Champaign marathon offers priest an opportunity to sacrifice for others

Father Chase Hilgenbrinck, assistant chaplain at St. John's Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois, runs in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon on April 28. (Illinois Marathon photo)

CHAMPAIGN — More than 1,100 people ran in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon this year, but only one of them wore a black clergy shirt with a white tab collar and the words “Catholic Illini” printed on the back while doing it.

“Marathon culture is a fun culture and people often dress in costume, so they would come up and say, ‘Is this real?’” said Father Chase Hilgenbrinck, assistant chaplain at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, who finished the 26.2-mile run through Champaign in 3:37:21.

Not only was it real, but it gave him an opportunity to talk about his vocation, which is not something separate from the rest of his life, he explained.

Father Hilgenbrinck entered the race to offer prayer and sacrifice for those in the community who are suffering spiritually, mentally and physically.

While vocations awareness and priestly presence were important, the reason Father Hilgenbrinck entered the race was to offer prayer and sacrifice for those in the community who are suffering spiritually, mentally and physically. The idea came to him during a run on a cold, gray day in January.

“It was a dull, annoying pain to be outside running during that time. At some point I received a moment of grace from the Lord,” he said. “The Lord put it on my heart that this is what it feels like sometimes to have an addiction or a circumstance of life that feels like a dull pain. My run is going to be over in another 20 minutes, but some people are really running a marathon in their life.”

Father Hilgenbrinck said he decided to train in the cold weather leading up to the April 28 marathon and offer it up as a sacrifice for those who may be struggling and really cast out some of those “demons.”

He enjoyed the training schedule he found and said that sticking to it brought good results. The same is true of the spiritual life.

“The Lord has put a plan out there. Sometimes we’re afraid — are we doing enough? Is this going to end well? Where am I at? Am I fit for heaven? I think that’s where we have to have faith,” Father Hilgenbrinck said.

“Even though I’ve never seen death, I’ve never seen heaven, I’ve never seen God face to face, I trust him enough that I’ve followed the plan, I’ve followed the course and it’s going to work out,” he said.

This is Father Hilgenbrinck’s second marathon. He ran the first seven years ago after leaving professional soccer to enter Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. There he did the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., with Father Tom Otto, who now serves in Monmouth and Raritan, and other seminarians, who ran for vocations for the Archdiocese of Washington.

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