CAC recently lost a great friend, brother in Christ, and representative of CAC when Strength and Conditioning Coach John McKenna of Notre Dame High School in Trenton, N.J., passed away on June 21. Click Here to read his obituary.
“He was a leader in everything he did including his tireless promotion of our CAC High School Cathletes chapters. His passion and enthusiasm for sports and life, or more properly stated perhaps, a sports life centered on Christ was infectious. I will always remember Coach’s specially-made t-shirt proclaiming, ‘Jesus Christ is my superhero.'”, said CAC President and Founder Ray McKenna.
McKenna added, “Please keep coach, his family, and our CAC family in the Diocese of Trenton in your prayers. Everyone who had the pleasure of knowing Coach McKenna will miss him terribly. In a world with few heroes, we just lost a great one. We look forward to seeing Coach in heaven leading the Saints in an arduous workout.”
Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC), and its MLB and NFL ministry programs, was featured in the Arlington (Va.) Diocese’s biweekly newspaper, The Arlington Catholic Herald. The article focuses on CAC’s work coming out of the global pandemic.
In recognition of Black History Month, Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC) wishes to recognize the contributions of Buck O’Neil to baseball and, more importantly, to racial recognition, understanding, and unity.
While Buck was an excellent player, manager, coach, and scout, his eight-decade legacy in the game extends well beyond these accomplishments. O’Neil was the driving force behind the establishment of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, which is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its impact on the social advancement of America. The Buck O’Neil Award is given by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. to honor his legacy to the game. As such it is awarded to individuals who emulate O’Neil in exhibiting a high degree of character, integrity and dignity. Additionally, the Buck O’Neil Professional Baseball Scouts and Coaches Association was founded in his honor.
Although Buck experienced significant racial prejudice and discrimination, he never succumbed to the natural human inclination toward anger and resentment. Instead he counseled love and forgiveness while working tirelessly to right the wrongs of racial discrimination. Much like Pope Francis, he urged a greater listening to older people and their stories. All of us would be well advised to listen to the life lessons of Buck O’Neil. He was fond of saying, “Hold hands with the person next to you. That way he can’t get away and neither can you.”
CAC President/Founder Ray McKenna offers condolences on the recent passing of CAC friend and Hall of Fame Manager Tom Lasorda:
“To the entire Lasorda family, the CAC community is praying for you during this difficult time of grieving and for the repose of Tommy’s soul. Tommy was a regular attendee at CAC’s Winter Meetings Masses and regularly arranged for Dodger Stadium Catholic Masses during his time as manager. His enthusiasm for life and the Catholic Church was infectious and he will be truly missed by the Dodgers Nation and the CAC community.”
Click Here to read a recent article by John Allen on Lasorda’s passing and his Catholic faith.
On November 23, 2020, CRAIG STAMMEN of the San Diego Padres and CAC’s Athlete Advisory Board was honored with the eighth annual Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. The award honors the legacy of National Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, who made the selfless decision to put his career in the major leagues on hold so he could serve our country. Each honoree possesses the values, integrity, and dedication to serving our country that Bob Feller himself displayed.
CAC President and Founder Ray McKenna proudly congratulates Craig on this honor. “Craig has been a leader on and off the field, both during his time with the Washington Nationals and now as a member of the San Diego Padres. The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award recognizes Craig’s strong conviction in living out his Catholic faith with continual selfless acts as well as his dedication to our Nation’s active military personnel and their families. Congratulations to Craig, his wife Audrey, and their family.”
Originally entering Major League Baseball with the Washington Nationals in 2009, Craig has been involved with many programs that support our military during his 11-year MLB career including a tour sponsored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in which athletes travelled to Afghanistan to thank the troops deployed there. From this experience he partnered with the United Heroes League, in the support of giving back to military families. Through his leadership and this special and strong partnership with the San Diego Padres, Craig personally provides families with a fun night at the Ballpark. Military members have gone on field to watch batting practice and meet with Craig personally and those within the San Diego baseball community.
“I’m very humbled to receive the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. I’m thankful for the opportunity given to me by the Community Service Department of the San Diego Padres in partnership with my favorite military charity, United Heroes League, to use my platform to serve military families in San Diego. Bob Feller is a great role model and I hope to live up to his standard of service, sacrifice and commitment to making the world a better place.”
CAC’s Mike Sweeney, former five-time All-Star of the Kansas City Royals, was recently interviewed by Trent Beattie for the National Catholic Register to discuss his role in the new film “Pray” and spoke about CAC, Phillip Rivers, and CAC’s Rosary CD featuring Vin Scully.
From CAC founder/president Ray McKenna, “Our dear friend and renowned MLB scout Gary Hughes passed away on Saturday. Beyond his many contributions to scouting and the game, Gary was a devout Catholic and almost always the first attendee at our annual CAC Masses at the Baseball Winter Meetings. While Gary was one of the best scouts of all time who played a key role in the signings of Rondell White, Cliff Floyd, Delino DeShields, Marquis Grissom, and even NFL great John Elway, he was an even better human being. Our CAC MLB priest-chaplains will offer Masses for the repose of Gary’s soul this week and please keep him and his family in your prayers.”
On June 1, Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC) and the Washington Nationals were featured on a virtual webinar called “Pray Ball!”, hosted by the St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C.
CAC’s president and founder Ray McKenna and Washington Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart discussed Catholicism in baseball and CAC’s Mass ministry program, which is responsible for hosting Catholic Masses for players, coaches, broadcasters, team officials, scouts, etc., during the major league baseball season.
CAC hosted 355 Catholic Masses at MLB stadiums during the 2019 regular season, playoffs, and World Series (see table below highlighting CAC’s efforts over the past seven years in increasing its Mass ministry in MLB).
All of us at Catholic Athletes for Christ would like to express our sincerest condolences to the family of the legendary Don Shula who died yesterday at age 90. We wish to specifically send our sympathy to his son Mike Shula of the Denver Broncos who is a good friend and long-time CAC supporter. Mike’s strong faith and stellar integrity are shining examples of his dad’s legacy both in the game and beyond football.
Don Shula’s Hall of Fame resume, which includes an NFL record 347 wins including two super victories and an undefeated 1972 season, is well-known among all of us. His strong Catholic faith and sterling character have received much less coverage in the media, but those who knew him best believe they were the foundation stones of his success. Shula actually considered the priesthood before he embarked on his legendary NFL career, and all through the course of his life he was a faithful Catholic who often attended daily Mass during the peak of the season. In Miami, where he spent the last 50 years, Don Shula became a local hero beyond his on-field exploits. Coach Shula and his wife Mary Anne were generous benefactors for the Miami community, especially for the Catholic Church and schools in the Miami area.
Noted sports journalist Brian Golden shared with us his personal recollections of Coach Shula including being right behind him when he received a call from then-President Ronald Reagan. Despite Shula’s high-level connections, Golden’s most poignant remembrance of Shula was his deep and abiding love for his children and grandchildren. Despite his no nonsense on field persona, Golden recalls how Shula publically downplayed the sentiment of the historic nature of the first-ever father-son game against his son David’s Cincinnati Bengals, characterizing it as a “business meeting.” Yet Golden vividly remembers that once the Miami bus arrived in Cincinnati, Shula left his bags in the locker room and quietly headed straight to David’s house to play with his grandkids.
Our priests will be offering Masses for the repose of his soul. Please remember Coach Shula in your prayers today and throughout this season.