DOMINICAN LEADERSHIP

Building and Sustaining Community

By Richard Peddicord, O.P.

Stained glass in the Fenwick chapel.

Every religious order is marked by a unique charism, a defining grace, a particular mission. At the same time, in light of that charism, each founder of a religious order discovers a distinctive way to be his or her community’s leader. In this post, I will explore the way that St. Dominic led the Order of Preachers as its founder, and will offer a reflection on the uniqueness of Dominican leadership. In this, offering one’s gifts for the common good, respect for subsidiarity, and collaboration will take center stage. Ultimately, the goal of Dominican leadership will be revealed as the building and sustaining of community.

Traveling through the South of France in the early 1200s, Dominic encountered people deeply affected by the Albigensian heresy.  His intuition told him that the best way to help the Church counter this divisive and harmful movement was to engage a community dedicated to preaching the truth of the gospel. This community would be an “Order of Preachers” and its members would live by the pillars of prayer, study, community, and preaching. The friars would “practice what they preach” and give to others the fruit of their contemplation. Dominic believed that the witness of his community’s life and the grace-filled reality of its preaching would win people to the truth.

St. Dominic preaching.

Dominic had long recognized that he had been given the gratia praedicationis—the grace of preaching. He put this gift of his at the service of the common good and took on the project of establishing a religious order. In this, he left behind his native Castile and his former way of life as a canon regular attached to the Cathedral of Osma.

The Cathedral of Osma in Spain.

Dominic’s first challenge was to articulate his vision and to persuade others to join with him in the task of preaching the gospel. Of course, the radical freedom of those he addressed had to be respected; there could be no coercion, no trickery. Fr. Simon Tugwell, a member of the English Dominican Province, in his poem “Homage to a Saint,” writes this about St. Dominic’s style as leader:

He founded an Order, men say.
Say rather: friended.
He was their friend, and so
At last, in spite of themselves, they came.
He gave them an Order to found.

Writing several decades before the appearance of Facebook, Fr. Tugwell says that Dominic “friended” the Order rather than “founded” the Order. Dominic built relationships of trust and intimacy. He was a man who was inclusive, who welcomed others with open arms. He shared his vision in a way that helped others see that their gifts and talents would be respected and honored and put to use in a positive way in the Order.

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Thomist School Curriculum

Fenwick considers our minds, our bodies and our faith to be gifts from God. It is our moral obligation to grow in all three of these areas.

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

St. Thomas Aquinas

As some of us may know, Fenwick is the only high school sponsored by Dominican Friars in America. As such we are a national lighthouse for the Thomist educational philosophy.

 

Thomism evolved from the writing of St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., an Italian Dominican (1225-1274).  Aquinas was educated at the University of Paris by a German Dominican, St. Albert the Great, O.P. (1200-1280). It is the greatest joy of every teacher to be surpassed by his student. Thomas brought joy to the heart of Albert. St Dominic de Guzman, O.P. (1170-1221), a Spanish Dominican and the founder of the Order of Preachers, believed in an educated clergy. To that end he sent the Friars to study the Liberal Arts at the great universities of Medieval Europe. The liberal arts influence the Fenwick curriculum today.

A curriculum is the set of planned activities designed to change the observable behavior of a student. There is a curriculum continuum. One end of that continuum has a Roman influence. The word curriculum comes from the bales of straw that delineated the chariot race course in the Colosseum. The goal of this curriculum is to cover all the prescribed material and nothing but the prescribed material in the shortest possible amount of time. The other end of this continuum has a Chinese influence.  It is the dao, the vast treeless grassy plain of western China. There is not a set course of travel. Everything looks the same in all directions all the way out to the horizon. One may, therefore, go wherever one wishes, when one wishes, at the speed one wishes.

The 1959 movie classic “Ben-Hur” was remade in 2016. But what does chariot racing have to do with curriculum?

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88 Years of Community at Fenwick

‘No One Gets to Heaven Alone’

By Father Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50, President Emeritus (1998-2007) of Fenwick High School

Fr. Dick LaPata serves as Assistant Manager to the Fenwick Fund, formerly known as the Dooley Fund.

When Fenwick was founded in 1929, the founding Friars wished to endow their new school with qualities that were special and important to them. There were certain attributes of the Dominican Order that these Friars wanted their students to embrace. These values were considered the pillars of the Order; they were the building blocks that sustained and gave direction to all Dominicans. These “building blocks” or “pillars” became the foundation of Fenwick High School and are passed on to its students even today. They are prayer, study, community  and preaching (or service).

Today, I would simply like to make a few comments regarding the idea of “community” here at our school. We at Fenwick are committed to become a place where a sense of community is felt by faculty, students, parents, alumni and friends. Here, for example, friendships are nourished. As an alumnus from the Class of 1950, I can say that some of my very best and long-lived friendships were forged here as a student so many years ago.

Beyond the forming of friendships, we want our students to have a sense of belonging to one another while they are in school. This increases our students’ care and respect for one another, thus diminishing incidents of meanness and bullying for which teenagers are often criticized.

Fenwick’s encouraging of a sense of community promotes a spirit of cooperation as students engage in the many activities offered by our school. These include teamwork in sports, in outreach to those in need, in spiritual and religious events such as retreats.

Inculcating the value of community in our students is also based on our belief in what Jesus proclaimed, namely the “kingdom of God.” Jesus gathers us into a society, a community based on our belief in God, to make this world a better place together and to build, finally, the kingdom in heaven. I might add as emphasis that no one gets to heaven alone. It takes a community to get to our final home.