Fr. James Marchionda, O.P., Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Albert the Great, has informed the Fenwick Community that Rev. William J. Bernacki, O.P., 93, passed away early on Sunday morning, May 13, 2018. As many of us will remember, Father Bernacki was a Fenwick Friar for more than 40 years: a revered teacher, coach, president-principal, life trustee and hall of fame recipient of Fenwick High School. He also was the consummate ambassador for Fenwick and a powerful witness to the Friar mission.
Fr. Bernacki served as Fenwick’s 11th president-principal from 1979 to 1987. His years here also saw him serve as business manager, counselor, golf coach and Fathers’ Club moderator. Born in 1924 in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, Fr. Bernacki graduated from Loyola University in 1949, was called to priesthood and entered the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest and later was ordained on June 16, 1956. (In 2006, we recognized Fr. Bernacki’s 50 years of service as a Dominican Priest.) In 1959, he began his service to Fenwick, teaching theology, business law, economics, geography and civics. Twenty years later, after earning a master’s degree in education and counseling at Loyola University, he was named principal.
In 1987, after nearly 30 years as educator, coach and administrator, Fr. Bernacki left Fenwick to become the Prior at the Dominican Priory in River Forest and the president of Priory Press. However, he remained active with the high school in a support and advisory role. He is also a member of the Fenwick Hall of Fame, inducted in 1995, and was the 2011 recipient of the school’s Lumen Tranquillum (Quiet Light) award. Fenwick’s Planned Giving Society is named for Fr. Bernacki.
Through the decades, many alumni and families throughout our community came to know Fr. Bernacki -- his friendship, commitment and impact truly is legendary. “Fr. Bernacki was president-principal when I first joined the Fenwick Faculty,” said Fr. Richard Peddicord, O.P., current president. “He always put Fenwick first and made it clear that the students are the visible manifestation of the mission of the school. The flourishing of each and every student was the goal of all of his hard work.”
Funeral arrangements are in process.
May Fr. Bernacki’s soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.