High school athletes, their coaches and family members gathered for a Spirit Mass on August 11 at St. John the Baptist Church in Maria Stein, Ohio, where Missionaries are in ministry.

The Mass was a revival of a local custom began by the late Fr. Rick Neiberding, C.PP.S., who ministered at nearby St. Augustine Church in Minster, Ohio, for many years. Each August, Fr. Rick would preside at the MAC Unity Mass, inviting athletes from the Midwest Athletic Conference to celebrate their faith and find common ground before entering a season of fall sports.

“It’s been four years since the last MAC Unity Mass, something Fr. Rick Nieberding created,” said Fr. Steve Dos Santos, C.PP.S., who preached the homily. “At that Mass, Fr. Rick would always say, ‘Tonight, we are not competing. Tonight, we are celebrating what holds us together: one faith, one Lord, one baptism.

“Remember, before you were Tigers, Wildcats, Flyers or Cavaliers, you were members of the body of Christ. Before you put on the school colors you wear tonight you put on the white clothe of baptism.”

Presiding at the Mass was Fr. Dan Schmitmeyer, director of vocations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Among the concelebrants was Fr. Matthew Keller, C.PP.S., back in his home parish, and Fr. Aaron Hess of Holy Angels Parish in Sidney, Ohio.

After the Mass, youth ministers from the area organized snacks and witness talks.

In his homily, Fr. Dos Santos said he hoped the Spirit Mass would set the tone for the season and the school year.

“Society teaches us to focus on ‘me,’ to be selfish, egocentric,” he said. “The team mentality is one we must extend to the rest of the body of Christ and to the whole world. We are called to live a life in communion with one another. . . You are called to something more, to unity amongst ourselves.  You are called to be an example to others. Let the love of Christ shine through you, and the way you play, win or lose, you will always give witness to Jesus.”

Missionaries of the Precious Blood