Success beyond football at Peoria Notre Dame this season
The sports reports told the story that the most successful football season in Peoria Notre Dame’s high school history ended with a 32-25 loss to Lemont in the Class 6A state football playoffs on Nov. 22. Both schools were undefeated entering the hard-fought contest, and the Irish’s magical season ended with a stellar record of 12-1.
That’s the sports story. And it was a good one, with many thrills and great performances throughout the fall season.
But there’s a better story when it comes to Peoria Notre Dame football that will continue beyond a season, even beyond a lifetime.
This was a season of profound growth in faith for the football Irish.
It began back in August, when the team — coached by Joe Walters — took a day out of “hell week” pre-season intense training for heavenly goals at a Catholic Leadership Team Building Seminar. The day began with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Jenky, who later addressed the team, at the Spalding Pastoral Center. The next eight hours were spent with activities designed to open communication, build leadership, instill trust and commitment, practice forgiveness, and grow in faith.
The seeds planted that day took root.
A cross that Bishop Jenky blessed hangs in the school weight room. As a symbol of the day’s experience, the players attached stickers of a cross on their helmets. When they took to the field in the playoffs, they charged through a banner bearing the quote, “In all things, give God the glory.”
Lou Judd coordinated the pre-season retreat day on behalf of the organization SportsLeader. In mid-November, he provided an email update that also included reports on:
— The team Masses celebrated every week, with the sacrament of reconciliation before and after.
— A weekly prayer service after Thursday practice, in which Coach Walters reads the team a Gospel passage. They pray for those with injuries and make it a point to pray for the other team, “that God will speak to them through the football game and draw them closer to Him, that they will be safe, play well and grow as men.”
We congratulate Peoria Notre Dame on a great football season. More than that, we thank the team and coaching staff for a wonderful witness of faith. — Thomas J. Dermody