One of the great highlights of each school year is the ritual celebrated on the Friday before Labor Day weekend. Many students and faculty gather on the Mall prior to their walk across the Detroit-Superior Bridge on their way to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist where they will meet up with the rest of the school community for the Mass of the Holy Spirit.
This year was special because the main celebrant of the Mass was Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost ’76. In his homily, Bp. Woost spoke of the kindling of the flame of his vocation that had occurred in a theology class on prayer during his time at Saint Ignatius. He reminded each student that they are blessed to be at a school like ours and that they need to be awake to the call of the Holy Spirit in their lives as they go through their classes, their extracurricular activities, and their faith formation.
It is no coincidence that at the Fall Sports Rally on Wasmer Field after the Mass we heard a similar message from Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle ’69. Every year since 1983 Chuck has given a version of the very same speech. For a man known for his Rockne-esque pregame talks before big games, this use of the same basic talk every year is certainly not a sign of him “mailing it in.” Chuck struck gold in ’83 and there was absolutely no reason to mess with perfection.
Anyone who has been to an opening rally can recall the main theme of Coach Kyle’s talking points: the fact that we take a day off from classes to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit says something very important about who we are as members of this graced community at Saint Ignatius. The Holy Spirit is called upon for guidance, strength, and fortitude. These characteristics are essential to athletic success, but they are also essential to life. The essential nature of the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives is what that special day is all about.
Because of the need for the football team to get on buses for the 6 hour trip to Towson, MD, for their game against Mount St. Joseph High School, the words of Coach Kyle were briefer than in the past, but everyone in attendance - except the freshmen - knew the full measure of his words from previous opening rallies.
Anyone who might look at the tradition of this 40 year speech as a mere template that simply repeats what is expected to be repeated at a school that wants to promote an image of Catholicity has no idea what makes Chuck Kyle and his football program so special. What he has built over the last four decades is a program that exemplifies all that is good in high school football, but more importantly is a program that provides a benchmark for every Catholic school in the country.
The Kyle Era is so filled with stories of the Catholic nature of how things are done that they alone, leaving out the many successes on the field, could fill a book. Rather than mine the past to come up with such stories we need look no further than the trip to Mount St. Joseph to see that the football program is rooted in our Catholic faith. A special side-trip to attend Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was an essential stop during the team’s time in the diocese founded by John Carroll, whose remains are interred in the crypt of the basilica. Such was the impact of this visit that the announcers on SIBN - Eli Maistros ’24, Drew Pieschalski ’23, Nathan Free ’23, and Matthew Mayernik ’23 - noted how much the time spent in the basilica meant to them and the team.
What could be more fitting than a Chuck Kyle coached football team taking time to go to Mass at a church named for the Patroness of the Society of Jesus and commissioned by John Carroll - the namesake of Kyle’s college alma mater? Even leaving aside the come-from-behind victory against a strong Mount St. Joseph team, all involved would certainly consider this a very successful trip. As Coach Kyle has said in the past about our success in leveraging football as a means to a greater, spiritual end, “to say faith has nothing to do with it is absurd.”