In his role as chaplain for the Notre Dame men’s basketball team, Father Pete McCormick is focused on building both faith and fellowship. For him, it’s about being there for the team in any way he can.
“It’s really a ministry of presence,” he shares. “I have a responsibility to share the joy that I’ve encountered in my vocation — even with the hardship.”
Meet Father Pete: Team chaplain
Father Pete McCormick, CSC, speaking to basketball team: It would be ludicrous for us to believe that tomorrow we could roll into the arena, that the Cavaliers would just say, “Oh, you’re right. You’ve had a tough day. You’ve had a tough week.”
[Game footage, crowd cheering]
No, you need to go out there, and you need to get it. You need to earn it. You need to participate in it. You need to work for it. You need to overcome. That’s what this is about.
The same is true in the spiritual life. We cannot merely be passive. We have to, in our own way, scurry. So my challenge to you is: You want to see the miraculous glory of God? Participate in it.
Jack Nolan, radio voice: Pflueger has the ball, into Hubb. They let him inbound it. 15, 14. Notre Dame down by one. Hubb over…12, 11. Hubb dribbling to his left around the screen from Mooney… [fadeout]
Notre Dame, Indiana
Father Pete: The inbox can just be random. So athletics is sending a team out for a competition, and they’re looking for a priest out in the Raleigh-Durham area to help out with an Ash Wednesday service. And so, you’re just trying to, whatever comes in, you want to make sure that you’re responding as fast as you possibly can to that stuff so people can keep moving.
Father Pete serves as director of Campus Ministry.
Jack (voiceover): …the whistle. We’re going to overtime. So this will be the second overtime…. [fadeout]
Father Pete: We’ll always celebrate a Mass before every single game, home or away. If it’s home, then we do it right in the team room. And then typically if it’s away, we’ll arrive to the particular site, and then settle in for a Mass. So this right here is the Mass kit. It is always a very faithful attendee to Notre Dame basketball games. And this tradition extends far beyond me.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart (in the basement)
Mary Froning, Basilica Sacristan: This is called a chasuble. Chalice, water and wine, and then an altar cloth and a crucifix. Mass in a suitcase.
Father Pete: I always get a little sensitive because when I arrive at the game on the visiting site, I always roll in with two suitcases and to the average eye it looks like, “Hey, the diva priest over there.”
Home of the Fighting Irish [gestures to sign]. So this is sometimes where we’ll celebrate Mass right here, and then guys will sit right here.
The team chaplain’s role is to get a little bit of a sense of the pressures that Division I college basketball players undergo. They’re 18 to 22, and they’ve got homework that is commensurate with a Division I, top 20 university. And they’re also trying to compete in one of the best, if not the best basketball conferences in the country.
Charter bus driver: How you doing, Father?
Father Pete: Good, man. How about you? Great, thank you so much.
And then at that point, it’s really a ministry of presence.
[Fist-bumping players] Let’s go baby, let’s go baby, let’s go.
Harold Swanagan: Let’s see, 6’6” and-a-half, Father Pete.
Father Pete: 6’6” and-a-half wingspan?
Nikola Djogo measuring Father Pete’s height: 6’3” and-a-half, baby.
Father Pete: Whoo, whoo, whoo.
Harold: Yes! Big man. They can’t hold you.
Father Pete: The tower of swat.
Dane Goodwin: Like shooting over Juwan.
Father Pete: Dane, do you have a favorite spot on the court?
Dane: Probably right here.
Father Pete: Right there? What do you like about it?
Dane: I don’t know.
Notre Dame vs. Clemson
February 9, 2020
Father Pete: Here we go fellas, here we go.
Jack: 4 seconds, 3. Trapp racing down the floor. Trapp throws it, left corner. Newman for three, no good.
Father Pete: Red Panda’s here? Yes! She’s here.
[Red Panda acrobat performs halftime show, Father Pete and crowd cheering]
[Basketball game resumes]
Jack: 43, 41. Clemson on top.
Father Pete: Just got to light the fuse here. You see one go in. Right here. Right here, baby. Yeah!
Jack: The first game of a three-game road trip. They beat Clemson here tonight. 61 to 57.
Coach Mike Brey: Let’s get one Tuesday, and head on home. And again, it’s going to be a grinder, alright. Let’s lock up. Great job, great job.
All right, let’s bow our heads. Father, thank you for helping us play together as a unit and keeping us away from injury. In your name, we pray.
Coach Brey: One, two, three. Together.
Father Pete: Rex, proud of you, man. Good work, good work, man.
Virginia Pregame Mass
February 10, 2020
Are you guys talking burger joints right now?
[Distributing Communion] May almighty God bless you.
Body of Christ.
John Mooney: Amen.
Father Pete: May almighty God bless you.
Those of you who are interested in a little discussion, I don’t care what time y’all want to do it tonight. I’m pretty much free in fact.
Let us offer each other the sign of peace.
[Team shakes hands with one another.]
When I look around the church and the world, I think about the clergy abuse crisis, and there’s a lot of times in which I’m like, “How is it I became a priest at this time?” One, I have to always be willing to talk about that. Two, I have a responsibility to still love those who are in front of me. I have a responsibility to share the joy that I’ve encountered in my vocation — even with the hardship. What I want to be able to do is, with the time that I have and with the skill that I have, to be able to share the joy that God has given me because I think that can still be impactful in whatever way, shape, or form God chooses to use it.
Jack: Notre Dame going to get it back, down one, with 17.7 seconds left. Wow. Mike Brey calls a timeout.
Notre Dame vs. Virginia
February 11, 2020
Father Pete: In the huddle with whatever it was, 17 seconds to go in overtime — and I just try to slow the moment down. Because these are these moments that they can pass in a blink, but they’re precious.
Jack: Hubb dribbling to his left around a screen from Mooney. Hubb left foul line… Hubb shuttles it to Pflueger. Pflueger for three — in and out. Rebound. Then he throws it up in the air ahead to Clark. Clark catches it, and that’ll do it. Virginia holds on to beat Notre Dame, 50 to 49.
[Shaking hands with team]
Father Pete: Great game, coach.
Coach Tony Bennett: Good to see you.
Father Pete: Thank you.
Coach Bennett: I love Christ.
Father Pete: That’s what I’m talking about!
You got to find the joy in those moments because life doesn’t always work out as you had hoped.
[Father Pete and team talking over dinner]
Father Pete, shooting basketballs: I’m on fire. Oh yeah. Classic.