At the 90th Celebration Mass for Fenwick on September 9, a Friar junior encourages his classmates torise 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Families should eat dinner together. They should shut off the television. They should put down the smart phone. They should talk with one another.
If, and only if, adults join parent association, adolescents participate in student activities, and families eat dinner together, we can have social capital. Social capital is the quality of the families who send their adolescents to sit next to our adolescents in the Student Cafeteria. We rise and fall to the level of our peer group. We want our adolescents to belong to peer groups of friends from functional families with similar values to our family. Social capital is the single greatest determinant of excellence in a school. It is more important than the faculty, the facility and the curriculum.
If, and only if, we have social capital we can enjoy
collective efficacy. Efficacy is the ability to get things done. If we have
collective efficacy, we can shape the future in our Axial Age.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
By Father Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50, President Emeritus (1998-2007) of Fenwick High School
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.