World Series sparks jaunty wager between Arizona, Texas Catholic Charities directors
PHOENIX (OSV News) — Every time Michael "Iggy" Iglio, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Fort Worth, texts his counterpart in the Diocese of Phoenix, he signs off with "Let's go Rangers!"
That's all that Paul Mulligan, president and CEO of Phoenix's Catholic Charities Community Services, needs to hear to start trash-talking the Rangers in support of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks hosted the Texas Rangers for World Series games Oct. 30-Nov. 1 at Chase Field in Phoenix. The Rangers clinched the World Series with a 5-0 victory over the Diamondbacks on Nov. 1.
The Catholic Charities directors made a bet with each other: The losing director must wear the winning team's jersey all week to all functions.
"Because we're so proud of our teams and so confident we're going to win, the winning Catholic Charities organization has the joyous pleasure of seeing and knowing the other CEO will be wearing their team's winning jersey all week, during all their events, out in the communities," Iglio told OSV News. "We both have fundraising events, important community events, board meetings after the World Series ends. It'll be an uncomfortable moment."
Mulligan threw out the first pitch at a Diamondbacks game Sept. 20 on behalf of Catholic Charities. If the Diamondbacks had won, he would have sent Iglio one of the custom jerseys he received that night.
There's much to admire in both teams, said the directors, noting that neither the Rangers nor the Diamondbacks were widely considered favorites at the beginning of the season.
"When I look at what the Rangers have done this year, it's been an incredible change in culture," said Iglio. "The players have stepped up; the teams have stepped up. I have always been enamored by the support of the fans, the hometown team, in the good times and the bad."
Wearing the opposing team's jersey would be both humbling and uncomfortable, noted Iglio, but he hopes it would increase awareness of the agencies' work.
"We have incredible fans here in North Texas that support all of our major sports teams," he said. "If this fun challenge between Catholic Charities in Arizona and Catholic Charities Fort Worth can gain a little bit of excitement and awareness, it can be a great win for our donors and supporters, to show them how much we appreciate them and how much we need help, too."
Father Daniel Kelley, pastor of St. Jude Parish in Mansfield, has been a lifelong Rangers fan.
"I was going there [to games] when I was a child. My dad would take us to the first stadium, and we were always big Rangers fans," recalled Fr. Kelley, who grew up in Dallas. In addition to his other priestly duties, Fr. Kelley celebrates Mass at Globe Life Field during Sunday home games, offering the sacraments to any team members, ballpark staff, or visiting players.
"This year there have been a lot of people who work for the team telling me they're fired up, and they're all excited about playing," Fr. Kelley told OSV News. "I'm excited about what's going on."
The team chaplain took on the role at the request of Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson, himself an avid baseball fan. Fr. Kelley is a part of the larger Catholic Athletes for Christ network that works to ensure the sacraments are available at ballparks, stadiums, and arenas across the country.
"Through the sign of peace, everyone greets one another, there's never any animosity. Everyone's welcome," said Fr. Kelley. "Sometimes, I've been there when players from both sides are at Mass, and they still get along with each other. There's a lot of camaraderie among everybody."
However, the desire for sportsmanship doesn't stop Fr. Kelley from cheering on the hometown team.
"There are a lot of people who've been waiting for this for years, and this is our year, I think," he said of the World Series. "There's a lot of excitement."
While not a team chaplain, Father John Muir serves as vicar general for the Diocese of Phoenix and rector of St. Mary's Basilica — the oldest Catholic church in Phoenix, located just a few blocks from Chase Field. Like Fr. Kelley, Father Muir also grew up supporting his hometown team.
"I think everyone is pulling for the D-backs. Everyone is just plugged in to what's happening downtown," said Fr. Muir. "It's definitely on everyone's minds."
Because of the basilica's proximity to the stadium, the parking garage often opens up to sports fans as an extra source of income. The lack of available parking during the evening has led to the basilica staff to change its Mass times Nov. 1 for All Saints' Day, a holy day of obligation, to a 7 a.m. and 12 p.m. liturgy.
As was done at previous major sporting events held in the Valley of the Sun, such as Super Bowl LVII, the Phoenix Diocese's evangelization team will be distributing rosaries and offering to pray for people.
"We'll be telling people Jesus is a D-backs fan, but he's also a Rangers fan. He's also your biggest fan. He wants to walk with you in every aspect of your life. We want to remind people of God's great love for all of us," said Joyce Coronel, the diocese's manager of Evangelization and Sacramental Life.
"To the Texans, Jesus loves you, too," she added. "We might be sports competitors, but we want to be there for everybody. We're giving out rosaries to Texas Rangers fans and praying for them as well."
Even if the D-backs lose, Mulligan said he's more than happy to champion the great work done by sister Catholic Charities agencies in Texas.
"If the Texas Rangers win, I'll be happy to brag about the incredible things the Texas Catholic Charities do," he said, turning back to the role of the team jersey: "If that's my little lot in this and I got to wear the dang thing for a week, I'll be happy to brag about the work the Texas Catholic Charities do. I think Iggy would do the same for our Phoenix and Tucson charities as well."
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated by NTC staff.
By Tony Gutierrez, who writes for OSV News from Arizona.