Mass on a stud farm, near a Triple Crown winner

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., raises the Eucharist during Mass on Sept. 21 at Ashford Stud Farm. On the left, 2015 Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah watches Mass from his stall. The Mass was part of Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John Manz's pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the USCCB Sept. 19-22, 2016. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., raises the Eucharist during Mass on Sept. 21 at Ashford Stud Farm. On the left, 2015 Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah watches Mass from his stall. The Mass was part of Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John Manz’s pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the USCCB Sept. 19-22, 2016. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

By Joyce Duriga

LEXINGTON, Ky. — “American Pharoah is on this farm,” Karen said.

“Shut. Up,” I said. “Really? Do you think they’ll let us see him?”

“Nah, he’s probably in a secure area,” she said.

Well, it turned out that not only did we get to see American Pharoah but we participated in the first Mass ever to be said next to his stall where he now lives at Ashford Stud Farm in Lexington.

If you don’t know, American Pharoah is a rock star horse who won the Triple Crown in 2015 — the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Before American Pharoah, the last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978. Only 12 horses have ever won the Triple Crown in the 147-year history of the three races.

We ended up at the Mass because Karen Callaway, photo editor for the Catholic New World, Chicago’s archdiocesan newspaper, and I were covering Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz’s pastoral visit to migrant workers on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church. Every year he makes a trip to some part of the country to meet with workers. This year’s trip focused on those who work in the horse racing industry.

Ashford Stallion Manager Richard Barry introduces American Pharoah to Bishop Manz on Sept. 21. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Ashford Stallion Manager Richard Barry introduces American Pharoah to Bishop Manz on Sept. 21. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

While the bishop did meet with the workers at Ashford, the visit to the stud farm was sort of a perk. The owners of Ashford are Catholic and often donate American Pharaoh’s halters to be auctioned off at Catholic school fundraisers. They, with other local Catholic farm owners, provide scholarships to students in Catholic schools that will follow them all the way through to high school.

So American Pharaoh is used to the attention. You can walk right up to his stall and talk to him. I had a moment with him by myself and I told him we were going to have Mass right there and Jesus would be made present in the Eucharist (Yes, I talk to animals.) His ears moved back and forth as he stared me down.

During Mass he kept sticking his head out of the stall, especially when we were singing, and he and the other two stallions in the pristine and gorgeous barn, whinnied several times. I was convinced the Triple Crown winner was moved by the service and by the Eucharist. Afterward I asked the stallion manager about it.

Nope, the manager said. He was just hungry because we were having Mass during his normal dinner time. Sigh. On the retelling some have said to me that he was hungry for the Eucharist. Maybe.

Workers from Ashford Stud farm joined the bishops for Mass. Auxiliary Bishop Jon Manz made a pastoral visit to migrant workers in Kentucky on behalf of the USCCB Sept. 19-22. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Workers from Ashford Stud farm joined the bishops for Mass. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

Karen and I have retold our story of Mass with American Pharoah to many people and their reactions vary. We’ve received some glazed over looks and people asking, “Who?” To “No way!” One guy got so excited when I told him that he pleaded that I text him one of Karen’s photos from Mass. On my way out he put his arm around me and said I was his connection to American Pharaoh. He’s from the South, of course.

Karen, who has photographed major events like papal visits and World Youth Days, says this ranked up in her top three favorite assignments. Number one was shooting St. John Paul II in Central Park in 1995. I agree with Karen. While it doesn’t compare with the heavenly banquet, a barn with Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah was one of coolest settings for a Mass I’ve participated in so far.

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Duriga is editor of the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Wildcat pride in Rome

By Gaby Maniscalco*

FINAL FOUR CHAMPIONS

While some Villanova students watched from Rome, Villanova Wildcats forward Kris Jenkins celebrates with the student section April 4 after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 77-74 in the championship game of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Final Four in Houston.  (CNS photo/Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

ROME — Feelings of hope and anticipation fill the air each year as students at Villanova University, a Catholic university in Radnor Township, Pennsylvania, gather on campus to cheer on the Wildcats at the start of basketball season.

Avid sports fan or not, any Villanova University student can tell you the tale of the 1985 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game, which was the last time the Wildcats took home the NCAA tournament trophy.

The students embrace Villanova basketball as a part of campus culture that is instilled in them the moment they step on campus, and while the Cats have made the NCAA tournament the past few years, it’s been more than 30 years since they actually won the tournament or even made the Final Four. Yet, optimistic students consistently place Villanova at the center of their brackets.

So imagine what ran through my mind as a student abroad in Rome this semester while watching the Wildcats win game after game on a low-quality streaming service on my laptop when I’m used to being at games in person.

I mean, while we were truly happy that the team was doing so well, my friends abroad and I couldn’t help but feel pangs of jealousy as our friends at Villanova packed their bags to follow the team to Houston when the Cats progressed to the Final Four and ultimately the championship.

We wanted to complain that the team got this far the one semester we chose to go abroad, and at times we desperately wished that we could be there in person. But then we remembered that we’re living in Rome, having amazing experiences traveling, exploring and interning, and that we really shouldn’t be complaining at all.

Some of my friends studying in other countries felt the need to travel all the way home for the weekend to see the game. But in Rome, my classmates and I found that the deep-rooted sense of community at Villanova isn’t confined to campus borders. The hope and determination to win was felt strongly here, and we all came together as a Villanova family to watch the Cats however we could (even if that did mean spotty streaming services). We created our own Villanova home away from home.

By researching some local pubs, we were able to find a bar in the area that was willing to play the championship game for us. The Highlander Pub agreed to keep its doors open, even though the game was at a ridiculous hour. They even provided free popcorn!

The energy in the room was electric, as more than 30 of us piled into the pub clad in Villanova gear with painted faces at 3:19 in the morning, eager to watch our favorite team make history. The game was a wave of emotions, and with so many Villanova fans in one room sporting blue war paint it felt like we had never left campus. Everyone exploded when we won the game with a three-point buzzer-beater.

novaRoma

The Villanova-Rome watch party.

The staff at the Highlander allowed us to make their pub feel like home, and it was one of my favorite nights this semester. It made me realize how strong the Villanova spirit and culture really are, and although part of me would have loved to be in Houston or Villanova for the game, I am truly lucky to have experienced it Rome, as my abroad classmates and I will forever share unique memories from the historic game.

We realize just how blessed we are to be able to feel such a connection to our school even from over 4,000 miles away, and it’s something none of us will ever take for granted.

Besides, who says the Wildcats can’t do it again next year when I’m a senior and back on campus?

*Gaby Maniscalco is a junior majoring in communications at Villanova University. She hails from New Jersey and loves yoga, traveling and her mini-labradoodle. She is currently studying abroad at Roma Tre University, while interning at Catholic News Service’s Rome Bureau.

Archbishop’s message of congrats for hometown team

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone congratulates the Giants. (Courtesy/ Catholic San Francisco)

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone congratulates the Giants. (Courtesy/ Catholic San Francisco)

By now the parade is well underway in San Francisco where the Giants are celebrating their World Series victory over the Kansas City Royals with a big parade, to be followed by a celebration on the east steps of City Hall.

Early estimates said a crowd of 2 million was expected to turn out for the festivities.

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone was among those rooting for the hometown team during the World Series. He enjoys attending the Giants games during the regular season, although he has only been able to get to a handful of home games.

But as a true Giants fan, during the playoffs, Archbishop Cordileone added orange to the clerical white collar so he was wearing (clerical) black and orange — the Giants colors.

When they brought home the win, he also taped a congratulatory message for the champions:

Going to bat for peace

VATICAN CITY — With all the bad news coming out of the Middle East, this story shone a small beam of hope: the might of bats and balls against the thunder of missiles and misunderstandings.

A player from a team of priests and seminarians returns a ball during a cricket training session in Rome Oct. 22, 2013. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

A player from a team of priests and seminarians returns a ball during a cricket training session in Rome Oct. 22, 2013. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

In support of sport as a weapon for peace, a Muslim governor in Pakistan has donated funding, cricket bats and a national class cricketer to help coach the Vatican’s new St. Peter’s Cricket Club.

Ishrat ul Ebad Khan, the governor of Sindh province in Pakistan made the gift to “our friends in the Vatican as a token of friendship,” according to this article in today’s Daily Mail.

The “Vatican XI” cricket team of Catholic priests and seminarians studying in Rome was started last year, and is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture.

The team will be heading off on a “Tour of Light” series of charity matches in England in mid-September, which will include matches against the Royal Household team at Windsor Castle and a team representing the Anglican Communion at Canterbury.

Governor Ebad said he’d like to see a “tri-team contest” between the St. Peter’s team, the Anglicans and a “Governor of Sindh XI” team comprised of Islamic theology students, as a way to show friendship and harmony through sports.

Proceeds from all the “Vatican XI” matches go to the Global Freedom Network, a new interfaith initiative between Muslims, Anglicans and the Vatican dedicated to fighting human trafficking.

SkySports just aired a nice profile of the St. Peter’s Cricket Club in this mini-documentary:

Lessons from a #WorldCup friendly

By Julia Willis

WASHINGTON — Walking around the grounds of FedEx Field, I came to realize why sportscasters deemed the June 7 match between the Spanish national team and El Salvador a “friendly.”

Surrounded by fans sporting T-shirts, flags, and even instruments representing the colors of their favorite teams, I was amazed to see how many Salvadoran fans eagerly invited individuals sporting Spain’s red and yellow paraphernalia to chat about the upcoming game or share some prepared food.

Having grown up in a household that became visibly depressed and bitter after a favorite team lost a championship game, I could not understand what I was seeing. Why were fans of opposing camps becoming friends before one of the most publicized matches on the Road to Brazil? Although El Salvador is no longer eligible to play in the World Cup, didn’t these fans realize that they were associating with the enemy, the defending World Cup champions?

As I talked with many of the fans from both camps, I began to realize that the World Cup represents a chance to bond with people of all nations over a common love for the game of soccer.

Daniel Garcia-Donoso, assistant professor of Spanish at The Catholic University of America, explained how he is able to experience the same camaraderie that is maintained within his home country of Spain when he attends games like this.

“I am far away from my country, from Spain,” said Garcia. “I wear this jersey once or twice a year when watching the Spanish team, and I feel part of a community. I see other people wearing shirts from Spain or shirts from El Salvador, and we all form a community when we watch the game.”

Another Spanish fan, Daniel Lledo, shared similar sentiments.

“In a game like this, to be playing against El Salvador, our brothers from across the pond, it’s a friendly,” said Lledo. “Everyone is here to have fun and enjoy the game together.”

Salvadoran soccer fans gather outside Washington for a friendly with Spain before the World Cup. (CNS/TylerOrsburn)

Salvadoran soccer fans gather outside Washington for a friendly with Spain before the World Cup. (CNS/TylerOrsburn)

In Argentina, a different kind of Francis bump

By David Agren

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The San Lorenzo soccer club stumbled toward the final of its Argentine season in December. It drew its final match, but the other clubs finished in such a way that San Lorenzo won its 12th first-division soccer title.

Some fans found the outcome improbable and credited a figure far from the field: Pope Francis, whose election has coincided with the climbing fortunes of his favorite soccer franchise, Club Atletico San Lorenzo de Almagro.

Pope Francis holds a jersey of Argentine soccer team San Lorenzo during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 18. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis holds a San Lorenzo jersey during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 18. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

“It was a miracle from Francisco,” said Juan Carlos Pais, a lifelong fan from suburban Buenos Aires.

San Lorenzo has lived misery and miracles since being founded in 1908, at least according to fans, who speak painfully of losing their stadium in the 1970s during the military dictatorship. The club is one of the five giants of Argentine soccer and has won more titles than most.

But the election of Pope Francis has allowed San Lorenzo to stand out among Argentine teams and move somewhat out of the shadow of the better-known clubs River Plate and Boca Juniors. It now attracts international interest, and fans feel as if the pontiff intervenes on their behalf.

“The fan base believes that Francis brings luck,” said sports writer Pablo Calvo, author of the book, “Dios es Cuervo,” on San Lorenzo and its origins. “They became champions with his arrival.”

The club makes no secret of its unofficial affiliation with Pope Francis — to the point it put the pontiff’s picture on special edition jerseys shortly after his March 13, 2013, election. Putting religious images on jerseys is a no-no, Calvo says, but the club currently has a halo hanging over the logo on its red-and-blue striped kit.

Pope Francis, who used to listen to matches via the radio, has made no secret of his affection for San Lorenzo. He even played basketball with the San Lorenzo team in his youth.

In December, the pope welcomed club directors and players to the Vatican, where they presented him a jersey and brought the championship trophy.

San Lorenzo put the pope's name on its jersey. (CNS photo/Reuters)

San Lorenzo put the pope’s name on its jersey. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Religion runs through the history of San Lorenzo, even though its fans are from all faiths. The club traces its origins to a parish priest, Father Lorenzo Massa, who provided kids with a place to play soccer. The team is known as “the Crows,” a nickname for priests in Argentina.

Actor Viggo Mortenson, another San Lorenzo fan, funded construction of a chapel, named for Father Massa, near the team’s stadium, the El Nuevo Gasometro.

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis celebrated services at the chapel. He also celebrated Mass for the 100th anniversary of San Lorenzo in 2008, after which he bought a membership in the member-owned and operated team.

“It’s an Argentine version of the Green Bay Packers,” says pollster Sergio Berensztein, director of Poliarquia Consultores in Buenos Aires.

Priests, seminarians in Rome lace up to hit the field

U.S. seminarians celebrate after winning Clericus Cup tournament in Rome

Seminarians from the Pontifical North American College celebrating after winning the Clericus Cup championship in 2013 for the second straight year. (CNS photo/Christopher Brashears, PNAC Photo Service)

VATICAN CITY — Seminarians at the Pontifical North American College will be vying for the Clericus Cup “triple crown,” well, “saturno” to be exact, since that’s what the trophy ball is wearing on its head (with a pair of cleats).

cup

The Clericus Cup trophy (photo courtesy of Centro Sportivo Italiano)

SEMINARIANS FROM PONTIFICAL NORTH AMERICAN COLLEGE CHEER THEIR SOCCER TEAM DURING CLERICUS CUP

Seminarians from the Pontifical North American College cheering from the stands in 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The PNAC Martyrs have become a soccer powerhouse after years of hard work and training.

It also helps having the most colorful and “heroic” fan base in the whole tournament with Captain America, Spiderman and a giant fuzzy yellow chicken cheering from the stands.

The news about this year’s soccer tourney, which features priests and seminarians from all  over the world who are studying in Rome, is each team jersey will have “My captain is Pope Francis” printed on it.

Fr. Alessio Albertini, one of the series’ organizers said:

“The job of a captain is to lead the team, to be a point of reference during difficult moments, to encourage the disheartened players, to be a symbol and who better embodies this in the great playing field of the world than Pope Francis?”

The series started eight years ago and boasts a few technical differences from regular league soccer.

Aside from players and fans having lots more spirit, Clericus Cup soccer games run 30-minute halves instead of 45-minute halves.

Referees also have another penalty option. In addition to the yellow warning card and the red expulsion card, they can flash a “sin bin” blue card, which requires an overly aggressive player to leave the field for five minutes … presumably to pray for more patience.