All Saints’ Day Mass 2022 – Fenwick High School

By Student Preacher Joe Burda ’23 (Riverside, IL)

Today, the Church celebrates All Saints Day, when we recognize those Christians who have achieved spiritual maturity. It is a day to venerate all the holy men and women who have been canonized, which is the official recognition process to certify a saint, by the Church. Saints are best defined as people who lived heroically virtuous lives, offered their life for others or were martyred for the faith. 

To gain an understanding of what a virtuous life is, we need look no further than today’s Gospel. Today we hear Jesus proclaiming the Beatitudes to the disciples. To live a saintly life such as St. Francis of Assisi and St. Peter, we must follow these beatitudes which guide us to building the kingdom of God on earth. It is through us people of God that we can manifest in this world the peace and solemnity of heaven. At the end of the list of Beatitudes, Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven.” The journey to becoming holy, that is a saint, is not easy. We will face many challenges and difficulties. However, if we give it our best effort, and trust in God’s mercy, we too can spend eternity with God: a reward well worth the struggle.

Growing up in a Catholic household, and having attended a Catholic grade school, I was always surrounded by saints whether it be in the form of a bracelet, movie or statue. I was frequently told during my younger years to pray for the intercession of saints, but what does that even mean?  

Intercession is basically a request for assistance. The saints dwell with God in Heaven and are able to reach out to Him to ask for His help, for us. For example, when you lose something that you cannot find anywhere, you can pray for the intercession of St. Anthony to help guide you to find the item. 

Another example would be, St. Michael. In a homily, I heard the priest say that every time he gets into his car he prays a prayer to St. Michael, because St. Michael protects those who pray to him from all harm and evil. This homily came to my mind when it was time to choose my confirmation saint. St. Michael is who I ended up choosing because being protected from the temptations of the devil is very important. 

Each saint stands for a crucial virtue, and so we should strive to cultivate friendships with many saints, so that we are comfortable in seeking their intercession in our times of difficulty or need. St. Michael and St. Anthony are good ones to come to know, but there are many others that can aid us on our journey through this life.

To close, I invite you all to think of a need … now together, let us say the prayer to Saint Michael which goes as follows:

St Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

St. Michael the Archangel and all the Holy Saints of God: Pray for us!

The Good that Comes from Struggle

Student preaching at all-school Mass: Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, October 7, 2022.

By Anna Androsyuk ’24 (Chicago)

When you think of Our Lady, Mary, what comes to mind? I assume many of you think of motherhood, affection, love or care instead of things like warfare or strife. And, while these are all true, the origins of this celebration comes from our troubled history, in the Battle of Lepanto.

“Our Lady of Victory”

On this day, 451 years ago, combined forces of Naples, Venice, Savoy, among many others, fought in an intense battle with the fleet of the Ottoman Empire. They were called the “Holy League” and aimed to diminish Ottoman control over the Mediterranean, but they were overpowered and outnumbered. During this military endeavor, Pope Pius V encouraged the faithful to pray for the intercession of Mary to aid their soldiers through the recitation of the Rosary. He ordered the churches of Rome to remain open day and night, hoping the faithful would reach out to Mary for her guidance. The Holy League triumphed and thankful for Mary’s intercession, Pope Pius V added October 7th to the Roman Liturgical Calendar to be the feast of Our Lady of Victory. 

Like the Holy League, we all face our own battles in life. Whether big or small, we can turn to Mary for her intercession and guidance. She teaches us every day that good things come out of struggle — and she is here to guide us through them every day.

Growing up in Ukraine, my grandparents had a huge influence on my upbringing. They were the ones who introduced me to my faith and the ones who helped foster and raise it. My grandma taught me my prayers: We would say them together every night. With much patience, she taught me the two fundamental prayers – the Our Father and Hail Mary. What was interesting, is that instead of alternating prayers, she encouraged me to start with an Our Father and always follow up with a Hail Mary. To this day, that is still the way I pray.

The Ukrainian flag.

Now when I look back, she does many things to incorporate Mary into her faith. And, she did many of these things in hopes that my brother and I would also understand how important Mary is. Every time she cleaned out her wallet, she would take out an image of Mary and Jesus. It was very special to her so she would show it to us every time and have us kiss it. Once in a while, she would also show us the beautiful blue rosary she kept in her purse. And when we visited her in the summer, the day before our flight back to the States, we would visit a tiny chapel on the outskirts of a village. It was said that Mary had once appeared in this chapel. 

Rather than visiting the large church just down the road, she made an effort to take us to this tiny chapel. I wondered why. Grandma insisted that we pray both prayers at once. She had a picture of Mary, and not Jesus or another Saint. And again I wondered, why? In reality, the answer was very simple, it stemmed from a story I have heard many times before.

When my grandmother was pregnant with my mother, she had a difficult pregnancy. She recalls being extremely weak and would spend her nights crying out in pain. On one of these nights, in a dream, a woman approached her. She acknowledged my grandmother’s pain and reminded her that she was with her. This woman told my grandma not to cry because she will have a beautiful little girl named Halyna. Because my grandma’s name was also Halyna, she was very hesitant about giving her child the same name. Ultimately, she put her trust in this woman, who she presumed to be Mary, and did as she asked. 

Since this day, Mary played a very important role in my grandmother’s life. During the difficult times my grandma would again turn to Mary for her guidance. She understood the importance of Mary’s intercession and through the little things like going to that chapel or showing me that image in her wallet, she tried to explain it to me as well. 

We each have our own struggles that we must battle everyday. During our battles we might shut down and feel like giving up, but we can remember that Mary is someone we can reach out to. Simply praying even a decade of the Rosary can go a long way. She reminds us, every day, that there is good to come out of struggle. Fighting your battles doesn’t set you back in your faith. If you don’t give up, they are simply a stepping stone that will lead to a much greater outcome. But during these difficult times, just like people from the Holy League or just like my grandma, we can all turn to Mary for guidance as we each navigate our own journey to God.

Different Is Good

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

By Elise Weyer ’23 (Western Springs, IL)

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

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

St. Catherine of Siena

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

South Bend in the Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MASS REFLECTION: Saint Catherine of Siena

Student preacher Kate Dugan ’22 shared this message with the Fenwick student body on April, 29, 2022.

We gather this morning to celebrate the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena. St. Catherine of Siena was born during the plague in Siena, Italy, on March 25, 1347. Though Catherine’s parents wanted her to marry, she was opposed to the idea and instead joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. At 21, she described herself as in a mystical marriage to Christ. She frequently visited hospitals and homes where the poor and sick lived. Catherine played an instrumental role in restoring the Papacy to Rome and forming peace deals during conflict and war in Italian city states. St. Catherine was also instrumental in the resolving of conflict between the two popes. She passed away at the age of 33. The exact reason is unknown, but she fell ill in January of 1380 and eventually passed away on April 29th. St. Catherine is the patroness against fire, illness and nurses, among many other things. 

One of the most well-known St. Catherine quotes says “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” REPEAT. Now I don’t know about you, but I do know that my faith has been tested time and time again. It was tested when school was shut down because of a global pandemic. It was tested when we were told both my Grandma and Grandpa had cancer. It was tested when my brother was in a car accident that should have killed him. It was tested when my Grandpa passed away from said cancer last year in May. But through it, I have somehow found a way to strengthen my relationship with God. 

In psychology class we learned about an idea that shapes the world view of many Americans. It is an idea called the Just-World Phenomenon in which someone believes that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. It’s something a lot of people in the world believe in, including me, up until recently. If the Just-World Phenomenon did exist and God could control who got hurt and who didn’t, then why did he let any of this happen to me and my family? How did he decide to take my Grandpa away from me so soon? It took me awhile and many long nights, but I finally realized that God had bigger and better plans for my Grandpa than I could ever imagine, and the only thing that I could do was pray for everything to turn out for the better, even if it meant losing family. It sounds corny, but everything has turned out exactly as it was meant to and has helped me to grow in my faith in God and as a person. 

As graduation draws closer and the daunting task of college approaches, I think back to the quote mentioned before: “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” Now, after having been in this school for four years, I can confidently say there were many times I was tested and many times I either failed or prevailed. Most of you have big aspirations for what you want to do with your life, and I ask that you remember this quote. “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” 

If you want something, it is hard work. Nothing ever comes easy. Every class here is designed to test your mental capabilities and your willingness to become a better and smarter version of yourself by the time you graduate. Fenwick wants you to take the lessons you learn here and apply them to the rest of your life and, if you do, you will do great things. 

St. Catherine’s life inspires us to have a life of hope and trust in God. A trust that God will bring the right things forward to you and present you with only what he believes you are able to handle. St. Catherine’s commitment to her relationship with God and her willingness to follow God helped her to have an extraordinary life, just as we are meant to do. You are all here for a reason. You are completing homework assignments and taking tests for a reason — all for that higher goal. St. Catherine’s story serves as a reminder that if you are doing your best, that is good enough for God. 

Kate Dugan (above) is a Fenwick senior from River Forest, IL.

2022 Lenten Reflection

By Student Preaching Team Member Grant Schleiter ’23 (Elmhurst, IL)

Lent is a time when Christians focus on the three pillars of fasting, prayer and alms giving. Today is Ash Wednesday, the kickoff of Lent, or as I used to think of it in grade school “the day when we compete to see who can keep their ashes on the longest.” Lent is known as a time of sacrifice. When I was little, Lent was always a competition in my family. Lent was always “who could give up the most difficult thing.” This competition was mostly between my sister and me, and it was a battle of who could succeed at a harder Lenten promise. One year, I took it so far I gave up added sugar, and it came to the point I was searching up menus of fast-food restaurants to make sure I was beating my goal. Having sugar-free yogurt every morning for 40 days is absolutely disgusting. I do not recommend it. 

But what I was doing was actually the exact opposite of what Jesus says to do. In the Gospel today, Jesus says, “When you fast, do not look gloomy. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet. When you pray, pray in secret.” Instead, I was making it known to everyone that I was struggling with a difficult penance — and was making it known that mine was more extreme. I was not sacrificing for God but rather for my own bragging rights.

As Fenwick students, we are called out to follow these three pillars. Prayer obviously is something we practice every day; at the beginning of second period we usually get to hear the enthusiastic voice of Charlize Guerrero, or maybe, every once in a while, the deep voice of Lee O’Bryan. 

Fasting is the pillar most people associate with Lent. Many people associate Lent with giving up food, but you can also change a practice of something, like working out every day, or being nicer to a sibling, or going on your phone less. Fasting from something that distracts you from God can free up more time to do something to praise God. Something as easy as reflection through prayer could be done, or maybe you take it a step up and do charity work to accomplish almsgiving. 

All of these actions help us become better people, and in becoming better people, we grow closer to God. In making time for God in your life, you are making time for goodness. Another thing about Lent is once you start to get into a routine, it is hard to snap out of it. When I did my sugar fasting, as soon as I hit Easter I had about 40 cookies and probably half of the lamb cake. All I was focusing on was “getting to Easter so I could enjoy sugar again.” Yes, some bit of fasting is to compensate for the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, which is your typical giving up foods you like; but usually we go back to these after Lent, so maybe this year focus on something that you could build into a new routine — something you can do that can make your life better. Maybe instead of looking at your phone in the morning, talk to one of your parents; or if your parents are not awake, maybe take some time for silent meditation. You could even read the daily Bible verse. Do something simple that can help bring you closer to God. Jesus died for our sins and there’s no point in going right back to them after Lent. Instead, use it as a time to realize what you can change in your life to bring you closer to God. 

Fenwick Student Preacher Grant Schleiter is a junior from Elmhurst, Ilinois.

Lent is a season where we must turn away from pleasures and see how we can redistribute our time for the needs of others and the needs of God. Lent is not a season for bragging; instead it is a season for serving. Focus on serving God and our neighbors. Do something that can help make a positive impact on others. Giving up sugar was something that did not make a positive impact on others; I think it only helped the Oikos yogurt brand. Do something that brings you closer to God.

Knowledge, Wisdom and Faith

By Fenwick Student Preacher Carl Lukas ’22 (Riverside, IL)

Good morning everyone. My name is Carl Lukas, and I am a member of the Class of 2022. We gather here today to honor Saint Thomas Aquinas, who is a highly revered Dominican friar and scholar. He is probably the best-known Dominican in the Catholic Church, and his influence is seen throughout Fenwick. There is a statue of him on a staircase, he is depicted on stained glass in the chapel, and his image appears in numerous classrooms. 

It is evident that Aquinas is important in the church, but it can be difficult to see how his life is relevant to us in the 21st century. Thomas Aquinas lived in the 13th century and spent his life composing philosophical and theological works. He wrote of improving our relationship with God through our intellect, and he is instrumental in clarifying the teaching of the Catholic faith in a concise and systematic manner as well as promoting the importance of the Eucharist. Through Aquinas’s teachings, we can learn more about ourselves and the world around us, allowing us to strengthen our faith. 

I recently finished my first-semester World Religions course with Mr. Mulcahy. I was fascinated by the different religions across the world and what they believed. I learned about how different world faiths seek to guide their members in living a good life. I learned about Islam’s solution to the problem of pride, and how Hindus work towards breaking out of a cycle of rebirth. Through this class, I discovered that from the start of human history, we have always been searching for answers that cannot be found through the use of our senses and reason. The use of our senses and faculty of reason are useful in coming to understand the world around us. However, there are some questions that cannot be answered with human intellect alone. Rather, to make sense of the dilemmas we need something different, which we call wisdom. 

Wisdom and knowledge are usually mistaken. The two words are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. Knowledge can be gained somewhat easily. We go to classes every day and gain new knowledge on a variety of topics. We are then tested on these topics and sometimes let them slip out of our minds. We can know many different things, yet it is hard for us to understand why we need to know them. 

This is where wisdom comes in. Having wisdom is being able to apply your knowledge in your life. We can go on autopilot and learn new knowledge without having to truly understand why we are learning it. 

Wisdom is different from knowledge

However, to gain wisdom we must understand the world around us to apply our knowledge. This is why it was important to me to learn as much as I can about the world, including the beliefs of other traditions. All traditions are seeking an answer to a similar question but approach it differently. The desire to seek knowledge outside of simple academic knowledge is naturally sought after throughout the world. Now that I understand more about what others believe, I can strengthen my own beliefs by understanding the impact we have on each other. I am able to strengthen my faith by questioning the essence of my beliefs. 

To listen to Carl preach, please click or tap on the video link above, then fast-forward to the 1:27 time stamp.
Continue reading “Knowledge, Wisdom and Faith”

Remembering Inspirational Grandfathers Everywhere

At the Fenwick All Souls’ Day Mass, a junior cross-country runner from Burr Ridge recalled how her late grandpa would utter ‘cheesy’ quotations and loosen hard-to-open pickle jars.

By Student Preacher Natalie Poleszak ’23 (Burr Ridge, IL)

Today, we celebrate All Souls’ Day. Every single year, Catholics gather on November 2nd, commemorating the dead. But why? For Catholics, this day gives us the opportunity to pray for all who have passed away. We pray for our departed brothers and sisters, our loved ones, and our friends. And we also pray for all those still in purgatory, that they may be cleansed of their sins to be finally carried into heaven to rest with God. Personally, I use this day to remember one of the people that I loved the most, my grandfather.

No matter how many people you are surrounded by, I think the most interesting thing is that we can still feel so alone. That’s why it’s so important to know that you will always have a community to fall back on. Even though we may not depend on them for our every need, just knowing that you have someone there to listen, help or even just silently pray for you is a big help. Your community can be your parents, your siblings, your friends, your classmates, even your Starbucks barista … anyone you trust really. But sometimes, all we need is that one person who will help us through the thick and thin. For me, that was my grandpa. Whenever any minor inconveniences would happen in my life, I would go to him. Whether I needed someone to open a jar of pickles, or someone to referee the fighting between my sister and me, grandpa was always there. While he did not always know how to fix the problem, he was always present there for me and willing to listen. I often wished he could fix all my problems as easily as he could open a jar of pickles. Instead, often he simply gave me advice through a cheesy inspirational quote. When I think about his impact today, all those cheesy quotes may have actually helped — that he not only gave me the solution, but made me work for the answer. Through looking back at his words, everything that has happened to me has been a lesson, even if I was blinded by that lesson in the moment. But, sometimes, learning from our experience isn’t always easy. Sometimes, we need to experience deep personal and spiritual reflection before we get the answers we are searching for.

My relationship with God has not always been perfect. To be quite honest, after my grandfather died, I did not have much faith in God. I was angry and sad, struggling to comprehend my own emotions. Not knowing who to turn to or what to do, I instinctively decided to just sit and pray. One day, I decided to bike to church, and then sat in front of the altar. I began to talk to God, telling him my thoughts on and on until about two hours passed. I wish that I could tell you that that specific moment turned me into a new, enlightened person, but it didn’t feel like that at all. I did feel somewhat relieved, but it didn’t change the ever-present fact that my grandpa was gone. The real impact was when I went to Sunday Mass the next day. At Mass, no one sat in the seat I had sat in the day before. Every seat around it was filled with people … and yet, that one singular seat was completely open. No, no one was saving a spot. It wasn’t due to social distancing. Nor was it even a seat for someone’s coat or purse. That seat was just completely empty, almost as if it was beckoning for me. 

At that moment, I realized that God heard my prayers. As weird as it looked, I truly believe that I received a message from God. I came to understand that God would leave that seat open for me whenever I wanted to come in and bask in his grace. God would always save me a spot as his table, like he saved a spot for my grandpa in the kingdom of heaven. 

Later it turned out that the seat was empty because a kid spilled applesauce on it before Mass, but a part of me still believes it was God’s own humorous way of showing his presence, love and care for me, just like my grandpa had.

The Commemoration of All Souls gives us a day to remember all those who have died. It also provides us an annual opportunity to reflect on how they have and still impact our lives. As much as we wish we could, we cannot bring our loved ones back to life, so instead we are gathered here today to do three things:  

Firstly, we are here today to honor them. We honor their words, their beliefs and, most especially, the love they gave us. 

Secondly, we pray for their eternal repose. We pray that through God’s great mercy, they might come to spend eternity with Him, in his kingdom.  

Lastly, in recalling the example of our departed loved ones, we are challenged to take the love we received from them and pass it on to others, through our own words and actions. May we recall those things that had a greatest impact upon us and do those same things for others.

As I take leave of you today, let me make it known:
If you ever need someone to support you or loosen the lid of a jar of pickles …
I am your girl!

Pray with Mary Every Day

During Mass this week celebrating Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (Our Lady of Victory), a Fenwick student preacher reflected on the importance of the Blessed Mother in her family’s life.

By Charlize Norielle Guerrero ’22 (Elmwood Park, IL)

“Aba Ginoong Maria, napupuno ka ng grasiya. Ang panginoong Diyos ay sumasaiyo.” Devoted voices rang throughout Santísmo Rosario praying in unison. The Filipino Church was across the street, yet somehow I could still hear the parishioners loud and clear. “Bukod kang pinagpala sa babaeng lahat.” Like any typical five-year-old, I whined as my mom took my hand and brought me to Mass. The church was filled to the brim with what felt like thousands. All the seats were taken, yet people of all ages continued to pour in. “At pinagpala rin naman ang anak mong si Hesus.”

I scanned the room, and everyone, from the priests, to the grandmothers, to the children, firmly held a rosary in their hand. Their eyes were glued to the portrait of Mary lovingly looking down upon them. “Santa Maria, Ina ng Diyos, Ipanalangin mo kaming makasalanan. Ngayon at Kung kami’y mamamatay Amen.” I didn’t know at the time, but the churchgoers were saying “The Hail Mary” in the Filipino Language, Tagalog. And although I did not fully understand their words, when I heard them pray with utmost confidence, reverence and devotion, I felt the Holy Presence of Mary with all of us.

Ms. Guerrero delivering her reflection (in person and via video livestream) on October 7, 2021.

Every single Sunday, these parishioners would pack the church hoping to hear the word of God. Even if all the seats were taken, many would stand by the doors and listen, despite the heat and humidity upon them. And before each Mass, without fail, everyone would pray the rosary together. When I sat in the seats of Santísimo Rosario and looked around, I would see people from many different walks of life. Yet as we were gathered under the loving presence of Mary, we were all truly one, united body.

Many in the Philippines do not have the same privileges that we take for granted every single day. They unfortunately do not have the luxuries of running water, food security and electricity. And when he was growing up, my father was one of them.

My father is an incredible witness of trust in Mary’s intercessory power and the power found in praying the Rosary. No matter what happened, for both good and bad, my dad always had the rosary by his side. Despite the many changes and setbacks in his life, Mary was always his constant theme. As he grew up, he often visited Santísimo Rosario and prayed the rosary.

He prayed with Mary when he couldn’t afford his education.

He prayed with Mary as our family immigrated to the United States.

He prayed with Mary after he passed the medical board exams.

And he prays with Mary each and every day, giving thanks or asking for guidance.

My dad shows me how we can turn to Mary even during the roughest parts in our lives. I admire how he and the parishioners at Santísimo Rosario, even in the face of adversity, always held firm in their faith. Rather than resenting God, they turned to both him and Mother Mary during their struggles. Like Mary, they trust in God.

Mary is the perfect faith role model. As shown in the Gospel, following her initial confusion, Mary willingly accepts God’s call. She trusts that he knows what is best for her. We should pursue that same level of devotion. While we may not always know what God has in store for us, we must trust in God as Mary would.

In times of doubt, trust in God.

In times of sorrow, trust in God.

And even during those times where it seems like nothing is going right we must:

Trust. In. God.

When I was in Santísimo Rosario, I could truly feel Mary’s undeniable presence pervade the entire room. And even today, as we are all gathered here together, I can feel Mary’s presence. And, hopefully, you all can too … Mary is still here. Mary has always been here.

As we go through life, we must remember that Mary walks with us; she is there for us and will always intercede for us as we continue to grow in our trust in God. So as we begin this mass in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, I encourage you all to truly listen and reflect upon the ever-so-famous prayer:

Hail, Mary, full of grace,

the Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou amongst women

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

‘Carry Your Cross’ and Be You!

During a Mass reflection from September 14, 2021, a junior student preacher revealed her identity struggle to “fit in” as a first-year Fenwick student.

By Julia Overmyer ’23 (River Forest, IL)

Good morning! Today, we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. As I was preparing my reflection for today’s Mass, I was gifted with the truly wonderful experience of writer’s block. No matter what I wrote, I felt like I wasn’t grasping the true meaning of what we celebrate today.

Student Preacher Julia Overmyer is a junior at Fenwick from River Forest, IL.

In the second reading, Paul writes about Jesus, “Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted Him.”

Those few lines, those few powerful lines, finally gave me what I was searching for: humility.

We celebrate today to honor the Cross. The Cross that Jesus was crucified on; the Cross that Jesus defeated death on; and the Cross that represents our Christian faith as a whole.

There is a well-known expression that you have or will learn in your theology class. This expression is “Carry your Cross.” For those who haven’t heard this expression, it means to accept the challenges put in front of you, fully placing your trust in God. Freshman year was a time when I struggled to carry my own cross. I was attempting to solve things on my own rather than in partnership with God.

Like some of you, I came from a school where only a few kids came here to Fenwick. At first, I saw this as an opportunity to branch out and make more friends. I figured that there would be plenty of other kids in the same boat as me. Although there were others whose situations mirrored my own, I slowly started to see a pattern: A lot of people had arrived at Fenwick with groups of friends formed from their previous schools.

I desired to fit it — I tried changing my looks, hobbies and, basically, who I was. And let me tell you, it did not change anything and just made me feel even worse. Finally, I prayed to God, asking for some sort of guidance to what I was doing wrong or how I could better fit in.

After countless prayers and nights of frustration, I had concluded that I truly was alone. In a time where I was supposed to be meeting those who would become my lifelong friends, I felt like I had nobody. I had lost faith in God and His role in my life. I was so consumed in the idea of changing who I was in order to fit in, that I didn’t see what God had already given me.

He had given me everything that I had needed to succeed, beginning with the humility to recognize that I couldn’t do this on my own, but needed His guidance and assistance. God doesn’t tell us how to live out our lives; that is the beauty of His gift of free will. Instead, he gives us the clarity that we need in a way that we couldn’t have come to on our own. God has created every one of us to be unique, and by trusting the process that God has laid out for us, we can accept who He has made us to be. This realization finally allowed me to pick up the cross that I had set down and put my faith before my actions.

Now, I am very happy to report that I have made friends who have been the best blessing I could’ve ever received, all through trusting God first. They accept me for who I am and what God has created me to be. So, every night, I take a minute to thank God for showing me that I shouldn’t give up just because the answer isn’t in front of me. And to all those who are struggling in this situation, don’t lose faith and use the tools God has given you.

Throughout our journey upon this Earth, we are going to experience some things that we might not understand at first. But as we go through our writer’s blocks of life, we must remember that the answers may not lie in front of us, but they are always within God’s plan. Let us continue to carry our cross and keep faith.

How to Set the World Afire

Love is like a Northwood’s campfire, spreading warmth amid our world of darkness and sin.

By Fenwick Student Preaching Team Member Mia Scharpf ’22 (Berwyn, IL)

Today is the feast day of St. Catherine, doctor of the Church, patron saint of Italy and Rome, and a Dominican. She dedicated her life to God from a very young age and fought to defend what she called “the vessel of the Church” with her letters and treatise “The Dialogue of Divine Providence.” She was born in 1347 and canonized in 1461.

St. Catherine of Siena

She asks us to “set the world on fire” in several of her quotes and we often hear fire used as a religious symbol in sacraments and the Bible. Tongues of fire came down to the Apostles on Pentecost, God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, John said Jesus will baptize us with fire.

Fire has many purposes and properties. We use it for cooking and for s’mores, and it is the centerpiece of a night at the lake as we laugh with family and friends. Fire helps us stay warm when we are cold and it can help us see when the night is dark. Fire is powerful enough to change what it touches completely; it spreads rapidly and is difficult to extinguish.

Each summer for as long as I can remember, my family has visited my neighbor’s lake house in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Days are filled with boating, driving into town, eating too many cinnamon donuts, falling off of tubes and water skis, and they’re ended with all 20 of us sitting around the fire singing with my dad as he plays his guitar. When the sun sets, it gets very cold and dark and the mosquitoes come out in swarms. Without the fire, it would be difficult to find the path to the bunkhouse, it would be freezing cold, and the bugs would eat everyone alive. 

This fire is very similar to the fire described in St. Catherine’s quote. Instead of keeping mosquitoes away and shedding light on a path strewn with pine needles, the fire in St. Catherine’s quote provides warmth and light to a world of darkness and sin. It illuminates the path of Christ and reveals the way of love and joy. It allows us to feel the warmth of His unconditional and transformational love. 

“Be who God made you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

– St. Catherine of Siena

But how do we live as who God made us to be? How do we ignite that spark? The first thing that will probably come to mind is service and volunteer work, but there’s so much more to who God created us to be. We each have been given gifts and talents, and instead of burying them in the ground, God calls us to use them to glorify His name. Whether you are a swimmer, a runner, a singer, or an actor, you can give glory to God by working hard at practice or improving in rehearsal. It’s like receiving a sweatshirt from your grandma for Christmas, and when she sees you wearing it proudly, she feels appreciated and loved. When we use our blessings for good, we give thanks to God and live as he made us to be.

St. Catherine used her gifts to make a difference and protect the Church. She fanned her spark into a flame and set the world on fire with her words and works. St. Catherine asks us all to follow her example of spreading God’s love by sharing our blessings. We are called to set our world on fire with this love, to spread its warmth and light, so powerful that it can transform whoever accepts it. I’m certain St. Catherine chose this symbol because love can spread like, well, fire.

ANOTHER STUDENT PREACHER BLOG INSPIRED BY SAINT CATHERINE