Catholic school alumnae play in FIFA Women’s World Cup

Several Catholic school alumnae are competing in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which kicks off June 26 in Germany.

On the U.S. team, forwards Abby Wambach and Amy Rodriguez both attended Catholic high schools: Our Lady of Mercy High School in Rochester, N.Y., and Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., respectively.

Their teammate, midfielder Shannon Boxx, is a University of Notre Dame graduate, where she helped her team win their first NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship title in 1995.

Striker Kelly Smith will be playing for England, but attended Seton Hall University, where she became the first athlete outside of basketball to have a jersey number retired.

Representing the Canadians, University of Portland alumna and forward Christine Sinclair set an all-time Division I goal-scoring record during her senior year at 39 goals.

Heather O’Reilly, a midfielder from the U.S. team, attended St. Bartholomew School in East Brunswick, N.J. Read about how the faith has helped this Catholic New Jersey native in her soccer career here.

As baseball fans go, there’s ‘nun better’ than Cleveland’s Sister Mary Assumpta

Sister Mary Assumpta Zabas with Cleveland Indian mascot Slider after throwing out the first pitch before an Indians' game a few years ago. (CNS/Courtesy Catholic Universe Bulletin)

There’s “nun better” in the eyes of the Baseball Reliquary than Holy Spirit Sister Mary Assumpta Zabas of Cleveland.

Sister Mary Assumpta, 64, a longtime fan of the Cleveland Indians, was named the winner of the organization’s Hilda Award for her devotion to the baseball team. The award is given annually for distinguished service as a baseball fan.

Sister Mary Assumpta’s passion for the Cleveland team is well-known throughout northeast Ohio. In the 1970s and 1980s, she became a regular at Indians games, wildly cheering on the team during some of its darkest days. She’s still a regular at games.

In 1982 a local television station gave her a segment –- Tribe Habit — in its newscast. In 1989 she had two cameo appearances in the film “Major League.” Baseball card producer Upper Deck even made a card for her in 1997.

Perhaps the highlight of her career as an Indian fan came in 2005 when she threw out the first pitch at a home game.

Since 1984 she has baked cookies for players, regularly delivering them to the team. The effort evolved into a small business, which she calls Nun Better, in which members of her community and faithful volunteers bake cookies with natural ingredients. Profits benefit the Jennings Center for Older Adults in suburban Garfield Heights, where Sister Mary Assumpta is director of mission development.

She plans to travel to Pasadena, Calif., July 18 to accept the award.

The Baseball Reliquary was established in 2002 in Pasadena, Calif., to recognize individuals for their commitment to the preservation of baseball history.

South African church readies for World Cup

Are you a soccer fan? If you are then you know that the World Cup — soccer’s Super Bowl — is set to begin in just 14 days. For the first time in football history, Africa will play host. It’s a great showcase for South Africa, where the games will take place, and the South African church plans to be a big part of the celebration. Check out the video, “Church on the Ball,” produced by the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference. It’s a terrific look at the work of the church in the southern tip of the continent and the people of  the nation that is rolling out its red carpet to the world. If you can’t get there for the big event, the South African church’s website is almost the next best thing.

A different view of the Olympics

For a noncommercial take on the Winter Olympics, check out the Olympics blog of Clayton Imoo, director of the Youth Ministry Office for the Archdiocese of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Imoo creates videos documenting each day’s events. His low-key, humorous approach offsets his occasional lack of footage.  He peppers his videos with references to Lent, and he often includes his family. In his Feb. 14 video, the family goes to downtown Vancouver and has photos taken with a 1976 skiing gold medalist; Feb. 16 they investigate the sport of curling .

Be patient; sometimes the best footage is a minute or two in. My favorite: Feb. 17 he teaches viewers the actual words to the Olympic theme song.

An Olympic welcome from The B.C. Catholic

The B.C. Catholic, award-winning newspaper of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, British Columbia, has published a special Olympic edition.

Cover of The B.C. Catholic's special Olympic edition

“We Believe: A Catholic Guide to the 2010 Winter Games,” includes greetings from church officials, including Pope Benedict XVI; maps, Mass times and parishes near Olympic venues; and stories of faith. Reflecting the diversity of Vancouver and the Olympic athletes, Archbishop J. Michael Miller’s welcome was published in English, French and Mandarin.

The Olympics open in Vancouver and Whistler Feb. 12, and the Paralympics follow in March.  The Archdiocese of Vancouver and the Diocese of Kamloops have worked to prepare for athletes and fans from around the world.

Tastykakes never tasted so good

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York shares a Tastykake with Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia during a break at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16. The two presented each other with T-shirts after making g ood on a wager after the Yankees won their 27th World Series. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York shares a Tastykake with Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia during a break at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16. The two presented each other with T-shirts after making good on a wager after the Yankees won their 27th World Series. (CNS/Bob Roller)

You may recall reading about the friendly World Series wager between the archbishops of New York and Philadelphia — some Tastykakes to New York if Philadelphia lost the series; some New York bagels to Philly if the Yankees lost. (Who knew that Tastykakes are known as the “taste of Philadelphia”? Not me — I prefer Philly cheesesteaks, but I digress.)

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia had already made good on their bet. But the two good friends (Archbishop Dolan is a St. Louis native; Cardinal Rigali used to be archbishop there) shared some tasty Tastykakes just the same during the U.S. bishops’ general meeting in Baltimore this week.

UPDATE: There are additional photos of the two bishops on the Facebook page of the USCCB.

SECOND UPDATE: On his blog, Archbishop Dolan has his own set of photos on his “sweet victory.”

Super Bowl: Reaping the benefits of prayer?

During a visit to Pittsburgh this weekend, I could feel the Super Bowl excitement in the air. The grocery stores were packed with people stocking up for the big game; people and businesses had signs in their windows; and the Steeler Nation was the topic of conversation all over the city.

So I was not surprised when I went to Mass Sunday morning to see at least half of the church decked out in black and gold. Adults and children sported team jerseys: No. 7, Ben Roethlisberger; No. 86, Hines Ward; No. 43, Troy Polamalu; No. 39, Willy Parker.

I was surprised when the priest did not mention the Super Bowl. He greeted parishioners in Chinese for the Chinese new year and gave a nice homily about the readings. No Super Bowl hype here: In fact, the first mention of the game came in a pulpit announcement about celebrating “Souper Bowl Sunday” with a collection for a Pittsburgh soup kitchen.

At the end of the Mass, however, the priest shared with parishioners why he had remained mum about the big game.

“That’s because I believe it is wrong to pray for a team that you bet on,” he said, adding, “But you can pray that I reap the benefits of my bet.”