Running the race for the faith

A priest I met recently in Indianapolis, Fr. Rick Nagel, is behind a unique way of raising interest in vocations — one that could really give the priesthood legs.


Running a marathon is “very healthy for mind, body and spirit,” but it is also an excellent way to promote Catholicism, particularly vocations, said Father Rick Nagel of the Indianapolis Archdiocese.

Father Nagel is director of the archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and College Campus Ministry. His office and the archdiocesan Vocations Office sponsor the annual Race for Vocations, which takes place within the Indianapolis One America Festival Mini Marathon and 5K each May in downtown Indianapolis. With about 35,000 runners, it is the largest race in the nation, according to organizers.

The Race for Vocations is an example of how Catholic organizations across the country plug into secular marathons and other runs as well as walks to promote worthy causes and raise money for them by gathering pledges.

For example, Catholic Charities agencies sponsor teams in a lot of major races around the country including the ING New York City Marathon, the Boston Marathon, the Chicago Marathon and the Race for Hope Half Marathon in West Virginia. Charities participants raise funds for the agencies’ programs and services.

Elsewhere, races have been used to promote Catholic education. This October the 40th annual walk/bike two-mile marathon for Catholic education takes place in Wabasso, Minn., in the Diocese of New Ulm. It begins with Mass at St. Anne’s Church and is followed by a potluck dinner. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston plans to hold its eighth annual Steps for Students 5K Feb. 16, 2013, to help raise funds for area Catholic schools.

One way to keep up to date on the Catholic running world is the blog, where runners post devotions and stories about their training and race experience.

In Indianapolis, Father Nagel has been helping with the Race for Vocations since 2007.

The team of runners has as its motto: “Priesthood, Religious Life, Marriage, Sacred Single Life. Vocation … everyone has one. What’s yours?” It is emblazoned on their T-shirts.

“It raises awareness. People ask about the shirts. They are interested in what we’re doing,” Father Nagel said in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service. “If it would spark one person to think about if God is calling them for a vocation, it would be worth it all.”

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