Bishop Stika named to Catholic Athletes for Christ board

Bishop Richard F. Stika is shown with St. Louis Cardinals legendary player and manager Red Schoendienst during spring training in March.

Bishop Richard F. Stika is shown with St. Louis Cardinals legendary player and manager Red Schoendienst during spring training in March.

Bishop Richard F. Stika’s passion for Major League Baseball has led to a pastoral appointment with an athletic twist.

Bishop Stika has been named to the Episcopal Advisory Board of Catholic Athletes for Christ, a national Catholic sports ministry serving sports and athletes at all levels.

“Catholic Athletes for Christ has been serving professional athletes and Major League Baseball is a big part of that,” said Ray McKenna, founder and president of the organization. “It is a growing part of our ministry. We’re going to be relying on Bishop Stika for his faith and counsel.”

Mr. McKenna said Bishop Stika will advise Catholic Athletes for Christ on working with Major League Baseball and noted that much of CAC’s ministry to date has involved professional athletes and teams.

But the organization also is working with collegiate and Olympic athletes and most recently has been developing a vibrant outreach for high school athletes.

As CAC expands its footprint in sports, Mr. McKenna said the nonprofit group has developed a “very strong” ministry with the National Football League, highlighted by the celebration of a major Mass at the annual NFL combine.

“We have some connection with the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, but not as strong as with Major League Baseball and the NFL,” Mr. McKenna said.

Catholic Athletes for Christ describes itself as the only nationwide Catholic sports ministry that serves athletes and teams at every level of athletics. CAC said it was formed in response to the call of Pope John Paul II to evangelize the world of sports with the Gospel message. CAC has been recognized by the Vatican’s Office of Sports as an authentic witness for the Church’s theology of sports.

Mr. McKenna said Bishop Stika’s knowledge and interest in baseball will be invaluable as CAC bolsters its ministerial lineup. He praised Bishop Stika for his “wonderfully thoughtful and insightful homily” for Stan Musial, the St. Louis Cardinals legend who died in January.

Catholic Athletes for Christ has 16 cardinals and bishops on its Episcopal Advisory Board, including Bishop Stika, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Cardinal Edwin O’Brien. Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., is CAC’s Episcopal board chairman and is known as the “holy goalie” in Chicago because he plays goal in a men’s hockey league and is a loyal fan of the Chicago Blackhawks.

“It’s heartening to have between 200 and 300 clergy members affiliated with our efforts. And to have several bishops like Bishop Stika helping us move forward with our ministry is so important,” Mr. McKenna said.

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