Exercising the Spirit

By Rev. Daniel M. Ruff, S.J., director of Campus Ministry
The Men's Lacrosse team at the retreat

Bobby Gross, ’06, an All-American lacrosse player in high school, transferred to Loyola in his sophomore year and spent a semester as a walk-on goalie for the nationally ranked, Division I Greyhounds. But the team already had several talented, recruited goaltenders. Soon enough, he realized that his odds of earning a permanent spot in the Greyhound line-up were slim. He joined my staff as a Campus Ministry intern, a position that allowed him to focus on one of his other high school passions—retreats. In less than a year and a half, Bobby’s decision has led to the development of a unique retreat program designed specifically for athletes.

Calling on the relationships he’d built with both of our offices, Bobby brokered meetings between Athletics Director Joseph Boylan and me. We soon decided that his idea deserved a shot.

Not surprisingly, Bobby wanted “his” team, men’s lacrosse, to be the first to participate in the new program. We created a model schedule based on St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises that included talks given by athletic directors, coaches and team captains. Each talk would address a life theme relevant both on the field and off, topics like gratitude, obstacles and challenges, leadership and pursuing a spiritual path. At the end of each talk, the team would break into small groups representing different class years to share reactions and discuss questions posed to them. Of course, we also built in time for fun and relaxation, including a basketball tournament.

On Sept. 16, 2005, a slightly nervous lacrosse team boarded a bus headed for Blue Ridge Summit, PA.

Then, fate provided a catalyst for solidarity. Pat Kennedy, ’06, was bitten by a copperhead snake.

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