From the Seminary to the Ballpark

December 13, 2012


by Rev. Wilfred J. Raymond, C.S.C.
Published courtesy of Pillars where it was first printed.

"Crossing borders of every sort" is a good description for the path my ministry in Holy Cross has taken from the beginning.

When I was 15 years old, I literally crossed the international border between the United States and Canada to enroll at Saint Joseph's University near Moncton, New Brunswick, conducted by the Holy Cross priests and brothers of the Acadian Province.

After high school and two years of college at Saint Joseph's, with support from Fr. Roland Soucie, C.S.C., my spiritual director, I applied to the Diocese of Portland, Maine. I was accepted and assigned to study at the Grand Seminary in Montreal, Quebec. My older brother Octave drove me.

As we reached the suburbs of Montreal, some 5 hours away from home in Maine, I told him to stop the car; I had changed my mind! We returned home and everyone was surprised to see me back so soon, especially my local pastor. I began to explain to him that while I loved and was inspired by the good priests in my home parish, I was drawn to the special quality about the Holy Cross men that I had gotten to know at Saint Joseph's. They were joyful, hospitable, holy and bright. I wanted to be a part of that kind of religious community.

Within two weeks, I crossed another border into the Seminary of Stonehill College.

Holy Cross and Seminary formation were not what I expected, they were much more! Entering Holy Cross brought me across spiritual and theological borders of the mind and heart that allowed me to discover the worldwide Church and the modest, but important role the Congregation of Holy Cross played and continues to play today.

Ordination to the priesthood on April 3, 1971, led to crossing another border into active ministry as a high school religion teacher, track and field coach, Vocations Director and later campus minister and college administrator at Stonehill College.

An unexpected and challenging border crossing was the step into Provincial Administration, first as Assistant Provincial Superior of the former Eastern Province of Holy Cross and then as Provincial. Nothing adequately prepares one for this task, yet nothing is more consoling than the edifying glimpse into the soul of Holy Cross.

The work of leadership in Holy Cross also led to frequent border crossings into Bangladesh, the northeast of India, Perú, Chile, México and all parts of the United States.

Finally, the most surprising border crossing of all was into chaplaincy of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Chaplaincy activities center on the Saturday vigil Mass when the team is playing at home. Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers for 63 years, is a regular lector at Mass, along with right fielder Andre Ethier. Both are regular attendees, but more importantly, participants. Vin, one of the best sports broadcasters of all time, is a Lector.

In 2011, Palm Sunday was a home game for the Dodgers and Vin read the Passion narrative with his distinctive voice, moving visiting coach from the Saint Louis Cardinals to remark, "I have never paid such attention to the Passion in my life. I will never forget this Palm Sunday Mass."

Since we started the Mass at Dodger Stadium, Andre has also been a regular participant, lector and extraordinary minister of the Eucharist. He is now married with two little sons. He is one of many Major League Baseball players whose Catholic faith keeps him focused on what is most important in life ... God, family and then career.

Encountering the players, coaches and staff where they are is a special ministry. I try to develop ways of ministering to them as they face the unique challenges of dealing with sudden wealth and fame in a healthy way in order to preserve their families.

These encounters are humbling, not because they are celebrities, but because I'm crossing a socioeconomic border of a different sort to bring the Sacraments and the Gospel into the world of professional sports. In a world where religion is not the norm, I'm humbled by the faithful who practice their faith openly and with zeal.

I am eternally grateful to God, my family and our Holy Cross family, with its rich spiritual heritage, for equipping me with the tools needed to cross many borders and always discover that I am not a stranger in a strange land, but a pilgrim who has hope to bring through the blessed Cross of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, our only Hope.

Along with being Chaplain for the LA Dodgers, Fr. Willy Raymond, C.S.C. is also the National Director of Family Theater Productions (Hollywood), part of Holy Cross Family Ministries, which is celebrating 65 years of spreading the Gospel through film, radio, TV, video and now online. Visit www.familytheater.org to find out about “Rosary Stars: Praying the Gospel,” a video prayer of the Rosary that features major league baseball players and others.

 

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