Remembering the 1945 ‘Kelly Bowl’ Football Classic

More than 80,000 fans at Chicago’s Soldier Field saw the Fenwick Friars (8-1-2) defeat the favored Tilden Tech Blue Devils by a final score of 20-6.

By Jack Lambert ’46 (written in 1996)

This marked the 12th game of the All City Championship between the Public and Catholic league schools. Fenwick had last played in the city-championship game in a 19-to-19 tie with Austin High in 1936. Tilden lost to Leo in 1941 and 1942 – and then beat Weber 13-7 in 1944.

Tilden was a one-point favorite for the 1945 game with Fenwick. The largest crowd in Kelly Bowl history was the 115,000 which saw Austin (with Bill DeCorrevont) beat Leo in 1937. In 1939, the north end of the stadium [at Soldier Field, Chicago] was shortened to make room for a building to house the Park District offices, so the 90,000 expected to see the Fenwick contest was tremendous for a high school football championship.

Mike Swistowicz (left), of Public League champ Tilden, gains a mere two yards against a stingy Fenwick defense in late 1945. No. 29 for the Friars is Bill Crowley, 32 is Frank Duchon and 48 is Coleman Caron. (Chicago Sun photo.)

In 1945, a state football championship was not yet in existence, so for a Chicago city or Catholic League team, the All City game was the biggest championship available.

Four of the two teams’ starters at the beginning of the season were out of action because of injuries – Tilden’s end Tom Kernan, tackle Emil Ciechanowicz (6’4” 220 lbs., which was gigantic for a high school player in 1945), guard Ed Dembuck and Fenwick’s halfback Bill Barrett.

Fenwick’s first-string center, Coleman Caron, had contracted an infection, which caused him to drop from 165 lbs. to 145 lbs., the weight he played at the rest of the season. Coleman was the youngest starter in the history of Fenwick football when he started at quarterback at the age of 14 years, 8 months in the fall of ’43. He was also first-string QB on the 1944 North Section championship team and switched to center for the 1945 season.

In 1995, former freshman football coach and athletic trainer Dan O’Brien ’34 (left) reunited with Coleman Caron ’46. Mr. Caron, a former QB who started at center for the Friars’ mighty 1945 Chicago City Championship team, passed away in 2013.

Coleman was the twin to Justin, ‘Dud,’ who was a halfback on the team, which had a second set of twins: first-string guards Frank and Bill Duchon. Bill went on to win Little All American and small college honors for two years at Wabash College. Bill would go on to coach at Glenbard West from 1961 through 1976, bringing his team to the 1976 state championship finals. Bill was Athletic Director from 1977 to 1988, and the stadium was named after him.

Fenwick’s Dick Martin, captain and right halfback, would go on to win Look magazine’s first-string All American honors as defensive safety in his senior year at the University of Kentucky, and he placed on Bear Bryant’s all-time team as defensive safety. Dick was voted the Catholic League’s Most Valuable Back in 1945.

Fenwick’s Roger Brown, Bill Barrett and Bud Romano would go on to Notre Dame. Joe Bidwell, first-string tackle, would attend Notre Dame for two years before entering the Dominican Seminary.

Ed Reidy, the other first-string tackle, would go to the University of Dayton, and Bill Crowley, the fullback, would play at St. Norbert College.

Late alumnus Fr. Joseph Bidwill, O.P. ’46 (1995 photo) started at left tackle on the offensive line for Fenwick’s 1945 All-City Championship football team.

Father Joe Bidwell celebrated the Mass at the 50th Reunion for the senior members of the ’45 team at Florence and Bud Romano’s home on December 16th [1995]. Bud, a right halfback on the team, has been hosting a dinner for the senior members of the team and their wives for a number of reunions over the years. [Mr. Romano passed away in 2017 at age 88.]

A number of years later, Bill Barrett, Dick Martin and Bill Duchon would be inducted into the Chicago Catholic League’s Hall of Fame along with their coaches, Tony Lawless and Dan O’Brien.

At their 50-year football reunion, late alumnus Don Romano, Sr. ’46 held a sign recalling Coach Tony Lawless’s motto: “It’s not the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog that counts!” Teammates Roger Brown and C.J. Berrigan, Jr. are to Buddy’s right.
Jack Lambert’s 1946 Blackfriars yearbook portrait.

About the Author
Alumnus John “Jack” Lambert, a proud member of Fenwick’s Class of 1946, was among the 80,000 fans in attendance at the big game on Saturday, December 1, 1945. Lambert had played football for the Friars his sophomore and junior years. He also boxed those years, played intra-mural basketball and was on the Debate Team. He would go on to become a securities broker at Peregrine Financials & Security, Inc., passing away in 2013.

Fourteen Friars from the ’45 team gathered 50 years later (bottom row, from left): Dr. Bob Huspen, guard; Fr. Joe Bidwell, O.P., tackle; Frank Duchon, guard; Cole Caron, center; Bill Duchon, guard; and Ed Reidy, tackle. Middle row: Ralph Davis, guard; Dud Caron, left halfback; Bud Romano, right halfback; Dan O’Brien, trainer; Bill Darley, swim team captain; and Dick Martin, captain/right halfback. Back row: Roger Brown, left halfback; Bill Crowley, fullback; Clay Berrigan, tackle; and Dick Jordan, end.

Fenwick Repeats as ACES State Champion!

Friars rank number one in Illinois’ Academic Challenge in Engineering and Science (ACES) STEM competition among schools with less than 1,500 students.

For the second consecutive year, Fenwick High School has finished first in Illinois in the Academic Challenge in Engineering and Science (ACES) competition, formerly known as the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) program. “We are the top STEM school in a division that includes all high schools in the state with 1,500 students or fewer,” reported David Kleinhans, ACES moderator and chair of the Fenwick Physics/ Computer Science Department. “Twenty-four schools competed at the State competition in our division.

Mr. Kleinhans

“We also finished second when looking at schools in our multi-state region,” Mr. Kleinhans continued, “to Clayton High School in Missouri by eight points out of 500 total points. Congratulations to their team and all the other competitors.” This year marks the tenth consecutive year that the Friars have reached the state finals. Since 2012, Fenwick is the only Illinois school to win a first, second or third place State trophy each year — and the only Catholic school to finish in the top three spots.

Approximately one year ago, Kleinhans shared that Fenwick won the IL State ACES science contest for the 2019-21 academic year. “In addition, Fenwick bested all the Missouri schools in attendance to finish first in the Midwest region,” he noted. “I was so proud of our students and their perseverance through the switch to eLearning and eTesting amid the onset of COVID-19.” Like last year, the Fenwick 2021 team was undeterred by the online coaching and test-taking, demonstrating tremendous focus, perseverance and “wild intelligence,” according to their proud coach, to capture another state title. The top five students in each subject area received medals. Fenwick’s individual winners are:

One of 10 senior leaders, Anna Dray ’21 is heading to the University of Notre Dame next school year.

Math – 1st Finley Huggins (perfect score!)
Math – 2nd Logan Maue
Physics – 3rd Anna Dray
Physics – 3rd Daniel Majcher
Physics – 3rd Dmytro Olyva
Chemistry – 4th Finley Huggins
English – 4th Katy Nairn

Logan Maue ’21 will continue his studies at the University of Illinois (Urbana Champaign).

The 14-member team (by class year and in alphabetical order):

SENIORS

  • Anna Abuzatoaie ’21 (Melrose Park, IL, Grace Lutheran School) – either Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bucharest, Romania, or University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Cluj-Napoca, Romania (TBD) 
  • Anthony Battaglia ’21 (Melrose Park, IL, Grace Lutheran School) – University of Notre Dame
  • Katie Cahill ’21 (River Forest, IL, Roosevelt Middle School) – University of Michigan
  • Anna Dray ’21 (Elmhurst, IL, Immaculate Conception Grade School) – University of Notre Dame
  • Therese Giannini ’21 (Wood Dale, IL, Immaculate Conception Grade School, Elmhurst) – Loyola University Chicago
  • Jacob Korus ’21 (River Grove, IL, St. Cyprian Catholic School) – undecided
  • Daniel Majcher ’21 (Chicago, Keystone Montessori School, River Forest) – Northwestern University
  • Logan Maue ’21 (Oak Park, IL, St. Giles Catholic School) – University of Illinois
  • Mary Rose Nelligan ’21 (Oak Park, IL, Ascension Catholic School) – University of Notre Dame
  • Dmytro Olyva ’21 (Cicero, IL, St. Giles Catholic School, Oak Park) ­ – University of Illinois
Finley Huggins ’22 is one of four juniors on the team.

JUNIORS

  • Vince Beltran ’22 (Berwyn, IL, Heritage Middle School)
  • Zach Dahhan ’22 (Elmwood Park, IL, Elm Middle School)
  • Finley Huggins ’22 (Oak Park, IL, Ascension Catholic School)
  • Katy Nairn ’22 (Lombard, IL, Glenn Westlake Middle School)

Religious Education and Fenwick High School: New Directions in the 1960s

By Fr. Thomas F. O’Meara, O.P.

The number and size of Catholic grade schools and high schools increased greatly in the 1950s. After 1960, the educational preparation of teachers, new issues for church life amid movements like ecumenism, racial justice in American society, and a general advancement in the quality of Catholic schools led to new considerations of the area of “religion,” of “theology,” in secondary education.

The Dominican shield of Fenwick High School.

At Fenwick High School, conducted by the Dominican Friars in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, two movements emerged to expand and vitalize theological education in high school. One had to do with educational materials like textbooks; the other had to do with new approaches to religious education, with ideas for and beyond the classroom.

New Theology and New Textbooks

The developments in secondary education began with similar movements in Catholic colleges and universities. The simple and sparse catechetical format of the texts for required courses in religion in Catholic colleges and universities was more and more criticized in the 1950s. The shallow level of content often did not rise above basic catechetical propositions about Christianity to which was added some Aristotelian philosophy in ethics and theodicy. Some have gone so far as to say that prior to 1960 there was no theology being taught in most Catholic institutions of higher education in America other than seminaries. Certainly few courses touched on, for instance, the content of the New Testament or the theology of the sacraments and liturgy.

In those years teachers began to meet to discuss how teaching theology in college was more than teaching scholastic philosophy or catechesis. In 1954, they founded the Society of Catholic College Teachers of Sacred Doctrine (this became in 1965 the College Theology Society).1 At the first national meeting of the SCCTSD in 1954 (there had been regional meetings) three of the founders offered their approaches. Gerard Sloyan of Catholic University of America spoke on “From Christ in the Gospels to Christ in the Church;” Thomas Donlan, O.P., of St. Rose Priory, Dubuque, Iowa, presented “An Approach from the Dominican School of Thought;” John Fernan, S.J., of Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York, described a “historical, Scriptural approach.” These pioneers of the college theology movement had three different views of theological education: Sloyan’s was biblical; Donlan’s was neo-Thomist; Fernan’s was historical and biblical. All three were working on producing textbooks.

ND’s Father Hesburgh

Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., in 1945 returned to the University of Notre Dame to begin his time of teaching theology there before he became president of that institution. He had written his doctoral dissertation at The Catholic University of America on the theology of lay people and the sacraments.2 Teaching undergraduate theology soon led to his conceiving of and editing textbooks, a series called “University Religion Series. Texts in Theology for the Layman.”3

Thomas Donlan, O.P., a native of Oak Park, Illinois, taught at Fenwick High School from 1946 to 1952. He went from there to teach at the Dominican seminaries in Dubuque, Iowa. While there he directed original publications in college and high school theological education. First he supervised a volume of essays exploring how sacred doctrine of a largely Thomist bent could and should be the framework for courses outside the seminary. Essays treated the arts, sociology, and the natural sciences, philosophy, and religion: This was an attempt to draw theology out of the isolation of clerical circles into a wider cultural world.4

Fenwick’s Fr. Donlan, O.P. hailed
from Oak Park.

Donlan and other Dominicans, some teaching at the first graduate program in theology to accept religious or laity at St. Mary’s College, South Bend, Indiana, decided to produce a series of textbooks for college. First books began to appear in 1952.5 They did offer a theology deeper than a catechism, but curiously it did not hold a particularly Thomistic order and principles and retained the order of apologetic manuals from 1860 to 1960. A second series of texts appearing in 1959 was a greatly improved enterprise. They held sections of Aquinas’ Summa theologiae, and included material from Scripture and practical moral theology.6

Continue reading “Religious Education and Fenwick High School: New Directions in the 1960s”

Teaching to be a Champion: Vocation and Unity in Christ

How a young alumna’s Fenwick education has influenced and informed her understanding of and action on behalf of her vocation.

By Tierney Vrdolyak ’14

One motto of the Dominican Order that has resonated with me these six years out of Fenwick is contemplare et contemplata aliis trader – “to contemplate and hand on to others the fruits of contemplation.” In my experience with Catholic educators there, so many have lived this truth: to contemplate Christ and share with others (students, specifically) the mystery of Christ through their words and works, their lessons and lives is the Divine call of the teacher. Through their witness and God’s grace, I have come to realize my vocation as teacher, too. I’d like to relay one person’s authentic witness as teacher to you in the hopes that you might contemplate and share with others this fruit.

As I have come to believe through education observation, theory and practice, a teacher succeeds when the student develops; the teacher more than less fades into the background.[1] The teacher leads only when he or she serves; the teacher imitates Jesus Christ, the Divine Teacher, who freely humbles Himself to the point of death to Himself (the words “humble” and “human” are derived from the Latin humus, meaning “earth” or “soil” – that is, what is on the ground). The truly successful teacher is the one who stimulates the student’s receptivity – qualifying the pupil for all vocations (priesthood, religious life, married life, single life) and opening up avenues for vocations within vocations (professional life) – and remains humble by letting God lead, the students follow, and oneself adapt to their promptings. The teacher, therefore, takes on the “He must increase, I must decrease,” dynamic of which the Gospel speaks (John 3:30), adjusting his or her view of the harmonious human person to the individual student’s personality. Fenwick teachers have helped countless students come face to face with reality, welcoming our vocation and that of others with joy.

Friar tennis alumni/former teammates Annie Krug ’14 (from left), Tierney Vrdolyak ’14, Coach Tom Draski and Kaelin Schillinger ’14 during the 2014 Summer Tennis Camp.

Mr. Draski was my tennis coach during the Frosh-Soph fall seasons of 2010 and 2011. From the first week of tryouts through the last banquet, Coach Draski encouraged the team to seek and find wonder in all things. His practices, lectures and personal example oriented us toward our good as individuals and as a team. Although his teams had an 11-peat at that point, winning wasn’t the goal. Growing into our authentic selves was.

Practice

The “Ten Ball Drill” was certainly an example through which we learned to love building speed, stamina and strength during practices. It was a joy to place each ball on the racket before our teammates’ feet on the doubles’ sideline as we ran to collect the next ball from the opposite side.

Lecture

Coach Draski’s words, too, and the way in which he spoke, encouraged us to be nourished and renewed together. Before each tournament, Coach Draski called us together to pray through Our Lady and read a poem entitled, “The Champion.” He divided the poem into stanzas, which some players would recite and on which all would reflect. These words – which to me point to our universal call to greatness, which is holiness – have stuck with me in small and large decision-making moments. Before I took part in a city-wide half marathon last May, for instance, I warmed up with a prayer and this poem. Some phrases that resonated while I ran the race were: “You’ve got to think high to rise./ You’ve got to be sure of yourself before/ You can ever win a prize./ Think big and your deeds will grow, think small and you’ll fall behind./ Think that you can and you will; it’s all in the state of the mind…Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!” I was able to run at a personal-record pace among many others – perhaps tennis players themselves – keeping Coach’s words in mind. Before your work or school day today in these times, we can ponder these lines again.

During each tournament, Coach would invite us to “give a love tap” to our partner after every point – win or lose – letting our partner know that she is good, she can do it and you are there for her. He would invite us, too, to come to him in difficult situations during breaks in a game, set or match. Coach Draski would then poke his pointer through the wire for us to each tap it and afterwards ask, “How are we doing?”

Personal Example

Not only did his practices and words inspire my teammates and me, but his personal example reflected all that he tried to teach. I will never forget Coach Draski’s smile, finger taps, fist bumps or chuckle at some pasta party conversation. I will never forget his personal stories that shed light onto the words we spoke in the “Champion,” making me think about the wonderful power of our minds to think well and wills to act well, no matter the situations within our societies, families or selves.

Working together on hatching and raising chickens, learning the life cycle first-hand.

After graduation from college in 2018, through the guidance of grace, my human nature, mentors, courses and many more encounters, I realized my call to be a Catholic educator. For two years, I attended graduate school in theology while teaching theology within a Catholic middle-school setting. Following this program, beginning this August, I was led into teaching in the home-school setting using the Montessori and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd model as guides. Here, I have the opportunity to walk with three children, fostering a relationship with each child and God through formative learning experiences.

Continue reading “Teaching to be a Champion: Vocation and Unity in Christ”

3 Alumnae Siblings Share High-speed Internet (and Precious Time)

The Lombard sisters — one law-school student, one med-school student and one undergrad — returned home to Western Springs, IL, for eStudy this spring.

The trio of Lombard sisters came home to Western Spring, IL, this after college campuses shut down earlier this spring. “We haven’t all lived together or studied together for almost 10 years, so it’s been really memorable,” says Lauren, the family’s “baby” and a 2017 graduate of Fenwick.

Elizabeth, the eldest, adds, “In many ways, in sharing homework space, fighting for Wi-Fi capacity and complaining about exams and tough assignments together, it truly reminded all of us of our Fenwick days.”

Elizabeth Lombard ’11 (University of Notre Dame ’15 – Double Major: Accountancy and English) was a Friar cheerleader and earned a varsity letter at Notre Dame as Senior Football Manager. She worked for two years as a certified public accountant at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (Chicago), then returned to ND. Earlier this month, she graduated with an accelerated joint degree: a Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD) in law and Master of Business Administration. Elizabeth soon will head to New York City to take a job in the corporate practice division of law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. Here are her and her sisters’ “quarantine” stories:

Elizabeth Lombard ’11

I just completed my third degree at the University of Notre Dame. My last semester certainly did not go as planned with the onset of eLearning. However, I felt lucky to have my family by my side throughout all of the chaos, to tackle this challenge together. We have not all been together, living in our family home in Western Springs, since I graduated Fenwick in 2011.

This semester I was enrolled in Trust and Estates Law, Intercollegiate Athletics Law, an Intercollegiate Athletics Externship, a Venture Capital and IPO Law Seminar, and a Law and the Entrepreneur Seminar. Most of my professors decided to still hold live, discussion-based Zoom meetings in lieu of our in-person classes. I loved these live Zoom meetings, as it made me feel like I was still in the classroom (minus being able to stare at the Golden Dome through the windows).

In addition to complications with moving the actual classroom learning online, I also faced graduation celebration planning complications. This year, I served as the 3L Class Representative for my law-school class on our Student Bar Association (similar to a Student Council). A vital part of my job was planning ‘3L Week’ celebrations, for the week prior to graduation — including a Chicago Cubs game, a winery tour and a massive banquet with our entire class. Obviously, when school was canceled, these opportunities to celebrate our achievements as a class were eliminated. I decided that we still needed to celebrate in some capacity digitally. I created a virtual ‘banquet’ for my class — complete with a digital congratulatory video from our professors and administration and a ‘Class Slideshow,’ with a slide for each student showing their favorite law-school photo, moment, class, as well as a senior superlative. It was very rewarding for me to put this together and know that my classmates felt loved and celebrated. Additionally, I coordinated a “Professor Send-Off” where five beloved professors gave our class some words of wisdom and congratulations. Notre Dame has rescheduled our official graduation for May 2021.

Fenwick has prepared me and my sisters well for our various career paths. I would particularly like to thank Ms. Logas for inspiring my interest in the law from her AP Government class; Mrs. Macaluso for inspiring my passion for writing and analysis in AP Literature; and Blackfriars Guild (BFG) for giving me confidence in my public speaking abilities. My time at Fenwick cultivated in me a hunger for learning and diligent work ethic, without which I would not have been able to excel during the demanding JD/MBA program. I look forward to joining Fenwick’s network of attorneys and continuing to grow my Fenwick family in the future.

Rachel Lombard ’13
Notre Dame ’17

Rachel Lombard completed a degree in Science Business at the University of Notre Dame in 2017. A few weeks ago, she began her fourth year of medical school at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago (Class of ’21). She is the recipient of the Medical Student Council’s Tom C. Reeves Memorial Award, which recognizes a third-year med student who exhibits outstanding leadership, volunteerism and character.

Rachel Lombard ’13

Before the pandemic hit, I had spent my entire third year of medical school completing clinical rotations in the different fields of medicine such as OBGYN, Pediatrics, Surgery, Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. While on my Surgical Rotation, the attending physician I worked with was also a Fenwick graduate and we bonded over our time at Fenwick. We both agreed that Mr. Farran was one of the best teachers we ever had and inspired both of us to pursue a career in medicine. It is really amazing how the Fenwick connections can always be found. Clinical rotations have by far been the best part of medical school, so far, because I finally got to work with actual patients and really feel like a part of the medical team.

 I was just about to start my final rotation of my third year in Family Medicine when the pandemic intensified. My medical school, along with almost all other medical schools in the United States, decided to pull all medical students from in-person clinical rotations to help do our part in minimizing the spread of the virus and conserve the already very limited amount of personal protective equipment. Like so many others, my life drastically changed overnight. I went from learning medicine from real-life patient encounters to learning from virtual online patient cases. Additionally, I had online lectures over Zoom from our clinical professors. Some of my clinical professors had just come off treating patients in the COVID unit and would teach us about their experiences firsthand fighting the virus, which was quite interesting.

Continue reading “3 Alumnae Siblings Share High-speed Internet (and Precious Time)”

Faculty Focus: May 2020

Even from home, 3rd-year Fenwick Social Studies Teacher Brian Jerger loves Western Civilization — and working with freshmen!

What is your educational background?

BJ: I went to high school in the southwest suburbs — Oak Lawn Community High School (’09). I have my B.A. in History from the University of Notre Dame (’13). My M.Ed. is from Notre Dame as well (’15).

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?

BJ: I was a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher in Heredia, Costa Rica, for nearly a year before coming to Fenwick. Before that, I taught World Geography & Cultures to freshmen at Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville, Texas as part, of Notre Dame’s ACE Teaching Fellows program (2013-15).

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?

BJ: It may not be for enjoyment, but it is almost impossible to avoid trying to stay current with the COVID-19 news. Aside from that, I am currently trying to finish The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?

BJ: I really love to cook. Fall weekends are for ND football and the Green Bay Packers. Wednesday nights are Trivia Night for me. In the summer, I like to travel and try to get outside, whether it be for hiking, fishing, brunch, baseball games or something else. I also help out as a young adult leader for a youth group at my parish throughout the year. 

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?

BJ: A little bit of everything. I played golf and ran XC/distance track. I also participated in student council, class advisory boards, student helpers and a really unique group called Cross Countries — not to be confused with cross country. Cross Countries was a small group of eight students who fund-raised over $40,000 in three years to complete an international service trip to Bolivia to help build a hospital. I even did a group interpretation theater production my senior year. I was also really active in my youth group, Foundations, at Old St. Pat’s in West Loop.

Even eTeaching from his “home-classroom” can’t keep down Mr. Jerger!

Which clubs/sports/activities do you run at Fenwick?

BJ: I am the assistant debate coach and the assistant freshmen girls’ basketball coach. I also go on every Kairos [retreat] Mrs. Nowicki will let me!

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?

BJ: In general, I think they push themselves and are gritty. Fenwick is not the ‘easy’ choice; students are challenged here. That said, the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. Our students come out on the other end far ahead of their peers and ready to lead. And, in the end, they still wish they had “FOUR MORE YEARS!”

Continue reading “Faculty Focus: May 2020”

Remote Collegiate Friars: May 2020

Fenwick 2017 alumnae the Ritten triplets are eLearning together (but separately) in Oak Park, as they finish their junior years in college. The sisters reflect on the Coronavirus pandemic’s effect on their experiences.

Maria Ritten ’17 (at right) is majoring in political science (and minoring in poverty studies and sociology) at the University of Notre Dame:

In these strange and unprecedented times of COVID-19 and social distancing, the last phrase I ever want to hear again is “in these strange and unprecedented times.” After being away from Notre Dame for over a month now, I have seen, heard and said this phrase more times than I ever could have anticipated. I hate the formality of it. While “in these strange and unprecedented times” is undeniably accurate, I think that its use is basically us saying, “now that I’ve addressed the elephant in the room, we can get back to how we normally act.”

But nothing is normal.

ND students haven’t seen the Golden Dome on campus since early March.

Fortunately for me, several of my professors seem to be on the same page. During our Zoom sessions, one of my professors has made it a point to ask each student how they are doing, really doing. Rather than beginning class with a quick hello and diving into material, he gives us time to talk about our real feelings about this pandemic. Our conversations have included topics such as how to celebrate a birthday during quarantine, good TV shows to binge, and how it is nice to be spending more time with our families.

While these positive conversations have been a source of light for me, we have also discussed the situations of classmates who are away from home and missing their families, or how the seniors felt after their graduation was postponed until next year. These conversations, although limited, have been one of the few formal settings during this quarantine in which I have felt encouraged to talk about my real experience. In asking us about our feelings, whether good or bad, my professor is enabling my classmates and me to acknowledge that nothing is normal, and that our thoughts, fears and hopes are all valid. While these are “strange and unprecedented times,” I am grateful for these Zoom sessions because they have taught me one of the most important lessons of my college career: When life throws a curveball, it is more important to reflect on the situation and acknowledge its impact than to pretend it never happened and just move on.

Missing New Orleans

Bridget Ritten ’17 (center) has a double major in public health and sociology at Tulane University:

For most people, New Orleans is a place to party and eat great food. However, New Orleans is much more than that, and for the last three years I have been lucky enough to call it my home.

The Tulane campus in NOLA.

I love New Orleans because it is the opposite of every city in America. Most cities are fast-paced and stressful while New Orleans is slow, easy-going and fun. New Orleans reminds me of a party that celebrates life that everyone is invited to. Unfortunately, there is not much to be celebrating these days as Coronavirus has spread throughout the nation, and particularly in New Orleans.

Fortunately, my family and I are healthy and have been sheltering in place in our home in Oak Park. Over the last month, many college students have been thinking about and missing their friends, classmates and classes. Although I have also been missing those things, I have often found myself thinking about New Orleans and wishing I were there.

Continue reading “Remote Collegiate Friars: May 2020”

What a Father Means to Me

In a post-Father’s Day reflection, a Fenwick senior remembers his late father – and thanks his big brother.

Fenwick soon-to-be senior Patrick Feldmeier wrote this essay for the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative. Patrick was honored, along with his older brother, Danny (Class of 2018), on June 6 at the Union League Club in Chicago.

By Patrick Feldmeier ’20

“One, two, three: Hi Daddy, we love you and we miss you.” (Mom always adds, ‘You’re in my heart, Sweetie.’)

Patrick (left) and Danny Feldmeier with their Dad, Bob, before his untimely death seven years ago.

These are the words my family says after grace every time we sit down for dinner. And simultaneously look at the open seat at the head of the table. Our hearts yearn for the man that God called up to Heaven seven years ago: Dad. It sends a shiver up my spine saying the word out loud, yet his presence still resonates in my family.

Every once in a while, his cologne can be smelled from his closet. His faded blue Ralph Lauren hat still hangs on the wall in my mom’s bedroom. His 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee may have finally been towed, but his K-Swiss “dad shoes” rest untouched in our mudroom. To say that Bob Feldmeier is a role model to me is an absolute understatement. Words will never express how much I miss him; how much I need him in my life; or how much I love him. Through my actions, I attempt to be like him every day.

Their father’s faded cap and “dad shoes” still can be found in the Feldmeier’s Western Springs home.

As a partner at Schiff Hardin, long hours seemed to swallow his work-week. Yet, somehow, someway, he always had time to play catch or take us to watch a White Sox game. After little-league games, my dad would take my brother and me out to “men’s dinners,” where he would teach us lessons such as, “It’s ok to admit it is cold, but it is not manly to complain about the cold.” He was also an avid Notre Dame alumnus and taught us the essence of hard work. The impression he left on me is what is most important. Through watching the way he treated my mom, my siblings and me, and kept God as a focal point in his life, I truly learned what it meant to be a father. His etiquette, manners and gentlemanliness are values I strive to model because I want my children to look up at me the way I look up to my Dad.

My father’s ultimate goal was for his family to live a life like his, which includes strong family bonds and an excellent, Catholic education. He continued to set an example of how to be a father and how to find strength through tragedy by protecting us until the very end.

Dad’s Gift of Peace

Robert Feldmeier
(1965-2012)

When he was first diagnosed with melanoma, he told my mother, “Do not tell the kids about my disease. I want to give them the gift of peace.” He truly was the perfect role model for a dad. It was more important to him to keep us happy and successful in life than for us to crumble under fear. His ultimate goal was for his family to live a life like his. Instead of succumbing to anger after his death, I honored his memory by achieving goals and setting the bar high for myself. I aspire to attend the University of Notre Dame, like him, and to provide for my family the same way that he did. His spirit lives on in my heart every day, and every day I thank God for one of the greatest gifts He has ever given me: my Dad. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from my Dad was that a man is not solely defined by his career and accomplishments, but by his display of love to his family. Perhaps that was why he was able to stay strong during his last days, because he truly had reached his ultimate goal of success in life: to love and be loved by his family.

Continue reading “What a Father Means to Me”

Forever Friars: The Late Franklin Capitanini ’50 of Italian Village fame

Like Fenwick, the storied downtown restaurant has stood the test of time for nine decades — and for three family generations.

By Patrick Feldmeier ’20

Alfredo Capitanini opened the Italian Village on Monroe Street in the Loop in 1927.

The impact that the late Franklin Delano Capitanini, Class of 1950, left on Chicago cannot be justly put into words. Instead, his impact resonates in his family, friends, Fenwick High School and the famed Italian Village Restaurant(s). Born in America in 1932 and named after U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frank lived a life founded on strong family ties and treated everyone who dined at the Italian Village as if they were old friends. Today, the Italian Village serves as a reminder of the kindness that Mr. Capitanini spread for 85 years.

Located at 71 W. Monroe Street in Chicago’s “Loop” for almost 92 years, the Italian Village was opened by Frank’s father, Alfredo, in September 1927 – two years before Fenwick opened its doors. Frank and his kid brother, Ray (Fenwick ’53), grew up knowing that the restaurant someday would be theirs to manage. Frank’s early years working there included responsibilities such as food preparation for the chefs and waiting tables, according to his close friend, Fenwick classmate and President Emeritus Father Richard LaPata, O.P. ’50. Learning how to talk to adults and serve their requests at an early age benefitted Frank greatly in the years to come. Frank’s son and fellow Friar alumnus, Al Capitanini ’81, says that the “best internship is waiting tables because you learn about customer service and how to handle people.”


Franklin’s 1950 yearbook portrait from Fenwick.

Frank continued his work at the Italian Village when he attended Fenwick, where he participated in football, basketball and track. Unfortunately, his athletic career was cut short due to an injury. Al remembers hearing how his father had to divert all of his attention to education after the injury because Frank’s parents highly valued education. Frank’s father, an Italian immigrant, wanted him to have a strong caring for education due to his own limited schooling opportunities in Italy. When Frank was not hitting the books, he left his friends drooling in the school cafeteria because of the sandwiches he brought daily from the Italian Village. The aroma of Italian lunch meats and cheeses made their palates jealous.

Frank and Fr. LaPata both went on to Notre Dame, but their paths did not cross much at the university: one entered the seminary while the other (Frank) was in the ROTC program. It was not until Father LaPata became president of Fenwick in 1998 that he developed a friendship with Frank, eating at the Capitanini home around once a month.

A Culinary Institution

Once out of college, Frank immediately went back to work at the Italian Village. In the 1950s and ’60s, opera drew huge crowds in big cities like Chicago, so the Capitaninis became well acquainted with some the world’s most famous opera singers. When asked about the relationship between it and the Italian Village, the Lyric Opera Company kindly stated, “American singers and Italian singers of the 1950s and 1960s dined at the Italian Village.” However, opera stars were not the only celebrities to frequent the restaurant. The walls of the Italian Village are lined with autographed pictures from well-known celebrities and sports figures, including Frank Sinatra, Lou Holtz, Mike Ditka, Florence Henderson, Ryne Sandberg and Jon Bon Jovi.


The Village, the upstairs restaurant, features dimmed lights that hang low and walls painted to mimic a scenic view in Italy.

The Italian Village has maintained its reputation of great service and hospitality because of Frank’s leadership and family values: “Hundreds [of restaurants] closed, but the Italian Village stayed strong due to its hospitality, charm and kindness,” praises Father LaPata. With an old-fashioned aura and breathtaking architecture, the Village has stood the test of time by adhering to its roots; something that many restaurants in Chicago have failed to do. Upon entering one of the three restaurants in the Italian Village, patrons are engulfed in a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. The Village, the upstairs restaurant, features dimmed lights that hang low and walls painted to mimic a scenic view in Italy. No windows are present, and it truly feels as if you are dining in Italy.

Frank greeted everyone with that smile!

Later in Frank’s life, he began to teach his kids how to manage the family restaurant. Fortunately, his four children, Lisa, Gina, Frank II ’78 and Al, had hands-on involvement for years. Al vividly remembers growing up at the Village: waiting tables and making food just like Frank did years ago. “We ate more than we actually learned,” he admits. Gina still works in the family business.

When the kids were a bit older, Frank would take them to the restaurant for breakfast, then walk with them to catch a Bears game. Al describes his father as an “old-school type, hardworking, honest to a fault, always there, and would help anyone in an emergency.” Frank served as a great mentor to Al and his other children, and they work hard to emulate their dad. His philanthropic contributions to Fenwick are greatly appreciated as well.

Visiting the Village

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Al this spring at the Italian Village. We talked about the history of the restaurants and Frank’s long-lasting impact on them. When the topic of Frank’s years in high school arose, Al was quick to mention that Fenwick was essential in molding Frank into the man he wanted to be. Frank may have had a career already set through the Italian Village, however, his success and achievements in life required the lessons learned from Fenwick to come to fruition. Through the stories Al shared about Frank’s life at Fenwick as well as his own, I was truly able to understand that Fenwick is great at preparing its students for life ahead.

Frank passed away one year ago at age 85. His funeral was held at his grade school, St. Vincent Ferrer in River Forest, and Father LaPata touchingly led the Mass. His presence will be missed, yet his spirit will live on in the lives of those around him. Frank Capitanini will forever be a Friar, and his impact on his family, the Italian Village and Fenwick High School will last for generations to come.

Coming soon: The Frank Capitanini Classroom at Fenwick


World Languages students in Fenwick’s “Italian Room” (Room 14), which is being renamed in honor of late alumnus/restaurateur Frank Capitanini ’50.

In addition to their generous classroom-naming donation, the Capitanini family also has created an endowed scholarship in their father’s memory. The fund will provide tuition assistance for a Fenwick student in need.

The students of Italian Teacher Ms. Shawna Hennessey (left) recently sent a “Grazie mille” video to the Capitanini family.

Read a Chicago Tribune article about Frank.

About the Author

Patrick Feldmeier is a finishing up his junior year at Fenwick High School, where he is an Honor Roll/National Honor Society student and president of the Class of 2020. Pat also plays on the Friars’ football and rugby teams. He lives in Western Springs, IL (St. John of the Cross) and is hoping for acceptance this coming fall into the University of Notre Dame, where his Evans Scholar brother, Danny ’18, will be a sophomore.

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Alumni Spotlight: Ways in Which IP Lawyer Kenny Matuszewski ’09 Gives Back

In devastation left in the wake of 175-mph, hurricane-force winds, a Fenwick junior found his purpose 900 miles away from home.

By Mark Vruno

Kenny Matuszewski in 2009

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.

A total of 38 Friars drove to New Orleans during Christmas break in 2007: (from left) Morgan Gallagher, Madeleine Stroth, Kerry Burke, Dee McElhattan, Lauren Randolph and Kenny Matuszewski.

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.

After one grueling day of work to rebuild two Baptist churches, Fenwick students gathered at Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter to enjoy cafe lattes and beignets. (Matuszewski is top left.)

“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)
  • Presently an Associate at Rabicoff Law LLC in Chicago, where he specializes in intellectual property (IP).
  • 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.

Continue reading “Alumni Spotlight: Ways in Which IP Lawyer Kenny Matuszewski ’09 Gives Back”