April 13, 2007


Catholic Athletes for Christ

(Listen to the author read this editorial)

If you’re an avid baseball fan or sports enthusiast, the list is an impressive one.

Jeff Suppan, Mike Sweeney, Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine, David Eckstein and Mark Loretta. We can include former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda in the baseball family as well.

Step off the diamond into other sports venues and the list continues to grow.

Olympic skier Rebecca Dussault, springboard and platform diver Gaelyn Felix, figure skater Gabriella Howard, University of Alabama softball coach Alyson Habetz and National Football League wide receiver Chris Horn are all part of the group, too.

What do these people have in common? It’s an all-star team of athletes we believe people of faith should embrace. We think they could even be a group that parents use as an example for their children when talking about how sports and faith can go hand-in-hand.

They are all members of Catholic Athletes for Christ, the recently formed independent ministry based in Alexandria, Va., that helps Catholic athletes practice their faith and evangelize a sports world that has become increasingly devoid of values.

Sports are such a dominant fixture in our culture. From peewee leagues to high school games, from college athletics to the professional ranks, nearly every family is touched by athletics in some way.

How many of us got caught up in the Indianapolis Colts’ recent Super Bowl run? Or took CBS’s March Madness promotions to heart and watched college basketball nonstop for the last month? Sure, it helped that Butler, Indiana and Purdue universities, and the University of Notre Dame, did our state proud, but did we really have to spend hours and hours in front of the TV set?

True, there were some compelling story lines. Coach Tony Dungy’s commitment to his faith and family warmed the hearts of not only Colts fans but also people who were heartened to see the coach has his priorities in life straight. With stories seemingly breaking every day about another athlete’s brush with the law, it’s refreshing to know some coaches and players don’t let success go to their head.

Sadly, there are other sports story lines that go unnoticed in the secular press that deserve some mention.

On April 1, a new DVD titled Champions of Faith: Baseball Edition was released by Catholic Exchange. (For more information, go to www.championsoffaith.com.)

The 60-minute DVD focuses on a mix of players, coaches and managers, and highlights a difficulty each faced as a person or player and how their faith helped them manage that problem. The personal stories are interspersed with spiritually themed montages of quotes from players regarding baseball and their faith.

“We are all going to be in heaven someday because of Jesus Christ, and this is a tool we can use to give to our loved ones so that we can share eternity with them,” Kansas City Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney said of the film. “We have to be proud of our faith.”

“We’re honoring God, we’re honoring the Catholic Church and we’re also honoring these amazing guys who speak so courageously, beautifully, eloquently and powerfully about their Catholic faith,” added Tom Allen, president and editor of the Web site, www.catholicexchange.com.

The Church has embraced athletics for centuries, and Pope John Paul II was an avid skier who also loved the outdoors. The late Holy Father also used his ministry to talk about how sports and faith go


“Every Christian is called to become a strong athlete for Christ, that is, a faithful and courageous witness of the Gospel,” John Paul II said in 2000.

Catholic Athletes for Christ has set up a speakers bureau that allows its members to travel around the country to talk about their faith. (Go to www.catholicathletesforchrist.com for information.)

While playing for the eventual world champion St. Louis Cardinals last fall, pitcher Jeff Suppan encouraged a group of students at St. Joseph’s Academy in Frontenac, Mo., to “keep Jesus No. 1” in their lives.

“I try to put Jesus in front of everything I do,” said Suppan, who now pitches for the Milwaukee Brewers.

He’s not the only one. There are plenty of athletes, and people of faith, who try to live that way.

It’s such a simple, yet powerful message.

When it comes to sports and anything else that we do in life, may we teach our children and young people we can’t accomplish anything without having Jesus on our team.

— Mike Krokos

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