“Having spent 15 years in Catholic schools, my faith life has become the foundation of my life,” Madi Connors said confidently during her testimony at the Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC) Springboard event in Springfield.
“In having the privilege of going to Marquette [Catholic High School], I have the opportunity to speak openly of my faith and my relationship with God.”
The Alton Marquette Catholic High School student is a member of the girl’s golf, basketball and soccer teams and will enroll at Illinois State University in the fall. She joined other seniors from diocesan high schools, parents and coaches for the annual recognition. Bishop Thomas John Paprocki presented each senior with a St. Sebastian medal and prayer card. St. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes.
Recalling her strong Catholic upbringing as one of five children of a devout Philadelphia family, Theresa Grentz, former head coach of the University of Illinois Women’s basketball program and current head coach at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, challenged her young listeners.
“I’m not a theologian, but the faith part is pretty big,” said Grentz, a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She urged the college-bound millennials to be strong in their defense of what they believe in.
“With the CAC, it’s the Eucharist and you, you are the one who will have to stay the course and get into those churches and be part of the Eucharist,” said Grentz. “Don’t be afraid and you will be mocked and I will tell you this from being in colleges for the last 40 years, they will respect you, the women, they will respect you. They won’t tell you, but they will respect you.”
CAC serves Catholic athletes in the practice of their faith and shares the Gospel in and through sports. It was formed in response to St. Pope John Paul II’s call to evangelize the world of sports and his establishing the Vatican’s Office of Sports. Bishop Paprocki is chairman of the CAC Episcopal Advisory Board and was instrumental in founding the organization.