Meet Two Former Olympians Now Leading Others to Religious Vocations

by Evangelization, Faith & Life, Vocation

Throughout the Olympics, I have grown attached to some of the athletes competing for Gold. Many of them quickly went from names I had never heard of to people I desperately wanted to see win. I’ll admit that after the Olympics conclude I probably won’t continue to follow Women’s Volleyball or the Men’s Single Skull.

But, what does happen to Olympians after the Olympics? The vast majority of them we won’t hear about until the next Olympics or unless they do something that gets them in trouble with the law.  In a way, it is sad that the event they have worked so hard and long for has come and gone. This is why even though they give their lives in dedication to sport, we pray they are living for a far greater purpose that will last an eternity.

Today we want to present the stories of two former Olympians who did just that and chose the religious life after their athletic careers ended. The first athlete is   Fr. Joseph Fitzgerald  who competed on the 1996 USA Men’s Handball team.  He now serves as the Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Rockville Centre in Long Island, New  York. He is also part of the unique initiative called Biking for Vocations in which he biked 1400 miles to help raise awareness about vocations to the religious life.

Fr. Joseph Fitzgerald

Sr. Catherine, formerly known as Kirstin Holum , placed sixth as a speed skater in 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.  She was only 17 years old at the time. In an interview with Yahoo Sports, she said, “I had this incredibly strong calling that it was time to move on and take a different path in life.”

Sr. Catherine Holum

We don’t know where and how God might call our most recent Olympians. Let us pray that they would also be open to a religious vocation and inspire many others to do the same!

Prayer for Vocations

(from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops)

Loving God, you call all who believe in you

to grow perfect in love by following in the footsteps
of Christ your Son.
Call from among us more men and women
who will serve you as religious.
By their way of life, may they provide a convincing sign
of your Kingdom for the Church and the whole world.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Gracious and loving God, help the
men and women of our parish to hear the
call to serve in the Archdiocese of ____________.
Our needs are great and our people
thirst for your presence.

Open the hearts of many, raise up
faithful servants of the Gospel, dedicated,
holy priests, sisters, brothers and deacons,
who will spend themselves for your people and their needs.

Bless those who are serving now
with courage and perseverance.
Grant that many will be inspired by their
example and faith.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What similarities are there between training for a sport and a disciplined spiritual life?
  2. Would you have the courage to leave something (sport, career, education) important to you behind  if God called you to the religious life?
  3.  How did both Fr. Joseph Fitzgerald and Sr. Catherine use their unique talents to bring God glory? What is your gift? How can you use it for God?
  4. Find a Bible verse that uses athletic competition to teach us something about the spiritual life.

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