Mass under the lights honors UMW student athletes

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As student athletes and their coaches departed the intramural fields at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg April 12, a different type of coach took the field with his team, but not to play any sport. Under the bright field lights Father Christopher T. Vaccaro, chaplain of the Catholic Campus Ministry and group of students and volunteers rearranged benches to form pews and converted a table into an altar on the green field turf for the second annual Mass under the lights.

The special outdoor Mass, which honors the university’s student athletes and coaches, was started last year as a way to reach out to the athletes whose rigorous schedules can leave little time for participation in campus ministry events or religion at all. 

“Aim to be great. Aim to make it home.”

“Instead of us saying, ‘Come to us. Come to us.’ I thought, ‘Let’s bring something to them,’” said Father Vaccaro. “Show them that we are praying for them and support them and then maybe naturally some of them will start coming.”

A group of more than 60 students, athletes and coaches filled the bleachers for Mass on one of the first warm days of spring. It formed the perfect scene for Father Vaccaro’s homily, which began with the story of Kansas City Royals baseball player Mike Sweeny and his famous steal of home plate under the nose of New York Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte. 

“It doesn’t matter how you get home, just get there,” said Father Vaccaro, “This is something we should remember. I think it is an image that so well summarizes sports, but honestly, should guide our lives. … Too often we live life as if there is no purpose, no end, just the playing of the game.” 

He encouraged the student athletes to apply the discipline and sacrifices they have come to expect in sports to the ultimate race home to heaven. 

“We cannot only be great at throwing, running and shooting. We must be great in life,” he said. “Aim to be great. Aim to make it home.”

Student representatives and coaches from several sport teams participated in the presentation of the gifts during Mass.  It was a symbol of thanksgiving for the many gifts of athleticism that are represented at the school according to the chaplain.

Even though the Mass is only it its second year, it is gaining popularity.

“It was an awesome opportunity to get everyone together on campus and see how sports and our faith go hand in hand,” said Emily Saia, graduate student and captain of the intramural tennis team.

Father Vaccaro was very moved by the increased presence of athletes and coaches at the Mass this year and hopes that they will spread the word to other coaches. He hopes one year to get a whole team to attend together.

After Mass the group of students and coaches were treated to more fun and fellowship at a special reception at the St. John Bosco Center to conclude the event.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018