April 19

Sunday, April 19th

Good morning, Good morning,

The first human experience for most of us that stretches beyond our family is most likely the Catholic parish we live in. There is a multiple of families with a wide variety of names, representative of every continent on the planet. There is an enthusiasm to share the cultural differences. We celebrate Oktoberfest with our German friends, the blessing of the Easter Baskets with our Eastern European friends, St. Patrick’s Day with the Celts, and Cinco de Mayo with our friends from Mexico. And there are the holidays for Dr. Martin Luther King and those who served in the military. And who can forget…Thanksgiving.

Beyond the culinary delights that bring smiles to our eyes there are cultural threads that hold us together. The open practice of our religion. The freedom of our political interests and activities. The honors and blessings of true marriage and credible family life found in the congested neighborhoods in town out to the great estates. And when all is said and done the one medium where all the religious and cultural divides find a seam… is found in baseball.

This letter is dedicated to our honored parishioner, Mr. Thomas Carroll, who lived a life most could only dream about. He was a pitcher in the professional leagues of baseball. In his life on the mound, for the Cincinnati Reds, he was surrounded by what was close to an athletic Nirvana. Tony Perez on 1st. Joe Morgan at 2nd; Dave Concepcion at Short Stop; Pete Rose, the Great, on 3rd. And, Johnny Bench, the greater, as catcher. Four out of five Hall of Famers and the fifth, Concepcion, honored with five golden glove awards. Did I mention two World Series in ’75-’76. How do you respond to that?

Well here it is.   “Hi Father – I was in the majors for two seasons and couldn’t have chosen a better team – maybe the 27 Yankees with Ruth 😀

After a hard transition, my work after baseball was more important – 2 boring weeks in 25 years with a non profit public service organization (MITRE) and over a decade as an adjunct professor at Georgetown. I’ve been blessed and attribute all to my Catholic faith. Tom”

Great job Tom I hope you don’t mind my saying it, “You got a home run in that response.” Many thanks for always being there for the parish. Let us all pray for one another.

Speaking of Ruth, Now the rest of the two stories.

First, the Arlington Diocese may be remembered for some interesting athletes. Fr. C.M. Trinkle once served as quarterback for the Washington Redskins. Fr. Gerry Credon in his early days was something a semi-pro Rugby player. Many years ago he would offer the early Mass at his assigned parish and then hustle down to National Airport to catch a plane to New York for the Sunday afternoon Rugby match. Msgr. Thomas Scannell won a full scholarship to Holy Cross as quarterback but was pulled because of a serious knee injury. (There is another story in that wonderful priest.) Perhaps, another day. Fr. Andrew Fisher was the pitcher for Mt. St. Mary’s University, and Fr. Jack Peterson was a pitcher for American University.

And, last, Fr. Henry Hammond, once served as a pitcher for the New York Yankees. He attained the job when he struck out the powerhouse, Lou Gehrig. When young Hammond announced he was entering the seminary the Yankee players all signed caps, bats, balls, gloves for their departing pitcher. He kept all the souvenirs, like relics, and put them on display in his rectory.  The Yankee organization thought so much of young Hammond that they put a lien on him. That is, if he ever left the seminary he would have to go back to the Bronx Bombers, the Yankees. In the priestly example of Fr. Hammond and the other athletes noted above was a great humility that was never lost on the confreres.

Second. One of my dear classmates from grammar school in West Des Moines, Iowa departed from the parish, of Sacred Heart, after our eighth grade graduation. Her family, with six daughters, all of whom looked like Russian Easter Eggs, moved to Tennessee and was lost from the memories of most classmates but not all.   There was a tragic car accident where the father and two daughters died at the scene. (There is another story, for another time, in that as well.)

For years I was encouraged to try and track down the survivors but to no avail. The classmates wanted to know if the dear friend had survived. Just before the fiftieth anniversary of our eighth grade graduation we discovered the classmate was alive. Ultimately or tracking through the internet offered no answer for the lost classmate.  Success was attained when we tracked her through the sacramental records of Sacred Heart Parish. Of the six daughters only one had a recorded sacrament in West Des Moines and she stood next to my sister in the Confirmation line.

Sure enough the records of the one led us to the Catholic parish in Ottumwa, Iowa. After a few shaky leads, sending us looking at the obituaries in Omaha, we found that she had settled in Atlanta. The search ran us through an interesting story on the priest who baptized her back in the year of 1955. Here it is.

Rev. W.E. Culinan baptized the infant, Patti Gordon, at St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Ottumwa, Iowa.  He was a baseball star, a pitcher, at St. Ambrose College in the early part of the last century. He would later enter St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore for the Diocese of Davenport. In his time in the seminary there were moments of boredom where he would sneak out and play ball in the neighborhood leagues. His catcher was impoverished in those grand old days. Everyone was impoverished. He was a lefty using a right handed glove and had no mask.

Culinan went to every seminarian and begged a dime to buy a glove and mask for his catcher. And when all was collected he went to the sporting-goods store. Not enough money, but the owner was Catholic and responded with generosity because the sock that was full of dimes came from the seminarians. Play ball!!!

Years later the seminarian, ordained, and serving as young pastor assigned to St. Patrick’s Church in Delma, Iowa. It was not far from the Mississippi River where he was in the throes of building a new church. A couple of his diocesan confreres called and said his old catcher was coming to play ball at Comiskey Park, on the South Side of Chicago. So, they all loaded up in some great automotive wonder and went to the game.

At the game priest and player would meet up once again. The player said to the priests that they could have given him the entire bank of Baltimore when he was catcher for the former pitcher but it would not have meant as much as the mitt and mask from the seminarians.


A week later the priest back on the West side of the Mississippi River received a letter with check from his friend playing for the New York Yankees. The check was for five hundred dollars and signed by George Herman Ruth, the Babe. The value of the check today would have been greater twenty thousand dollars. Though some assume the money went to the Stations of the Cross, the confreres referred to the construction site as the, “Church the Ruth Built,” a play on words for his influence on Yankee Stadium. Thirty-nine years later the story played out on the sports page for the Des Moines Register and Quad City Times

Hopefully, we will soon hear the words, “Play Ball.” Let us pray for one another.

Please know that we have been hearing Confessions every night this week in anticipation of Divine Mercy Sunday so folks may attain a plenary indulgence with the annual devotion. A special Mass will be held at 2:00 on Sunday with the chaplet to be offered at 3:00 PM. Please join us on the cameras.

Starting next week Confessions will be heard at 7:00 PM on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights. All will be heard in the education center. For those who would like their confession heard on the back patio need only call ahead of time. God bless one and all.

Thought you might like a picture of the construction of the Confessionals.   


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