Milwaukee Brewers Day of Faith is featuring Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Mary Teresa Bettag. She reflects on her love of sports, love of the Lord, and her fulfillment as a teacher, coach and Franciscan Sister, currently serving in Arizona. Join her at the stadium on June 26. She’ll be pitching the first pitch of the game. Come cheer her on!
My name is Sr. Mary Teresa Bettag and I am a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity. While my community is based in Manitowoc, WI, I spend my days in Yuma, AZ where I serve as a high school theology teacher. But one of my favorite parts of being at a high school is the sports.
I grew up in a family of five boys and three girls, and being active and outdoors was something we all loved to do together. At night, my parents would go for a walk after dinner, and when they came home all ten of us would go outside and play something together – in the fall, football; in the winter, hockey; in the spring or summer it could be baseball, basketball, kickball, foursquare, tennis. It was what we did together as a family.
And I love that about sports: that it brings people together. That is why I think that sports is a huge opportunity for faith. As Pope John Paul II said, “Sports contribute to the love of life, teaches sacrifice, respect and responsibility, leading to the full development of every human person.” It’s no surprise that St. Paul used metaphors of athletes and runners when talking about the Christian life. What’s more, sport is an area highly valued by our culture – it is one of the great arenas where we can meet people where they are and bring the love and joy of Jesus Christ to them.
That is my mission now that I get to serve as a coach. Currently, I am the head coach of both the cross-country and track & field programs at Yuma Catholic High School. I played a variety of sports in grade school and high school, but cross-country was the sport I most excelled at and was able to continue to run at the collegiate level. I love running, and getting to share that with our student-athletes is definitely a load of fun! But getting to do that as a habited religious sister is something extra special. The number of times athletes, coaches, spectators or the like come up to me wanting to talk, ask questions, or share is too many to count. And I love that! What I’m doing is nothing special, but somehow when people see a Sister out running with the kids in the heat, or cheering them on in a race, or coaching them up at a meet, it strikes different with people. But I really believe that we need to carry Christ OUT of the Church and into every sphere of our lives – sports being just one of them.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get this kind of an opportunity to do that! But as Jesus says, “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly!” (John 10:10) and I believe that God is a God who loves to surpass our expectations and bring us joy not only in heaven, but here and now as well.
So while I hope that the practice my students have been putting in with me pays off and that the Brewers win; my greater hope is that the joy of the Lord wins the hearts of us all.
Listen to Sr. Mary Teresa comment more on this video.