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Padua senior finds faith through hardships

December 26th, 2013 Posted in Our Diocese, Youth Tags: , ,


Staff reporter


WILMINGTON — Perhaps, when Erin Wendelburg walks to the altar at St. Anthony of Padua Church in May to receive her diploma from Padua Academy, she will hear a voice. That voice will cheer her for reaching a milestone on a journey filled with almost unimaginable hardship, and it will encourage her to continue on to even greater accomplishments.

That voice is one she hadn’t heard in years and desperately wanted back in her life. She discovered it as she found her faith. The voice belongs to her mother, who died in 2004, when Wendelburg was just 8 years old. If that were the only tragedy in her life, it would be enough. But her journey was just beginning.

Wendelburg returned to Padua last February after missing several months while undergoing treatment for an inoperable

Erin Wendelburg participates in several activities at Padua Academy, where she is a senior. Last year, she started Erin’s Army to help raise money at the Delaware Brain Tumor Walk. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in summer of 2012. (The Dialog/www.DonBlakePhotography.com)

tumor in the center of her brain. She had begun experiencing headaches and blurred vision in the summer of 2012 and thought she was suffering from migraines. An eye doctor, alarmed by the swelling of the nerves in her eyes, advised her to get an MRI immediately, and Wendelburg, then 16, heard the sobering news.

“When I went in for my first MRI … doctors are really bad at hiding their emotions, so I knew he was coming to tell me something really bad,” she said a few weeks ago. “The whole time I was having these headaches it felt like something was trying to get out of my head. It was so painful. But I was just thinking, this is my luck. I mean, only I could have chronic headaches and turn out to have brain cancer. That’s just kind of the way that it works.”

The tumor was benign, but every day for six weeks, she traveled to Philadelphia for an hour of radiation. She had to wear a fitted mask that was bolted to a table so she couldn’t move, but steadily her health improved. For the last year or so, Wendelburg has had to take oral “maintenance” chemotherapy for one week each month.

After a recent MRI, she was told that treatment would be over in February. The radiation and chemo didn’t seem so bad. After all, Wendelburg explained, she had already been through so much in her life. Less than five years after her mother’s death, she lost her father as well. Being orphaned before your 13th birthday has a way of making you grow up pretty fast.

A caregiver at 8

“I always felt like I was so much older than people in my grade, and I still kind of feel like that sometimes,” said Wendelburg, who maintains a cheery demeanor when no one could blame her if she was the polar opposite.

Wendelburg has known illness, not just her own, all her life. Her mother, Diane McGrath, had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease while she was a student at Padua, where she was a member of the Class of 1976. She married a lawyer, Allan Wendelburg, and became a paralegal so she could work with him. The couple had three children, two daughters and a son, and lived in Hockessin. Diane Wendelburg was sick nearly all of Erin’s life, and Erin, her youngest child, took care of her mother as much as her mother cared for her.

This year, during an Encounter retreat at Padua, Erin Wendelburg reflected on her parents, and her college essay is about them as well.

“It was just kind of funny to think about, when you really write it out, that when you’re 8 years old, a lot of people are being taken care of, and being fed and bathed by their parents, and when I was 8 years old I was feeding and bathing my mom. I could pretty much take care of myself. I used to make myself dinner and get myself off to school and do whatever I had to,” she said.

Allan Wendelburg did not handle his wife’s death well, Erin said. “My dad, he had always been alcoholic, but just kind of completely went downhill after she died. He lost his license to practice law, and we lost our house.”

Wendelburg’s older sister moved in with their grandmother, while Erin and her brother stayed with their father. The three of them lived in a small ranch house near H.B. DuPont Middle School, which Erin attended. She was very close to her father and remembers how much fun they had.

“We always did things together. My dad was a big motorcycle guy, so I was the girl in seventh grade who would get driven to school on a motorcycle,” she said.

The house was dirty, Wendelburg said, and they never really unpacked the belongings from their old house. And when her dad was in bad shape or yelling at her brother, she sought refuge at night under the train tracks that ran near her house. Not yet a teenager, she was sleeping beneath train tracks. Her friends at H.B. had no idea she was doing this. She’s not sure her father or brother knew.

Then, in March 2009, her father died suddenly, leaving three young people without either parent. She moved in with a friend, but she was not used to having strict rules. Wendelburg then went to an aunt’s house, but, again, it did not work out.

Since last October, she has lived with her grandmother. Ironically, her sister and brother also live there, the first time the three siblings have been together under the same roof since their mother’s death.

Everything has a reason

While Wendelburg was trying to find a literal home, Padua became her refuge.

“I think that everything happens for a reason, even things that are awful,” she said. “If my dad hadn’t died, I would never have come to Padua, and Padua is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. It’s like my home. I never refer to wherever I’m living at the time as my home because it’s not. I spend more time at Padua then I do at my house.”

She appreciates how she was accepted upon her return to school after the treatment for her tumor. In her first class, there were gifts from friends on her desk. The students in her sci-fi literature class, which included boys from Salesianum School, applauded. And no one minded that she had no hair.

Having grown tired of pulling out her hair after radiation treatments, Wendelburg shaved off what was left. She worried about making people uncomfortable, but she had no desire to wear a wig. She preferred scarves, particularly in the cold weather. A teacher who is a breast cancer survivor “brought me all her nice Chanel scarves,” Wendelburg said.

At the school, she is a member of the National Honor Society, music ministry and the Encounter retreat team, as well as the theater program and the dance team. A writer for the school’s online newspaper, Padua360, she aspires to a career in communications and fashion merchandising.

Wendelburg said she had never been very religious while her parents were alive, but Encounter has changed her life. In one way, it helped her mature, but at the same time, it took her back to a part of her childhood she had forgotten and wanted to remember.

“We had this moment at Encounter last year where you just sit and you have adoration in the chapel. I remember I was very doubtful before Encounter. People say that they felt God or heard God or whatever, and I was like, ‘Well, are you supposed to feel a hand on your shoulder or something? I have no idea what that is.’

“Then during adoration … I could finally remember my mom’s voice, which is what I was really hoping for. I really don’t remember her at all. We were not like a home video kind of family. I have pictures. I definitely remember what she looks like, but I don’t remember what she sounds like.

“She wrote my brother, my sister and I all notes before she died. But when I read it, it’s my voice, it’s not her voice. But during adoration I could remember what her voice sounded like. That’s when I really knew that I was Christian. … I believe in God, and I believe in just being a faith-filled person. It’s helped me in my outlook.”

Wendelburg is at peace with how her life has transpired. Her brother gave her a copy of the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, which she has found to be of great comfort. The message of the book and movie is that if you think positive thoughts, positive things will happen to you.

She also has surrounded herself with people she believes will make her life better, and she tries to make every moment count. She has a blueprint for her life, both professionally and personally.

“I look up to my parents’ marriage so much. My dad loved my mom so much that when she was gone, you can’t live without that person. That’s what I aspire to have, someone that I can’t live without,” she said.

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Sals improve to 5-1 after big win over Brandywine


For The Dialog


WILMINGTON – For fans of above-the-rim basketball, Father Birkenheuer Gymnasium at Salesianum School was the place to be Saturday night. The homestanding Sals, ranked second in the state, had six dunks en route to a 66-37 win over Brandywine High School.

Senior Brian O’Neill led the way with 20 points, including three dunks, and seven rebounds, while junior Donte DiVincenzo added 19 points, with the other three dunks. He added four assists.

The Bulldogs’ only lead came early, at 3-2, before the Sals went on a 15-point run. Two of those points came on an alley oop by DiVincenzo, bringing the crowd to its feet. The hosts led, 19-8, after the first quarter, and the rout was on.

Salesianum put the game away after the half, scoring 23 points in the third quarter. DiVincenzo had eight in the third, all in a 50-second span: a three-pointer, a thunderous dunk, jump shot and foul shot. The Sals’ defense forced several turnovers that lead to easy fast-break baskets, and they held Brandywine to six points.

The Sals are now 5-1 and are off until Jan. 4, when they host Smyrna at 7:30 p.m. Brandywine fell to 0-5 and returns to action Jan. 2 at A.I. DuPont. Tipoff for that one is at 5:30 p.m.

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DiVincenzo leads Sals to 55-39 road win at William Penn


NEW CASTLE – For a quarter and a half, it looked like Salesianum’s basketball team had left its game back on North Broom Street on Thursday afternoon. But, trailing by 11 to host William Penn midway through the second, the Sals found an extra gear and cruised to a 55-39 win over the Colonials.

The Sals trailed after the first quarter, 9-6, and scored five points on free throws in the first four minutes of the second. Shane Clark’s layup was their first field goal of the quarter and gave them the lead at 13-12, but William Penn would score the next 12 points for a 24-13 advantage. Read more »

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Ursuline overcomes challenge from Pandas, takes 57-49 hoops win


Staff reporter


WILMINGTON – Ursuline Academy has had the better of rival Padua Academy on the basketball court in recent years, but the Raiders know they are always in for a battle when they take on neighboring Pandas. Thursday’s game was no different, as Ursuline held off a spirited challenge from Padua, taking a 57-49 win.

All-state junior guard Adriana Hahn led the Raiders with a quiet 18 points. Ursuline also received key contributions from sophomore Alyssa Irons (nine points), along with junior Courtney Wallace and sophomore Kailyn Kampert, who chipped in with eight each. Read more »

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Salesianum’s Reeder wins 2013 DeLucia Sportsmanship Award


Staff reporter


WILMINGTON – Troy Reeder, a two-way starter for the Salesianum School football team, was named the recipient of the 2013 Michael DeLucia Sportsmanship Award, presented annually to a senior football player from a Delaware Catholic high school. The award, which has been given for 42 years, goes to a player “who has exemplified outstanding performance, attitude and character on and off the field.”

Reeder, a linebacker and running back, was recently named the defensive player of the year by the Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association, and he was a first-team all-state selection on both defense and offense. He had 58 unassisted tackles and assisted on 28 others. He collected 3.5 quarterback sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered three fumbles. Read more »

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Salesianum grad scores title-winning soccer goal for Irish

December 16th, 2013 Posted in Our Diocese, Youth Tags: , , , ,



Andrew O’Malley, a 2010 graduate of Salesianum School, scored for Notre Dame to lead the Fighting Irish to a 2-1 win over Maryland in the NCAA Division I soccer championship match Sunday at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. O’Malley, a senior defender, served as a team captain for Notre Dame.

With the score tied in the 60th minute, O’Malley headed a free kick from teammate Harrison Shipp into the net for his second career goal. The game story is available at espn.go.com/college-sports/story/_/id/10142879/notre-dame-fighting-irish-win-ncaa-men-soccer-title.

It was the first soccer championship for the Irish, who finished the season 17-1-6. The game was a homecoming for O’Malley, who is from West Chester and had a large contingent of family and friends on hand to see Sunday’s win. At Salesianum, he was part of three state championship teams. Individually, O’Malley was a three-time first-team all-state player, two-time player of the year and a two-time national All-American.

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Ss. Peter and Paul’s Emily Granger is national Heisman winner



Emily Granger, a senior at Ss. Peter and Paul High School in Easton, Md., was named the female 2013 Wendy’s High School Heisman winner at a banquet Dec. 13 in New York City. Granger was one of 12 finalists for the award. Andrew Miner of East Greenwich (R.I.) High School was the boys’ winner.
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Student and school news


Archmere alumni return for holiday concert

CLAYMONT – Archmere Academy will host “Coming Home for Christmas,” a family concert featuring more than 30 alumni Mastersingers returning to perform holiday favorites. The performance, which is hosted by the Friends of the Patio, will feature student instrumentalists.

It is scheduled for Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. at the Patio courtyard on the Claymont campus, located at 3600 Philadelphia Pike. This will open the 2013-14 Helena Springer Green Raskob Concert Series, a fundraising initiative that benefits the restoration of the Patio. Read more »

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The sound of music is the gift Ursuline senior brings to nursing care center

December 12th, 2013 Posted in Uncategorized, Youth Tags: , , ,


Staff reporter


WILMINGTON – When it comes to senior citizens and students interacting, it’s usually the older people sharing their expertise with the youngsters. But in Emma Field’s case, the roles are reversed.

The Ursuline Academy senior is the one leading her elders, —residents at Kentmere Nursing Care Center — where Field is the volunteer director of the handbell choir.

When she started, she was not familiar with the bells, but she could read music, which was good enough. Read more »

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St. Elizabeth students commemorate Pearl Harbor with painting

December 11th, 2013 Posted in Our Diocese, Youth Tags: , ,


WILMINGTON – Two art classes at St. Elizabeth High School recently completed a project with a Pearl Harbor theme, the result of which was a 10-by-20 foot painting in the style of Pablo Picasso. Read more »

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