Hendricken athletes share unique bond, spiritual journey

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WARWICK – When Andrew Breting and William Walker were baptized on the same day, the boys’ parents never imagined that their sons would someday enjoy a strong friendship and share a rich spiritual journey based on solid values, unwavering faith and love of God.

The young men were baptized in November 1993 by Father Gerald Beirne, then pastor of St. Philip Church, and reconnected when they entered kindergarten together at the parish school. The two young men have always been together – attending the same schools for 14 years, receiving the sacraments, serving on the altar, volunteering at parish functions and supporting each other’s athletic endeavors.

Now seniors at Bishop Hendricken High School, Breting, the son of Louis and Donna Breting of Johnston, is the captain of the Hendricken football team, while Walker, the son of William and Jane Walker of Smithfield, serves as the captain of the school’s baseball team.

“If it wasn’t for Billy, I wouldn’t be playing football,” Breting admitted, adding that as a small boy, the two were supposed to register together at a local flag football signup, but Walker failed to appear.

“I was crying and kept asking, ‘Where’s Billy?’”Breting recalled, noting that he nevertheless signed up and was soon hooked on the game and hasn’t stopped playing.

While Breting also played baseball for a few years, that sport became Walker’s true passion as he developed into a skillful player and eventual team leader.

Off the field, the two also became inseparable. Both repeated kindergarten together and frequently assisted at Mass once they become old enough to become altar servers.

“Msgr. Evans used to call us ‘The A Team,’” Breting remembered, adding that the pair frequently served on the altar when Bishop Robert C. Evans celebrated Mass as pastor of St. Philip Church.

Walker noted that he and his good friend also received first holy Communion and the sacrament of confirmation together, and were part of the first group of candidates confirmed by Bishop Evans following his episcopal ordination.

Both young men emphasized that their friendship is a gift that they do not take for granted.

“If I ever need anyone to turn to, I can also always go to Billy,” Breting emphasized. “Some friends drift apart, but we have stayed together. He’s always been there to talk about anything.”

Walker said that although the friends have shared just a few classes at Hendricken, they did enjoy quizzing each other before tests when they carpooled as freshmen. Now both have their driver’s license and commute separately to accommodate athletic schedules and other obligations.

“He’s been the brother that I never had,” said Walker, an only child. Breting, who has an older sister, also values the special bond and credited his friend for sharing his strong Catholic faith, values and commitment to helping others.

When Walker said he was motivated by St. Philip School’s mission to “teach truth, build community and inspire service,” Breting glanced at his friend and said, “He’s the epitome of that mission.”

Following graduation next spring, Walker plans to attend Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he will study communications. Breting hopes to pursue a career in criminal justice and hasn’t yet decided where he will attend college.

Although the friends will probably be hundreds of miles apart, they plan to remain in contact through e-mails, text messaging and visits during school breaks.

“We’re not thinking about it,” Breting said as the two young men prepare to go off in different directions for the first time in 14 years. “We’re concentrating on school.”

Darlene Walsh, principal of St. Philip School, remembers both young men as being well liked by their peers and generously serving others.

“I thought they both showed leadership skills when they were at St. Philip School,” she observed.