May 8, 2015

The joy of being Catholic

Entertaining exchange between Colts leads to tales of football, faith and fun at Spirit of Service event

Catholic Charities Indianapolis presented four individuals with Spirit of Service Awards during an April 30 dinner in Indianapolis. Award recipients, seated from left, are Franciscan Sister Norma Rocklage, Zach Smith and Gene Hawkins. Standing, from left, are featured speaker Jack Doyle, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and award winner Steve Rasmussen. (Photo by Rich Clark)

Catholic Charities Indianapolis presented four individuals with Spirit of Service Awards during an April 30 dinner in Indianapolis. Award recipients, seated from left, are Franciscan Sister Norma Rocklage, Zach Smith and Gene Hawkins. Standing, from left, are featured speaker Jack Doyle, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and award winner Steve Rasmussen. (Photo by Rich Clark)

By John Shaughnessy

The memory of scoring his first touchdown in the National Football League is one that Indianapolis Colts’ tight end Jack Doyle will never forget, especially considering what happened in all the excitement that followed the score by the 2008 graduate of Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.

After catching the pass from quarterback Andrew Luck and diving across the goal line during the first game of the 2015 season, Doyle lost his grip on the ball amid the celebration with his teammates.

“I come to find out later that the ball somehow made it back to the sideline,” Doyle told the audience at the archdiocese’s Spirit of Service Awards Dinner in Indianapolis on April 30. “I never knew how it got back there until I heard the story that [All-Pro wide receiver] Reggie Wayne had happened to grab it, knowing it was my first touchdown.

“He thought enough to grab the football for me. I thought that was a really cool thing, with him being a role model for me. Him grabbing the ball for me really meant a lot to me.”

Doyle shared that story during a question-and-answer session directed by his close friend, his teammate and his fellow Catholic—Joe Reitz. Sitting on stage in front of 600 people in the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis, the two Colts engaged in the kind of fun, free-wheeling, humorous exchange of stories, thoughts and good-natured jabs that mark the friendship of two guys who share a love of football, family and faith.

The humor shined through in a moment when Reitz poked fun at himself after complimenting Doyle for drawing 600 people to the event that benefits Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

(Related story: Spirit of Service honorees help ‘transform the world’)

“Jack, if I was [the featured speaker] at this dinner, there would be like six people here,” said Reitz, an offensive lineman who is a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese. “My wife Jill would be here, and a couple of buddies asking, ‘Is there free beer?’ There are 600 people here to listen to you.”

In response, Doyle looked at the crowd and cracked, “The great thing about being from Indianapolis and the Catholic community is that I’m probably related to half of them.”

Their exchange took a more serious turn when Reitz asked Doyle to “talk about the role faith plays in your life.”

Doyle mentioned the influence of growing up in the Catholic community of Holy Spirit Parish on the city’s east side. He also saluted his parents, John and Nancy, for raising him and his three sisters “in the right way.” And he talked about his gratitude “to be in a locker room that the Colts have, where faith is so accepted and almost encouraged.”

“Coach [Chuck] Pagano happens to be a strong Catholic man,” Doyle noted. “I don’t know if every team is like this, but we actually offer Mass before home and away games on Saturday nights.

“It’s a really meaningful thing to me because it’s something I’ve done since my time at Cathedral. We went to Mass on Fridays before games. To have that at this level—where I didn’t really necessarily expect it—meant a lot to me personally. I get a lot of joy from being able to do that.”

Reitz followed with another question that was connected to the theme of this year’s Spirit of Service Awards Dinner, “Changing Lives, Influencing the Future.” Reitz asked Doyle, “Who has changed your life and influenced your future?”

“The obvious answer would be my parents,” Doyle began. “But there are so many role models that I can’t even name them all. One that always pops in my head is Coach Jim O’Hara. He was my coach at Cathedral. He’s the guy you strive to be, the guy you admire. I wanted to teach. I wanted to coach. I wanted to be him. He’s been a huge influence on me.”

Reitz finished the session with this question for Doyle, “How would you like to influence the future?”

In his response, Doyle referred to his upcoming marriage in June to Casie Williford, his college sweetheart from Western Kentucky University, where he graduated in 2013. He also praised the influence that Reitz has had on him.

“Joe’s a role model for me,” Doyle told the audience. “It’s just simple things—bring a buddy home with you and teach them to live the right way, as you’ve shown me with how great a husband you are to Jill. I want to be that with Casie. And how great a father you are to your three kids. I want to be that guy. And hopefully one day, I can show someone that, too.”

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin also focused on that theme of personal connection during his remarks at the dinner, especially the connection that “Catholics, as well as all people of good will,” should have with people in poverty.

The archbishop referred to the pastoral letter that the Catholic bishops of the five dioceses of Indiana published earlier this year, “Poverty at the Crossroads: The Church’s Response to Poverty in Indiana.”

“In the first part of the pastoral letter, what we’re inviting people to do is to see,” the archbishop told the audience. “And I don’t know about you, but one thing that gets me nervous when I read the Gospel is that Jesus isn’t going out of his way to condemn people who oppress the poor. He rather has really harsh words for those who don’t see them.

“Because one thing poverty does is it makes us invisible—except under eruptions like [recent protests and riots in] Baltimore, of course. I think we need to see that this could happen here if we’re not successfully reaching out to people who feel they have no hope, that they’re feeling left behind, that there’s no way out.”

The archbishop views the pastoral letter as “the beginning of a conversation” with people—to have people consider what it means to be poor in Indiana, and how the Church should respond “with the great generosity of our faith and our commission.”

“We seem to follow Jesus, not just admire him, because faith is not a spectator sport,” the archbishop said about the faithful.

“Jesus himself never acted as if the plight of the poor and the outcast wasn’t his business. God’s heart has a special place for the poor—so much so that God himself became poor. So anyone who would want to be a disciple must love the poor as Jesus did. We just can’t talk about it. We have to walk the talk.”

In closing, the archbishop thanked people for their goodness and generosity in helping Catholic Charities Indianapolis make a difference to the poor and vulnerable.

“Your faith strengthens my faith,” he said. “So I thank you.” †

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