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ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Father Rob Hagan has been in Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt’s sneakers earlier than.

Now an Augustinian priest and Villanova University males’s basketball chaplain, as a scholar he witnessed the Wildcats’ Cinderella run to the 1985 Final Four and nationwide title. He holds the reminiscence expensive as he has made extra reminiscences with this system as chaplain over the previous decade.

“One of the great memories of my life,” Hagan stated concerning the Wildcats’ 1985 championship.

Also a basketball workforce chaplain, Schmidt, 98, has been serving in that position for Loyola University Chicago males’s basketball workforce since 1994. She noticed the Ramblers’ first nationwide title in 1963 when serving at Mundelein College, which later merged with Loyola. The retired Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary has grow to be a media sensation throughout the Ramblers’ latest run to the Final Four in San Antonio March 31-April 2, this system’s first NCAA match look since 1985.

“It’s wonderful because what it’s doing is just highlighting a lot of the universal values that we all share that sometimes get buried underneath all the other coverage,” Hagan stated about Schmidt being within the highlight.

“You have to hand it to Sister Jean. She really has charisma, she has joy, (and) she has a spirit about her. She really is a captivating person in her own right,” he stated in an interview for Catholic News Service.

Hagan has been Villanova’s basketball chaplain since 2004 and can be a part of the Wildcats of their third Final Four since 2009. He has seen this system grow to be one in all school basketball’s elite, which features a nationwide title in 2016.

“It’s one of the great joys of my priesthood,” Hagan stated about serving the workforce. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to minister. We don’t always make it to the Final Four, but that doesn’t take away from … the joy we see in seeing these student athletes just simply do their best and discover gifts within themselves and how they help each other get stronger.”

Mainstream media consideration has come Hagan’s means, too, with an look in The New York Times. In addition, he sees all of the media protection on hoops’ chaplains as a “hunger and thirst for something deeper.”

“It kind of highlights maybe that yearning and longing that we all have for things that run beyond just a game and score,” Hagan stated. “Things like relationships and forgiveness and getting up when you’re knocked down and education and opportunities for all people.”

Hagan and Schmidt carry that to the desk of their ministries. Both lead pregame prayers earlier than every contest, however it goes past that.

Schmidt emails every Loyola participant after video games affirming one thing they did effectively. A retired sister, she nonetheless lives on campus and reaches out to college students.

Hagan presents pastoral ministry to the gamers along with his main position within the athletic division as affiliate athletic director. He additionally serves as chaplain for the soccer workforce. He has maintained relationships with gamers past their time at Villanova and has provided the sacraments for some alumni alongside the way in which.

“You forge these relationships that go beyond to struggles that they might have with injuries, the joys that they celebrate like a marriage or a birth of a child,” Hagan stated.

Hagan additionally has a robust friendship with Wildcats coach Jay Wright. The priest stated Wright is “not just a coach, he’s a mentor … and places great value and emphasis on family and developing the whole person” in his work.

During the season, he presents Mass for the soccer and basketball workforce earlier than video games and on Sundays and Holy Days. That contains the Easter Triduum liturgies when the Wildcats’ match video games have overlapped with Holy Week.

In 2016, he provided the Holy Thursday Mass for the workforce throughout the match and washed the gamers’ toes.

“It was very profound and a team building exercise,” Hagan stated. “It’s a reminder of what Jesus’ call to all of us is … not to focus so much on being served as on serving others. We have kind of a mantra that we echo on our team, and that is ‘our roles may be different but our status is the same.’”

Villanova performs March 31 in opposition to the University of Kansas at eight:49 p.m. EDT. Hagan plans to supply the Easter Vigil Mass for gamers after the sport.

Loyola performs the University of Michigan within the first Final Four recreation March 31 at 6:09 p.m. EDT. Wins by Loyola and Villanova would arrange a Ramblers-Wildcats title recreation April 2 at 9:20 p.m. EDT.

Davis is a reporter at The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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