FBy Robert Paradiso ’16
From college applications and term papers to jobs and volunteer work, the majority of the senior class at Chaminade High School has encountered a hectic year thus far. With busy schedules, little time is left for relaxation or reflection, leaving students yearning for a break from their schoolwork. This hunger, however, is not only physical but also spiritual, and satisfying it requires effort.
Luckily for these students, C.R.O.S.S. hosted its annual Senior Evening of Recollection, “Hunger,” on Tuesday, November 3 to help seniors find their missing fulfillment. Dinner in the Courtyard Café kicked off the night with a little over two hundred pounds of marinated steak barbequed by the Culinary Club. Seasoned curly fries and salads were served to complement the great-tasting steak.
“The food was fantastic. The steak was juicy and tender and the curly fries perfectly fried, and they definitely satisfied my physical hunger, ” said Trent King ’16.
After consuming all of the steak, the senior class cleaned up and headed to Hearst Auditorium in Chaminade’s Athletic-Activity Center.
At Hearst Auditorium, the slow process of healing spiritual hunger began. Mr. Matthew Chicavich ’98 opened the event asking for God’s intercession in healing the senior class’ physical and spiritual needs and by inviting everyone to pray the Hail Mary. Afterwards, he invited Mr. William Carreiro ’69 to speak about his life journey to find his vocation.
“Where are we going? Where are we going to be in five, ten, or twenty years?” Mr. Carreiro rhetorically asked, beginning his speech on how he came to teach at Chaminade. He explained that he used to think about those questions frequently. First, he contemplated becoming a priest. During that time, however, he became interested in the military and desired to attend West Point. Unfortunately, due to his poor eyesight, Mr. Carriero had to find another dream. “Fine,” continued Mr. Carreiro, “if can’t make history, I’ll teach history, instead.”
Mr. Carreiro attended Siena College where he studied history education. He started to feel like he finally picked the right course, but, for him, something was missing: sports.
Mr. Carreiro always loved to play sports and dreamed of being a football player. At Chaminade, he was cut from both football and soccer, so he played handball. Siena’s football team was only club level, so he decided to find another sport. Fortunately, he found a poster advertising the cross country practice for the next day at 3 o’clock, and he decided to give it a shot. He was one of only six runners to attend, so he automatically made the team and began competing.
He continued with cross country through college, running in both the fall and spring, balancing it with his classes. His career at Siena went by quickly, and after graduation he began his job search. He ideally wanted to teach American and European history near Siena, but he received no job offers. Recently engaged, he needed a job, so one of his former advisors in career placement recommended him to apply to Chaminade. Dreading Long Island, he initially refused, but he had no options left and capitulated.
The perfect series of events soon followed. The day Chaminade received his application, a history teacher left. He accepted Chaminade’s job offer and volunteered to coach freshman cross country. He initially planned to stay for a few years before searching elsewhere, but he learned to love Chaminade so much that he has stayed ever since. Mr. Carreiro refused to attribute this perfect series of events to luck; rather, he attributed it to God’s master plan and purpose for his life. He ended his speech saying, “Be open to opportunities that you would never consider taking. You never know what God has planned for you.”
After Mr. Carreiro’s speech, Mr. Chicavich continued the service by showing the participants a video on world-wide childhood hunger. The video focused on Mary’s Meals, an organization which feeds thousands of starving children around the world on a daily basis. The video depicted the horrible conditions and lack of social mobility of children residing in developing countries. Many of the children’s problems resulted from a lack of education, which stems from the nutritional deficiency. Mary’s Meals’ mission is to provide food to schools so that they can feed their students at least once a day. This meal program feeds hungry children and gives incentives to students to recognize the merit of education.
After the video, Mr. Chicavich gave his own speech on fulfilling his spiritual hunger. He started his speech by admitting that he did not really practice the Catholicism he preached when he originally started his career. His main priorities included soccer, friends, and girls. For a Catholic high school teacher, he ironically left out two things from that list: teaching and God.
Midway through his first year, he realized he could not live the double life he had been living for the previous months. “I remember it vividly,” he said. “It was a Tuesday, December 11, and when I took a look in the mirror, I was disgusted with what I had become.” The next day at school, December 12, The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mr. Chicavich sought the Sacrament of Reconciliation. During his free period, he rushed to the chapel in order to have his confession heard. “It was one of those confessions where you could not help but cry. I wept in sorrow for all the bad decisions I made up to that point in my life,” he explained. That Confession was an eyeopening experience for Mr. Chicavich, and he suddenly felt an onrush of understanding of three things: that Christ was God, that his suspicions of the Church’s lack of goodness were unfounded, and that Christ really is present in the Eucharist.
I remember it vividly. It was a Tuesday, December 11, and when I took a look in the mirror, I was disgusted with what I had become.
Mr. Chicavich’s transition from a life of debauchery to a life of prayer proved difficult. He lost many friends and spent much time away from dating. Nevertheless, the supportive staff of Chaminade High School combined with prayer guided him through this tough time, and the next year clicked for him. He joined Catholic Underground, which met in Our Lady of Good Council in NYC, and he went on a retreat to the University of Notre Dame that summer that featured performers like Matt Maher and Ike Ndolo. He also attended other retreats for millennials, and his faith grew stronger everyday. Then his mother was diagnosed with cancer, and he was knocked back down again.
“My mom was the one person I could confidently talk to about my faith. She was the only one in my immediate family that I was close to. I was distraught,” Mr. Chicavich said.
He resisted all temptation to go back to his old lifestyle and stuck with Catholic Underground and Eucharistic Adoration. At one meeting, a girl named Tamar approached him and handed him a retreat registration form, but he shrugged her off and focused on music and adoration. He stayed the whole night, and on the way out, he was stopped by a Sister of Life named Sister Maeve whom he had met on a previous retreat. Mr. Chicavich, even after the spiritually fulfilling night, still wore his worries on his face, and Sister Mia asked what was wrong. He opened up about his mother’s situation and began to feel more comfortable about his situation.
That night, when he cleared his pockets, he noticed the information on the retreat form. It was going to be held at Our Lady of Guadalupe retreat house, which Mr. Chicavich took as a sign from God that he had to go, as he had his great conversion on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe; however, his mother’s health was deteriorating, and she was staying in hospice care. He wanted to be by his mother’s side, not at a retreat, when she would finally be taken into God’s arms.
Nevertheless, with the support of his mother and an immediate family, he decided to go. At one part of the retreat, during the procession, when the priest held the monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament over his head, he took an involuntary gasp and felt all his pent-up guilt leave him. Then, at lunch, Mr. Chicavich, by happenstance, made eye contact with Tamar, and he felt a punch in his gut.
The events made Mr. Chicavich ask himself, “Was she the one?” Needing to clear his head, he walked outside. Outside, he saw a male and female deer walking in the forest and then a male and female turkey walking in the forest. He prayed to God for clarity and took the animals as a sign that Tamar was the one. The rest of the retreat, he tried as much as he could to talk to Tamar, but the only words he could say were, “Thank you for inviting me to this retreat.”
After leaving, he scoured for hours on Facebook trying to find Tamar with no avail. He initially decided to stop trying, but a conversation with his mother’s hospice nurse changed everything. Mr. Chicavich brought a rose he received at retreat to give to his mother when he returned home. He arrived while she was changing in the bathroom, so he was greeted by her nurse, who just began crying. Blubbering, she asked , “Did you meet a girl on retreat?” Mr. Chicavich replied yes, and the nurse responded that she and his mother prayed the Novena of St. Therese for him to find a companion. After his mom came back from the bathroom, he told her that he did find someone, and they happily prayed the rosary until she fell asleep.
That night, he received an email for more information about retreats, and Tamar’s email was listed. He emailed her, thanking her for the retreat again and explaining his mother’s situation, and she promised to keep in touch. Unfortunately, Mr. Chicavich’s mother passed away the next day, but the Monday after her passing, he received a parting sign from his mother. A student who knew about Mr. Chicavich’s situation gave him a scapular with a picture of St. Therese. He interpreted this as a sign that his mother wanted him to be in a relationship with Tamar. Mr. Chicavich ended with his story with a happy ending: he and Tamar are now married and have two wonderful little children, and he wears that scapular as a reminder of his mother’s sign.
Sam Szemerenyi ’16 commented on the speeches, saying, “I thought Mr. Carreiro’s speech was very informative. It was interesting to hear how he returned to Chaminade and loyally served as a teacher and coach all these years. Mr. Chicavich’s speech had the perfect blend of seriousness and comedy, and it resounded with me and my classmates.”
Afterwards, Fr. Garrett Long S.M. ’62 processed with the Blessed Sacrament so that the participants could end the event in adoration of the presence of Christ. For the remainder of the night, students were able to meditate on their spiritual hungers while listening to religious music. After adoration, Mr. Chicavich thanked everyone for a wonderful night. Everyone exited Hearst Auditorium thinking about how both their hungers were satisfied.