuine person while working hard and enjoying life.
Fenwick class that had the most influence on you: AP Biology with Mr. Wnek was one of my many favorite classes. Mr. Wnek is a fantastic teacher, and what I learned set me up for success in college biology and other lab work.
Fenwick experience you would like to live again: I would relive the whole experience. From classes, sports and clubs, to friends, I had a great experience at Fenwick. I am extremely grateful for the community and for the way it set me up for success in college and in the future. I am thankful for the relationships I formed with teachers and the way that impacted my growth as a student and as a person.
The mom of five Friars addressed fellow Mothers’ Club members at the 2019 Fenwick Senior Mass & Brunch celebration earlier this month.
By Susan Lasek
Good afternoon Fenwick mothers, guardians, the Senior Class of 2019, Father Peddicord, Mr. Groom and Faculty. I am honored to be here speaking to you about my family’s Fenwick experience: a faith-filled journey that began in August of 2009 and will end on May 24 of this year.
Boy, 10 years go by quickly, especially with five
children, all with different personalities and interests who participated in a
variety of clubs and sports offered at Fenwick. Why did my family choose
Fenwick? Well, I go back to two very precious gifts that were given to me and
the gift of family and parenthood
the gift of faith
Both Mark and I were lucky enough to grow up in
families that were very close and where family was always #1. We also feel the
gift of faith is immeasurable — one that our families value very deeply. This
is why Mark and I decided to send our kids to a Catholic high school. After
researching all the private and public schools, Fenwick was our first choice,
hands down, no questions. We felt that it was important for our kids to be
reminded of their faith every day. We felt they would have an excellent
education that would prepare them for college. Bottom line, as a mother: It was
most important for my kids to be in a safe and faith-filled environment.
Why Fenwick? “It was most important for my kids to be in a safe and faith-filled environment.”
What made Fenwick unique in our mind was the entire Fenwick community. You are not just going to high school; you are joining the Fenwick family. You are joining a community that will be with you for the rest of your life. Whether you are the class of 2019 or the class of 1990, it doesn’t matter because you are all part of the Fenwick family.
Some of the things that make Fenwick unique and stand
Prayers are included in every aspect of a
student’s life, from the start of the day, to sporting events, theater and
How beautiful it is that Father Peddicord
greets everyone by name after school and wishes them a good rest of the day?
Kairos is one of the most emotional,
faith-filled experiences that touches every student. The three-day retreat
brings students together who may not know each other very well and provides an
opportunity for support and friendship.
Fenwick is truly a college-prep school.
Every one of my children that went off to college thanked us for sending them
to Fenwick because they felt so well prepared for their college education and
What is Friar Nation: “You are joining a community that will be with you for the rest of your life.”
To sum it up, we are thankful for the leadership that
helped guide our children from being impressionable kids to strong,
independent-minded young adults. We are grateful for their experiences that
provided a strong base of faith and knowledge that will carry them into the
next phase of their lives. We are appreciative of the entire leadership and
staff at Fenwick for genuinely caring for each and every student. Teachers at
Fenwick forge great relationships with their students, providing support,
guidance and instruction.
Overall, Fenwick instilled a sense of tradition in our
kids that make them feel as though they are a part of something bigger. I’d
like to close with the following phrase our kids hear during the morning
announcements at the beginning of every school day:
our experiences are defined by our choices. Today, make great choices. Make
today a great day or not, that choice is yours!”
Fenwick is forever in our hearts and minds. God Bless
About the Author
Sue Lasek and her husband, Mark, reside in Hinsdale. All five of the couple’s five children have attended Fenwick. A quick update on each one:
Mark II, a current graduate (Class of ’19), will attend the University of Wisconsin – Madison this fall and study physics with a minor in finance.
Josephine ’18 just finished her freshman year at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is studying nursing.
Charlotte attended Fenwick from 2011-13. She will graduate from DePaul University on June 15, 2019, with a degree in neuropsychology. Charlotte had the opportunity to work with DePaul/NASA on a project that involved researching astronauts’ brains.
Chris ’14 is currently working on his degree in architecture at College of DuPage and is working on a few projects with area architectural firms.
Rich ’13 graduated from University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2017 with a degree in economics. He is employed by Core Spaces, one of the country’s top leaders in student housing. Rich manages the Ambassador Program across the United States and conducts market research for the firm; he also is involved with business development.
Ten years ago in your life, where were you? If 50 is the new 40, then 40 is the new 30. A lot can happen in the span of a decade: Young alumni finish college, some attend graduate school, then begin to establish themselves in their professional careers; others contemplate marriage, perhaps. Slightly older alumni may have had children and started families. Older children in junior high school, hopefully, are considering taking the admissions test at Fenwick this coming December.
In the late winter of 2009, now 28-year-old Kenneth “Kenny” Matuszewski ’09 had a typical case of “senioritis” at Fenwick, counting the weeks until graduation and finalizing his plans to attend the University of Notre Dame. (In South Bend, he would major in biological sciences and Spanish.) But something profound happened during Christmas break of his junior year that, literally, changed the course of Matuszewski’s life, he says.
After the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Matuszewski and 37 of his classmates traveled to New Orleans to help people rebuild their homes. He vividly recalls “seeing the devastation, three years later.” More than 1,835 people died in the Category 5 hurricane and its subsequent floods, making it the deadliest storm in U.S. history.
“We went … as a part of the Mission New Orleans trip, a Fenwick organization,” Matuszewski explains. Their three chaperones were teachers Mr. Paulett, Mr. Ruffino and Ms. Logas, he notes. “While I had little experience with power tools or construction, I was still able to do something and help a family move into a home. That experience motivated me to find ways I could help people with my strengths; through my pro bono work, I realize I have found such opportunities.”
Fast-forward 11 years: “I have always felt it was my duty to use my talents as an attorney to give back to the community around me,” says Matuszewski, who grew up in La Grange Park and now resides in Westchester, IL. “That is why I have developed a commitment to pro bono work over the years. While this desire was instilled in me by my parents, who were and still are involved in the local library board and Special Religious Education (SPRED), Fenwick further honed it through the [Christian] Service Project.”
Latin students at Fenwick know that pro bono publico is a phrase used to describe professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment. Unlike volunteerism, it is service that uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.
Matuszewski at a Glance
Graduated from Fenwick High School, 2009 (Kairos leader, Friar Mentor, JETS, Scholastic Bowl, NHS, football, band)
University of Notre Dame, B.S. in Biological Sciences and Spanish, 2013
Chicago-Kent College of Law, J.D., 2016 (Managing Editor of the Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property, 2015-16)
On March 21st will be honored by United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with the 2018 Pro Bono Service Certificate for the second consecutive year.
Family of Friars: Kenny’s three younger siblings also are Fenwick alumni: Kevin ’10, Carly ’15 and Jasmine ’17.
Pro Bono and More
Today, Matuszewski serves the community in several ways. His pro-bono activities include work for the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub. “The patent process can be expensive, confusing and inaccessible to inventors. However, the barriers to entry for low-income inventors are even greater,” he explains. “As a volunteer attorney, I help low-income inventors obtain patents for their inventions. Over the past couple of years, I have worked with inventors who have invented devices ranging from simple footstools all the way to computer applications.” As a result of his efforts, Matuszewski earned the Patent Pro Bono Service Certificate from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for 2018 and 2017.
Mary Marcotte, Barb Shanahan and Lucy White leave big shoes to fill.
New retirees (from left): Lucy White, Mary Marcotte and Barb Shanahan.
Some 80 former students, parents and colleagues past and present gathered in the Fenwick Courtyard on Tuesday evening, June 19th, to share stories and bid a heart-felt farewell to a trio of retiring female faculty and staff members:
English Teacher Mary Marcotte has spent her 44-year career educating youth and sharing a passion for literature and writing. Colleague John Schoeph ’95 was a student in one of Ms. Marcotte’s first classes at Fenwick and later would succeed her as Chair of the English Department. Mr. Schoeph fondly remembers his mentor stressing not to take her tough editing and rewriting suggestions personally. “She would say, ‘You are not what you write,’” he recalls. “The best teachers are the most critical,” Schoeph believes.
She administered her last final exam earlier this month, after 23 years of teaching Friars’ students. Marcotte, who has worked in private and public-school settings during her 44-year teaching career, came to Fenwick in 1994 when the once all-boys institution went co-ed and began admitting female students.
“Mary Marcotte is among Fenwick’s greatest teachers both past and present,” praises Fenwick Principal Peter Groom. “Mary has excellent communication skills and cares deeply about her students. She has taught English at multiple levels, most notably English II Honors, English IV Honors and AP Literature. Countless students were inspired by Ms. Marcotte to continue their love of all things related to English and were also inspired to become better people. She will be missed.”
In addition to teaching in the classroom, for more than two decades Marcotte also has worked with the Fenwick Speech and Debate Teams and served as a Write Place Advisor, Yearbook Moderator and Director for Student Publications. She also has been an excellent mentor for new teachers over the years, Mr. Groom points out.
Schoeph adds: “Mary launched Touchstone, which hadn’t existed prior to our class’s founding it under her leadership,” he recalls. Touchstone is an annual magazine that features student writing and artwork, including poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and drama as well as multimedia forms of creative expression. “She has been a valuable resource for teachers new to Fenwick,” Schoeph adds, “cheerfully handing over file folders of her materials, not to copy but to use as springboards for original assignments.”
Marcotte also has been instrumental in fostering superior writing skills among Fenwick’s students. “She often helped out in the Write Place, at one time working with a few others to bring our writing center’s program to the attention of other schools,” Schoeph notes.
Of her students at Fenwick, “I am constantly in awe of their potential,” says Marcotte, who resides in Elmhurst with her husband Paul, an attorney. “I have been privileged to help them realize that potential. I like to think that I’ve taught with my students. Lively discourse and enlightened essays ensue when they become confident in their opinions. It truly is gratifying to hear about their successes at and beyond Fenwick.”
She is particularly proud of the work she has done with numerous juniors and seniors while constructing their college essays. “This has been such an enriching personal experience, from the drafting to the final copy,” Marcotte notes, “whether the essay is just part of the college application or for awarding scholarship monies. I got to see and appreciate the core values of many of our Friars, and I am humbled to have had these experiences. We truly have remarkable young men and women among us!”
Marcotte also takes pride in her other teaching awards, which include:
Innovation and Creativity in Teaching Award from the Archdiocese of Chicago (2006)
Golden Apple Finalist (2001)
Rev. George Conway, O.P. Outstanding Teacher Award (1997) – voted on by peers
Interestingly, Marcotte was not a natural-born teacher. “I actually wanted to be a nurse, but life takes mysterious turns,” she explains. “In the summer before college, I was in a car accident and suffered several broken vertebrae. I could not meet my college commitment for nursing, so I became friends with a wonderful librarian who kept giving me lists of literary classics. Along with my mother, this librarian inspired me to major in English, particularly World and British Literature. I also have certifications in World Religions and Church History.
“Today one of the influences I want to have on my grandchildren is to value the opportunities presented by local libraries,” she continues. “We are so fortunate to live in a country where these services are provided, and we can never take them for granted.” She also frequently attends Shakespeare plays at Navy Pier in Chicago and enjoys traveling to Canada for the Stratford Festival, an internationally recognized annual repertory theater festival that runs annually (April through October) in the city of Stratford, Ontario. At home, Marcotte is an avid gardener. “When I’m not outside in the yard, I love growing orchids,” she shares.
More than 225 years of combined education experience is represented by these six Fenwick Friars. Each cupcake candle represents 38 years!
Theology Teacher Lucy White also is retiring. “Lucy has given her heart and soul to Catholic education for decades,” says Groom. “At Fenwick, she has taught thousands of our freshmen scripture in a comprehensive way. Through her approach the students have gained a real depth of understanding. As the Director of the Kairos program our students were able to explore the role that spirituality played in their lives while bringing them closer to both their family and God. She has been a role model and friend to so many.”
Of Ms. White, Brother Joseph Trout, O.P., Theology Department Chair, says: “Lucy came to Fenwick because of her love for God. She taught her students to know the God who is love. Generously, she shared with everyone the depth of her love. She directed Kairos because she helps others experience God’s own love. She is retiring because she made a vow to, in sickness and in health, give herself to Phil [her husband] in love. Lucy has earned her accolades and awards over the years, but it pales in comparison to one fact: Lucy White is a living, breathing lesson in love. If you want to understand Jesus’ words, ‘love one another as I have loved you,’ you need simply look to her.”
Theology colleague Mr. Patrick Mulcahy adds: “Lucy is fond of saying, ‘I want kids to fall in love with God.’ She was much known and loved by her students and the seniors she led on Kairos. When she took over the Kairos program she really refocused it in a positive way. My fondest memory of Lucy’s class was the practice she had of selecting individual students and praying over them with the rest of the class in a very personal way. She really knew her students. It was truly something to witness. As a senior teacher I saw, year after year, how her students were some of the best prepared in their knowledge of Scripture. As in the case of all great teachers, ‘Lucy the Person’ was the true teacher. She has had many challenges in her life and her faith is a model to all of us in how she has coped with those challenges. She will be greatly missed.”
Friend and Social Studies Teacher Mary Beth Logas: “Lucy is someone who understands unconditional love like perhaps no one else I know. The courage with which she has faced a great many challenges and problems in her life, even before her husband’s illness, is inspiring to anyone who knows her story — and she has been generous with it to the many Fenwick students who have heard it on Kairos. The depth and constancy of her faith are a magnificent legacy to our kids in a world where faith is questioned, its value to the human spirit derided and, increasingly, Christians are persecuted in ways almost reminiscent of the trials of the early church.
“I will miss her friendship and support more than I can express. My overwhelming feeling is that this can’t be happening. I know Lucy does not feel like she has done all she can at Fenwick, but there is another great trial of love before her, and if there was ever anyone with their priorities straight, it’s Lucy. The best thing her Fenwick family can do is to keep in touch with her, for in its very nature the task that lies before her is isolating, even were she not leaving a community where she and her husband have had roots for so many years. I plan on putting some miles on my car between here and Madison in future.”
Student Services Administrative Assistant Barbara Shanahan joins White and Marcotte on the retirement path. Ms. Shanahan has been at Fenwick for 32 years, spending most of her time as the right-hand lady for Rich Borsch and the other counselors. Diana Caponigri, former Director of Scheduling and Records at Fenwick, pays tribute to Barb:
“When I think of Barb, I think of someone who is intensely loyal; someone who is willing to help even though she has a million things on her own desk; someone who has a keen sense of humor; who has much patience; and someone who is able to handle those million things on her desk efficiently and humbly. I could go on and on. She is one of the core people at Fenwick who do so much behind the scenes and don’t get much credit for their work. As a matter of fact, much of what she does enables other people to shine. She is able to anticipate, to keep herself organized, and to get the job done. Did I mention that I think very highly of her? She wants little credit for what she does, believing that if you have a job to do, you just do it and do it as best you can.
“Some of my own cherished memories of Fenwick involve Barb. If I needed numbers about some scheduling situation, such as verification of the number of requests for a certain course, she would be on the phone quickly to respond. If I needed some information about who was not coming back so I could delete some course requests, she would get to a counselor if she didn’t know the information and then get back to me quickly. I depended on her, and knew she would never let me down. Many years ago we had a student who was confined to a wheelchair and, between Barb and myself, we made sure that this boy could access his classes, which sometimes meant moving the class with its teacher to a different floor so this could happen. Being that Fenwick does what it can to accommodate special situations, some of these situations have to be handled by a person rather than a machine, and Barb was often that person. If I didn’t remember a special situation, Barb would be there to remind me or make the change herself and tell me about it. I trusted her. She would constantly update me on her progress doing whatever she was doing when we were scheduling. I always thought we made a good team whether it was working on a scheduling item or something else.
“Another memory I have is her kindness and concern to accommodate me when I would help proctor the many tests we give on Saturdays, such as an ACT, SAT or some other test. She would try to get me in a room with a computer so I could do some work while administering the test and would give me the extended-time students, which meant I would have a smaller number of students to watch. I truly appreciated this.
“In years long since gone by, we would celebrate office birthdays and she would include me when a birthday was celebrated in the Student Services area. She felt I was part of the group because of the work I did with counselors concerning scheduling, grades and other issues. She is very thoughtful.
“She and I had several opportunities to go for training for the student database, and I have some very nice memories of those too. It was so nice to spend some time with her away from the school environment and to see her relax and enjoy herself.
“I wish her the best of rest, relaxation and peace in her retirement years. These are years she so well deserves. Thank you, Barb, for all you have done for me. Thank you for your support, your help and for being you.
200 Combined Years!
Celebrating his 85th birthday is Father LaPata (center) flanked by Mr. Finnell (left) and Mr. Borsch, who both have more than 50 years of dedicated service to Fenwick.
Also feted were the 50 year service anniversaries of Associate Principal/Student Services Director Richard Borsch and alumnus/Math Teacher Roger Finnell ’59! This quintet of Fenwick teachers and administrators has more than 200 years of combined experience!
Mr. Borsch, while not yet retiring, is marking his 50th school year at Fenwick. “Mr. Borsch started at Fenwick as both a teacher and coach,” Groom points out. “Early on he demonstrated excellent interpersonal skills which lead him to be quickly moved into a leadership position in our counseling office. Rich transformed our counseling office into what we have today. As a college counselor, Mr. Borsch has been one of the greats. I have personally witnessed his ability to connect with the students and parents to help them find the best fit. His knowledge of colleges and their specific admissions offices is unparalleled.”
Last but most certainly not least, those in attendance also celebrated the 85th birthday of President EmeritusFr. Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50 (on May 22nd). Listen in as Fenwick’s 1,200-member student body sings to the “birthday boy” last month.