Forty-Niners Reminisce about the Dominicans of Fenwick

With extra time on their hands during the COVID-19 health crisis,
10 members from Fenwick’s Class of ’49 trade memories via e-mail.

“I keep looking for something more or less productive to do,” writes Fenwick alumnus Tom Morsch ’49. “While watching a Zoom presentation on Thomas Aquinas, I noticed that his treatise on the Gospel of John was translated from Latin to English by someone named Fabian Larcher, O.P. I said to myself, I know that guy; he taught me algebra. To be sure, I went online to check ‘Order of Preachers, Province of St. Albert the Great.’ There I found that this was, in fact, our Fr. Larcher (and lots of other interesting stuff).”

Classmate Bob Lee responded, “I had Fr. Larcher for algebra also. He was a clean-desk guy. Remember? The only book on your desk was the algebra book, all others below your desk. And he walked around the class every day and enforced the law. He was one of my best teachers at Fenwick. You always had to be prepared for his quick tests. I had the feeling he was interested that I got it.” Fr. Larcher went on to teach at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, MN, from 1949-53. He passed away in 1981 at age 77 (see list below).

Tom Morsch in 1948-49.

“I agree with you, Bob. I loved the guy!” replied Morsch, who also reminisced about Father James Dempsey. “My first day in Fr. Dempsey’s English class, he asked: ‘Are there any of you who did not go to a Catholic school? If so, raise your hand’” recalls Mr. Morsch. “I did so, along with two or three others. My hand was about as high as the top of my ear.

“Dempsey said: ‘Morsch, stand up and recite the Our Father,’” he continues. “I stood up. I was terribly embarrassed, and mumbled something like, ‘Mumble, mumble, Our Father, mumble, ugh, er, mumble.’ I knew the Our Father but was too scared to say it. With disgust Dempsey said, ‘Sit down, Morsch.’ That was that. But I loved the guy!”

Classmate Jack Spatafora notes: “Fr. Dempsey let me be a columnist for The Wick. All went well until I got writer’s block. I decided to ‘borrow’ some ideas from the Chicago Public Library stacks … [and] found a clever piece on golf and adapted it. Later, I discovered that my source was a well-known New York author who was all too familiar to Dempsey — as he later advised me with a contemptuous scowl! Still, I think I’d prefer THOSE innocent days to THESE!”

Tom McCormick ’49 adds: “Freshman year we … had Fr. Larcher for Algebra, Dempsey (a good friend of Red Sox catcher and manager Birdie Tebbets) for English, Lawton for General Science, maybe Donlan or Morganthaler for Religion, Shortie Connolly for Speech, aka ‘Show and Tell,’ I don’t remember who for Latin, but I do remember fun-loving Br. Schoffman being overseer of JUG …

“An anecdote, perhaps you recall, involving Fr. Dempsey: Bill Finnegan knew I had the book Barefoot Boy with Cheek and asked to borrow it. I said okay, gave it to him before English class, and admonished him not to read it during class. Naturally, he couldn’t resist a peek, started giggling, and prompted Fr. Dempsey to ask ‘What do you have there?’ The first words out of Finnegan’s mouth were, ‘It’s McCormick’s.’ So Dempsey confiscates the book. Three weeks later he gives it back to me with a lecture on why I shouldn’t be reading things like that. I’m sure it made the rounds at the Priory during the three weeks. As a result, I wouldn’t let Finnegan read my father’s copy of Forever Amber.”

Fr. Dempsey and Fr. Lawton left Fenwick to join the Dominican mission in Nigeria. Fr. Lawton was invested as Bishop of Sokto in 1964. He died of a heart attack in 1966 while riding in an automobile and is buried in Nigeria. Fr. Dempsey succeeded him as Bishop of Sokoto in 1967 and eventually returned to the United States, where he died in 1996.

’49 TRIVIA

Father Malone
  1. What were the nicknames of Fr. Conley and Fr. Malone?
  2. Nickname of Fr. Scannell?
  3. What bet was made by astronaut Joe Kerwin in September 1945?
  4. How many freshman boys hailed from northwest suburban Park Ridge, IL?
  5. Who won the Scholar-Athlete Award at the 1949 graduation?
  6. What model car did Tony Nashaar drive to school?
  7. What was the rather remarkable thing that Jack McMahon did after graduating?
  8. Who was the fourth member of the one-mile relay team that won the Daily News Relays title beside Jack Kelly, Jack Regan and Bill Carmody?
Nashaar’s mystery car.

Answers

  1. Little Caesar & Butch
  2. Skipper because he was moderator of sea scouts.
  3. Chicago Cubs to whip Detroit Tigers in World Series, and he gave odds!
  4. Nine (A. Jenks, Sorquist, O’Brien, Frainey, Jolie, Normandt, Barczykowski, Gleason, Georgen)
  5. Jim Strojny
  6. Nash
  7. Robbed a bank and went to jail.
  8. George Remus

Order of Preachers – Province of St. Albert the Great – Necrology (Date of Death)

Teachers

John Murtaugh – 1947
James Quinn – 1961
Edward Lawton – 1966
John Simones – 1967
Michael McNicholas – 1968
Chester Myers – 1968
Andrew Henry – 1971
George Conway – 1972
Anselm Townsend – 1972
Joseph Reardon – 1977
Fabian Larcher – 1981
Cyril Fisher – 1982
George Conway – 1984
Victor Feltrop – 1984
Walter van Rooy – 1985
John Malone – 1993
James Dempsey – 1996
James Regan – 1996
Gordon Walter – 1996
Louis Nugent – 1998
Raymond Ashenbrenner – 2003
Walter Soleta – 2003
John Morgenthaler – 2004
Thomas Donlon
Albert Niesser

Teachers not O.P.

Fr. Leonard Puisis – 2013
Tony Lawless – 1976
Dan O’Brien ’34 – 2003
Br. Schaufman               

A Month in Vietnam: Dominican Government in Action

Seven months later, Fenwick’s president reflects on his trip last summer to Southeast Asia.

By Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P.

From the outside looking in, it would seem that religious orders are very much alike: they share many of the same practices, profess the same vows, serve in very similar ministries. What, then, distinguishes the various religious communities from each other? Apart from the most obvious — the style of religious garb, for example — it is the emphasis placed on the component parts of the life of the community. One order might focus on communal prayer more than another; another may be differentiated, say, by its ministry to the sick.


The floor plan for the General Chapter (the Central Province delegates at nn. 68-70).

Not surprisingly, the Order of Preachers is unique among the other orders in the Church in its focus on the ministry of preaching. The uniquely democratic government of the Dominican Order might not be as well known: indeed, it is recognized as being among the most democratic in the Catholic Church.

The Order’s Book of Constitutions (n. 252) explains that: “The Order of Friars Preachers, which is ruled by the general chapter and the Master of the Order, is made up of provinces, each of which is ruled by a provincial chapter and a prior provincial. Each province is made up of convents and houses, each of which is governed by its own prior or superior.”

The Central Province contingent: Fr. Peddicord, O.P. (from left), with Fr. Thomas McDermott, O.P. and Provincial Fr. James Marchionda, O.P.

The first constitution, written by St. Dominic and approved by the first friars, mandated a representative form of democratic governance for the above-mentioned structure. All of the superiors in the Order are elected and there are term limits for office holders. On the local level, all members have a voice in communal decision-making: It is never a matter of the superior having total decision-making authority. Dominicans see their vow of obedience to be supremely communal in its observance. One is obedient to the decisions of the community — the community in which one has an important role to play.

On July 13, the Order of Preachers welcomed the 87th successor of St. Dominic de Guzman, in the person of Fr. Gerard Francisco Parco Timoner III, O.P., a son of the Dominican Province of the Philippines and first Asian Master of the Order.

Every three years, at the international level of the Order, a general chapter is held in one of the provinces of the Order. Delegates elected from each of the Order’s 33 provinces participate. (On average, there are three delegates per province.) Every third general chapter calls for the election of the Master of the Order — the friar who will serve as the successor of St. Dominic.

From July 5th to August 4th, 2019, an elective general chapter of the Order was held in Biên Hòa, Vietnam. I was honored to be a delegate to the general chapter. As well as being a once-in-a-lifetime spiritual and cultural experience, it was also an experience of “Dominican government in action.” Delegates from all 33 provinces of the Order participated in the chapter and were assisted by a team of translators. (Simultaneous translation was available in the three official languages of the Order: French, Spanish and English.)

Continue reading “A Month in Vietnam: Dominican Government in Action”

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.

Fenwick Fathers’ Club: 2019 Dr. Gerald Lordan Freshman Family Picnic

The recently retired faculty mentor addressed new Friar parents at the annual event renamed in his honor.

By Dr. Gerald Lordan, O.P.

Welcome to Pleasant Home for the 28th Fenwick Fathers’ Club Frosh Family Picnic. We started his event in 1992 to welcome Fenwick’s first coeducational class. Three of the members of that Class of 1996 now serve on the Fenwick faculty. Pleasant Home, like Fenwick, is located in St. Edmund’s Parish. The first Catholic Mass celebrated in Oak Park was held in the barn that serviced this building. 

Fenwick is the only high school in the United States sponsored by Dominican Friars. Dominicans lead lives of virtue. Humility is the greatest of all the virtues. We are humbled by the confidence families place in us by sending us their adolescents for formation. It is a teacher’s greatest joy to be surpassed by his students. We are pleased to see so many of our former students here today as parents of students in the class of 2023. We are pleased to welcome our first fourth generation Friar! We have a member of the class of 2023 with us today who follows in the footsteps of a great grandfather, grandfather and father. 

Every high school in the United States has a legal obligation to the state legislature, which charters it to train patriotic citizens and literate workers. As a Dominican school, Fenwick follows the Thomist educational philosophy. A Thomist school has an obligation to our Creator, the Supreme Being to train moral, servant-leaders of society. The late Ed Brennan, a Fenwick alumnus and CEO of Sears, was once asked what course he studied in his graduate school of business that best prepared him to be the chief executive of a Fortune 500 Corporation. Mr. Brennan replied, “Nothing I studied in business school prepared me for my job. The only class that prepared me was Moral Theology during my junior year at Fenwick High School.”

Training moral, servant-leaders

Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. (front center) joined Dr. Lordan (left) and Fenwick Fathers’ Club President Frank Sullivan ’86 at the Freshman Family Picnic.

Our freshman students will learn this year in history class that we are in an Axial Age. Everything changes in an Axial Age. We have had an Agricultural Revolution, which made us farmers. We have had an Industrial Revolution, which made us factory workers. We are entering an Information Revolution, which will make us computer scientists. We study the past to understand the present to shape the future. We do not know what challenges beyond our present comprehension the future may bring. We must be prepared to be the moral, servant-leaders of our society so we can enable others to meet these challenges. Therefore, Moral Theology is the most important subject that our students study.

The Dominicans are the Order of Preachers and have the initials, O.P., after their names. All of our students will study speech as sophomores.

The lessons we learn in class are important or we would not bother to teach them. Even more important, however, are the lessons we learn inside our building but outside of the classroom.  Three of the Dominican Pillars are Prayer, Community and Study. Once a month we assemble in our Auditorium to celebrate Mass. It is appropriate that we meet in community to pray before we study. 

The most important lessons we learn at Fenwick are taught outside of the building. All of our students will make a Kairos religious retreat during their senior year. This is the most important thing we do at Fenwick.

3 takeways

I am going to identify three activities that will enhance our Fenwick Experience. The first is for adults. The second is for adolescents. The third is for families. These suggestions are based on educational research. They are neither my opinions nor intuitive thoughts. Pedagogy is the science of education. These suggestions come from empirical pedagogical research and enjoy a measure of scientific certitude.

  1. Adults should be active in parent associations. Vibrant parent associations are in indicator of excellence for a school. Do not just join. Do not just pay dues. Get active. Make a difference.
  2. Adolescents should participate in student activities. This does not mean just sports. It includes all manner of student clubs such as speech, drama, student government, art and music.
  3. Families should eat dinner together. They should shut off the television. They should put down the smart phone. They should talk with one another. 
Continue reading “Fenwick Fathers’ Club: 2019 Dr. Gerald Lordan Freshman Family Picnic”

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.

Continue reading “DOMINICAN LEADERSHIP”

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?

Continue reading “Thomist School Curriculum”

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.