Catholic Bowl underscores faith, teamwork, and fun
PROSPER — Now in its second year, the Catholic Bowl, which played out Sept. 10 at The Star in Frisco, looks well on its way to becoming a cherished tradition.
Football, after all, appeals to many, said Clint Weber, president of the Diocese of Fort Worth Advancement Foundation.
“Our initial reaction to the idea of Catholic Bowl was that football is such an important part of our Texas and Catholic culture,” Weber said. “It seemed like a way to focus time and energy on our young people through things they love to do, but doing those in an honorable way where we’re encouraging truth, beauty, and goodness. And there’s no better way to do that than Friday night football in the state of Texas.”
For Nolan Catholic High School senior Ben “Big Ben” Shlemon, an offensive lineman for the Vikings, such sentiments ring true.
“When we played in the first Catholic Bowl last year it felt like just another football game at first,” Shlemon said. “That being the first year not knowing what it was all about. But, when we got into it and met the people putting it on and why they were putting it on, that started to bring out how important this is. Plus, it’s really fun, bringing in teams from other areas and states to play against us. That doesn’t happen often.”
Nolan President Kristy Webb agreed.
“The Catholic Bowl is extra special because, it’s a football game, yes,” Webb said. “But it’s also bigger than that. It’s an opportunity for our kids to look beyond to realize that we are bigger, our faith is bigger than just the circle of our high school.”
Six, as opposed to four last year, teams competed in this year’s Catholic Bowl. Nolan faced Houston’s St. Thomas High School. Plano’s John Paul II High School competed against St. Edmund High School of Eunice, Louisiana. And Muenster’s Sacred Heart High School took on Shiner’s St. Paul High School.
All six teams were present Sept. 9 for a Mass at St. Martin de Porres Church in Prosper concelebrated by Bishop Michael Olson and Diocese of Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly followed by barbecue dinner served up by members of the Knights of Columbus.
Father Brett Metzler, in his homily, posited that today’s secular world grants scant social benefits to being a Christian. That said, the efforts we are all called upon by Jesus to exert in living out the Gospel, especially in living sacrificially for others, apply to the work necessary to excel in athletics.
“In sports, if you don’t sweat and work you won’t get better,” Fr. Metzler said. “The pain you experience leads to deeper joy later. It’s an experience of going through something and becoming a better person.”
Likewise, through living out the Gospel, even during times of frustration and uncertainty, we access deeper levels, joys, and realities of Christianity, Fr. Metzler said.
“That’s how you find God, by giving yourself completely over,” Fr. Metzler said. “But the sacrifice is worth it. It’s not worth it to live in the middle as mediocre Christians.”
Bishop Olson spoke of the importance of heeding God’s call and gifts, be they in football or other endeavors, to the fullest to grow and help others.
Former Notre Dame football player and Catholic Bowl founder Patrick Steenberge spoke of his Catholic faith’s role in getting him through hard times and dashed hopes such as when a shoulder injury ended his dream of being Notre Dame’s starting quarterback. That, in part, led to Steenberge’s creation of Global Football, the Catholic Bowl, and other outreach projects.
“God had a plan for me that I didn’t know,” Steenberge said. “It wasn’t my plan, but it turned out very well.”
Former Notre Dame and NFL player Reggie Brooks discussed his Catholic faith in relation to football.
“It’s a game, yes,” Brooks said. “But it teaches a lot about life. How to treat other people. How to be part of a team, and how to give of yourself to lift others.”
Former Notre Dame player Mike McCoy spoke of life’s unwelcome and unexpected surprises, or audibles in pigskin parlance, and the need to build one’s life on the solid foundation of Christ to weather such storms.
Sacred Heart Coach Dale Schilling praised the Sept. 9 Mass and gathering as well as the Catholic Bowl tradition.
“It’s a great opportunity not just for our school but also our parish and community to bring our Catholic identity here,” Schilling said. “An opportunity too for our young men to enjoy camaraderie with students from the other schools.”
St. Edmund Coach James Shiver and his staff expressed elation over their trip to the Metroplex.
“We’re a small school of about 150 kids,” Shiver said. “This is our first year competing in the Catholic Bowl. We love our Catholic religion, so this is a huge thing for us. We wanted to be here for tonight’s Mass and the opportunity to play a team from another state.”
Shiver said his players recite the Rosary while walking to the school’s practice field about a mile away, something area residents often come out to witness.
“We had to raise money for the trip here,” Shiver said. “That only took a day or two. It wasn’t hard, people wanted to support this.”