Interview: Catholic Co-Owner of NFL Chicago Bears
God's plan can be found in football, and he can be given glory by a game well played, says Chicago Bears co-owner Patrick McCaskey.
In addition to his work with the professional football team, McCaskey is the chairman of Sports Faith International, and he speaks and writes on topics of religion and athletics.
In this interview with us, he spoke about his experiences as a Catholic owner of a professional team, his observations as the grandson of the Bears' founder, and the faith-based initiatives he works with.
Q: What is it like to combine being a co-owner of a professional football team and a Catholic?
McCaskey: It implies a lot of dependence on God.
I've had the good fortune to be associated with the Bears all my life. The business of football is an emotional rollercoaster, but God is constant.
With God's faith, I try to be obedient to his plan for my life. With God's hope, I try to be a voice of encouragement. With God's love, I try to exemplify Jesus.
We want to win championships with sportsmanship. We do good works quietly, for God's glory. We fear God and we respect our opponents. We work diligently and we trust God for the results.
We are grateful for at least the following: God created a wonderful world in six days; Jesus died for our sins, including fumbles; when we need the Holy Spirit, he is there -- he is even there when we think that we don't need him.
Mass is offered at the team hotel four and a half hours before every game, home and away, and I go to that. I serve as a lector at the team Masses. I find it very helpful in working for the Bears.
I also read the Bible. I am of the opinion that we need to read the Bible in order to know the truth. There are 1,328 chapters in the Bible. I try to read 26 chapters a week. That way I can get through the Bible in 51 weeks and have a week off for spring break. It's a great book.
Q: Is there a particular part of the Bible that you have found helpful in your work in the sports arena?
McCaskey: My favorite part is the Sermon on the Mount. My favorite part of that is the Beatitudes.
Of the Old Testament, I think the most valuable part is the Ten Commandments.
Q: Are there any other ways in which you relate your faith with sports?
McCaskey: St. Paul is a great example in the sports arena, his virtues and all the ways he speaks about faith in relation to athletics.
The Catholic faith also helps to understand good teamwork. On a team, you can't always be the center of attention.
You have to learn to work with other people. It is the same way in a family. It is the same way in the Body of Christ. Everyone is important in the Body, and they can all make a contribution.
Q: Have you noticed, with the new office for sports in the Vatican, more support for values-based sports programs?
McCaskey: I think that the Vatican sports office is a result of the emphasis that Pope John Paul II put on the sports world.
He wanted to evangelize the sports world, and I think he did very well with that. First of all, because he was an athlete. He was also a very good writer, and a very good speaker.
I do think it's very helpful for the Vatican to have a sports office, particularly during the year of St. Paul, who wrote on sports.
Q: Have you had contact with the Vatican office?
McCaskey: Yes, Father Kevin Lixey [head of Vatican's Church and sport office] sent us a letter recognizing the contributions of Sports Faith International and expressing the support of the Vatican.
Q: Can you explain more about Sports Faith International and the Sports Faith Hall of Fame?
McCaskey: We started Sports Faith International last year to showcase the connection between athletics and faith, using media to explore the virtues and life lessons that can be learned from sports.
The hall of fame was created to recognize world class athletes who are known for outstanding dedication to sports and their faith. We look for athletes who exemplify the virtues of St. Paul.
Last year, we inducted my late grandfather, George Halas, along with Danny Abramowicz and Chris Godfrey.
Saturday, we will induct Wellington Mara, Dave Casper and Father John Smyth, who turned down a career in the National Basketball Association to become a priest.
This year we are also including awards for outstanding high school athletes, and letting them be a part of the ceremony.
Q: You've opened the doors of the Chicago Bears training facility, Halas Hall, to bring in an audience of high school coaches for a SportsLeader program this Sunday. How did this program catch your attention?
McCaskey: It was really the enthusiasm of [a young Legionary brother], who also happens to be a lifelong Bears fan, that caught my attention.
It's an opportunity to bring coaches together to help them be aware of the role they play in young people's lives as moral guides and role models. To help train them in excellence on and off the field.
The project itself fits in with the responsibility we have as a national pro-football team to give positive programs to the community, to share our legacy.
Q: What is the legacy of your grandpa, George Halas, and how did you see him combine sports and faith?
McCaskey: My grandfather started the Chicago Bears in 1920, then played on the team for 10 years and coached it for 40.
He was a man of great dedication to the Bears and the national football league, and very accomplished as a player and as a coach and as an owner. He left the team to his family; we are trying to extend his legacy.
As a child, when my grandfather coached, my brothers and I sat on an army blanket next to the Bears bench. It was tremendous.
Once in a speech I heard him say: "Sixty years ago I offered my heart and my helmet to the Lord. My heart is still beating and my helmet still fits. I pray the Divine Coach finds me worthy to be on his first team."
He didn't always talk about his faith, but he lived it very strongly. He always went to confession, coming back to his desk to say his penance, and communion. He encouraged his family to do the same.
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