My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Stanley Cup came to Springfield on Aug. 20, and I was fortunate to see it in person at a private reception and brunch at the Executive Mansion with Gov. Patrick Quinn, members of the United Service Organizations (USO), the Wirtz family and staff of the Chicago Blackhawks front office.
The Stanley Cup then made appearances for public viewing at the Illinois State Fair and in the Rotunda of the State Capitol. For those of us who have been Blackhawks fans all our lives, this moment was a long time coming. I do remember when the Blackhawks last won the Stanley Cup in 1961. I was just a boy then and never thought that it would take 49 years for the Blackhawks to win Lord Stanley’s Cup again!
It was as a young boy that I also first started playing hockey. I have six brothers and two sisters, so we sort of had our own built-in family hockey team. Just add a few friends from the neighborhood, and pick-up games of floor hockey were easy to get organized. Later I played some roller hockey and eventually learned how to ice skate.
I’ve been playing ice hockey for several years now. My favorite position to play is goaltender, and a few years ago a parishioner gave me the nickname, the “Holy Goalie.” I still enjoy playing. Being a goalie is a great diversion from the cares and problems of everyday life. When I’m in the nets my whole focus and concentration is on stopping that little black puck, so I put everything else out of my mind. Well, almost everything. I do pray while I’m playing — short prayers, like “Help me, Jesus” when the puck is being fired at me or a player is bearing in on me on a breakaway, and “Thank you, Jesus” when I make a save or we win the game.
Besides playing hockey, I also enjoy running. In fact, I am a marathon runner, having run 16 marathons since 1995: Chicago (seven times – 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2005), Columbus, Ohio (1998), Boston (1998), Rome, Italy (2000), Athens, Greece (2000), Washington, D.C. (2004 and 2007), Dayton, Ohio (2006), Dublin, Ireland (2008), and Minneapolis-St. Paul (2009).
One of the reasons why I run marathons is to raise money for charity. Over the years, I have used my marathon efforts to solicit funds for Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, the Chicago Legal Clinic, the Cardinal’s Annual Catholic Appeal and other charitable organizations.
I am registered to run the Denver Marathon on Oct. 17, and I have decided to dedicate this marathon effort to raising money to help pay off the debt of our Cathedral renovation.
Many people who attended my installation as your new bishop in June made very favorable comments especially about the high quality of the music, the way everything went so smoothly, and the beauty of the newly-renovated cathedral. Indeed, I consider myself fortunate to have come into such a magnificent cathedral, thanks to the renovation program initiated my by immediate predecessor, Archbishop George Lucas, and made possible by so many generous donors. All of the Catholic faithful throughout the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois can rightfully take pride in the Cathedral church of our diocese. It is home not only to the bishop’s chair (in Latin, cathedra) or seat of the diocese, but it is also the home church for the whole diocese, so everyone should always feel welcome to come and pray here.
While we are already enjoying the results of this beautiful renovation of our cathedral, there is still a considerable debt outstanding on the loan that was taken out to pay for it, precisely a debt of $2.07 million. I know that many people have already been quite generous in paying the bulk of the renovation costs. But I would like to make another push to retire this debt completely.
As I’ve done with other worthwhile causes in the past, I am dedicating my running of the Denver Marathon this Oct. 17 to raise money to help pay off the remaining debt for our cathedral renovation. The way it works is that I ask people to pledge or pay whatever they are willing to donate per mile for the 26.2 miles that make up the distance of every marathon. My sacrifice is doing the training and running the race. Your sacrifice is making a pledge and contributing your donation. I have already been getting up early in the morning for the past few months to get in my training runs. I hope you will do your part as well. Below is a form for your pledge or contribution. You can also make your pledge or donation online at www.dio.org/marathon.
As Sacred Scripture says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Your generosity will be greatly appreciated.
May God give us this grace. Amen.