Countless numbers of high school students are finishing their prep careers, graduating, and undoubtedly vowing never to return to the halls that defined their formative years. However, for newly ordained Dominican Priest Fr. Nicholas Monco, O.P., a return to his alma mater not only means more than having a stable job in a poor economy, but also a much deeper, spiritual calling back to his roots.
Fr. Monco, O.P. is a 2002 Fenwick High School graduate and this fall he will return as a priest and a teacher for students not much younger than himself.
“I look almost as I did in high school. A lot of those kids will probably look older than I do,” Fr. Monco, O.P. said. “There’s a way in which that will help. But, other than connecting to movies and pop culture, there’s a way that kids connect to people who are in love with something. They know the difference between a teacher who is going through the motions and someone who loves what they do. I’ll be one of the teachers who loves what they do.”
Though Fr. Monco, O.P. was encouraged to consider the priesthood, it took time for him to answer the call.
“Fenwick was a crucial part of the way I engaged my faith. I’m not sure I would have gotten that in another school,” Fr. Monco, O.P. said. “Initially, I dismissed people who suggested the priesthood. But it came down to asking myself, what did I actually love to do. Where did I keep getting drawn back to? It kept coming back to the spiritual life, theology and talking to people about God.”
“Fenwick was the place where I began to think about my vocation in earnest,” he added. “I was very impressed by [the Dominican Friars on staff] love for Jesus, for their priesthood, and their dedication to the school. It made me think they found something worth loving.”
Fr. Monco, O.P. isn’t nearly the first Fenwick grad to return to the school as a teacher. Currently, Fenwick boasts 30 former graduates, making up roughly 25 percent of its staff.
Fenwick President Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P. has only been at the school for one year, but he also taught Fr. Monco, O.P. at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, MO, another Dominican ministry of the Central Province.
“It’s pretty unusual to have a newly ordained priest join a Catholic high school faculty in 2013 knowing what we do about the priest shortages,” said Fr. Peddicord, O.P. “Father Monco makes it very clear that we’re doing something right. It tells a great story about the vocations we’re getting as a province and the commitment the Central Province has to Fenwick as a breeding ground.”