By: Fr. Tom Shanahan, SJ
How often do I hear that cheer during an academic year? "A ton" as they say. For the past 20 some years I have been chaplain for three sports at Creighton University: men’s and women’s basketball and men’s soccer. It’s been a long and fun ride with the Creighton student-athletes, and I look forward to each year with anticipation. And each year has its ups and downs as all athletic competitions do.
I witness practices and games and come away proud of the teams’ hustle, determination, and goodwill throughout the seasons. It always amazes me how quickly a player’s time at Creighton shoots by. I miss the ones who leave and pray silently for them, as well as for the season’s upcoming athletes.
I am amazed what fine students our athletes are—all graduate and do it with style. The cumulative grade point average for all our athletic teams is in the B to B+ range. Some of our graduates attain a full A average at the conclusion of their years here at Creighton. With their hard work (especially during their sport months) they seem to be the very definition of “student”-athletes. Our coaching staffs hold their players’ academic lives to a strict standard.
I find the “work” as a chaplain to be a joy. Duties are simple: be present for all home games and some away games; lead a prayer before a contest; be present to the teams, coaches, and staffs. I consider the presence of a Jesuit very important for our athletic teams, a presence that has led to some sacramental and personal encounters outside the confines of sporting events.
Often over the years our fans, especially our graduates, remark that they value the presence of a Jesuit on the bench. The Jesuit presence clearly enhances their support of the Jesuit/Catholic factors of their Creighton University experience. This says loads about the values of our fan base. I am honored to assist in that wonderful aspect of their overall support of Creighton. I am also convinced that the presence of chaplains at our Big East Conference centers of higher education—including another Jesuit, a Vincentian, an Augustinian, and a Dominican—is an important aspect of their athletic and academic programs.
The seasons move by quickly. I am confident that the future athletes here at Creighton will be as impressive as the current and earlier players have been. Their competence and hard work on and off the court is a given. They quickly absorb a culture that inspires their best efforts as student-athletes.