Scott Knight, right, Chaska police chief and member of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, stands with pastors of Chaska churches who will serve as chaplains at the Ryder Cup golf tournament at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska beginning Sept. 27. CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit

Clergy to provide 'ministerial presence' as chaplains during Ryder Cup

By  Matthew Davis, Catholic News Service
  • September 27, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS – Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight didn't want to see golf fans at Hazeltine National Gold Club spiritually unprovided for again.

Knight, a parishioner of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, formed a group of chaplains to serve at major PGA golf tournaments at the Chaska course following a tragic lightning strike at the U.S. Open in 1991. Injuries and a death occurred at the course.

"I was a sergeant at that time, in charge of our event field operations," Knight told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. "Clearly, we had an immediate need for pastoral care, but having clergy there on-site had not been a part of the plan. I have deployed chaplains ever since at these major events. We need chaplains -- on deck -- as an important part of our plan."

Five chaplains based in Chaska, which is about 30 miles southwest of Minneapolis, will serve at the upcoming Ryder Cup Sept. 27 to Oct. 2. They will look out for the needs of the projected 150,000 fans attending the event.

The group included Father Fernando Ortega of Guardian Angels Parish. "We hope that all security needs (and) all needs that have to do with their well-being are being met," the priest said. "When there is need for that, then we can be present."

Security remains paramount for an event the size of the Ryder Cup in light of terror attacks during the past year. Moreover, the international nature of the Ryder Cup with a European team competing against a U.S. team raises that concern.

"That's why we want to support Chief Scott Knight," Father Ortega said. "This is the common denominator or factor for the chaplaincy."

Father Ortega met the other chaplains through an ecumenical pastors group in town and joined the police chaplaincy at Knight's invitation. The pastors will work through the logistics of the Ryder Cup's final day since all of them have Mass or services that morning.

"We've been asked to check in as we are able," Father Ortega said.

Knight has worked with the clergy twice before for the PGA Championships at Hazeltine in 2002 and 2009. While the group has looked different each time, St. John Lutheran pastor Greg Snow gives the crew veteran leadership, having worked the 2009 PGA Championship.

"Their involvement not only fills out our readiness/response plan, but also gives me great peace of mind," Knight said.

Moreover, the current group of clergy work directly with the police other times. The on-call clergy go with on-duty officers to help those in need.

"For me, it's more of a partnership," Father Ortega said. "I see them as colleagues. We made ourselves available to support people in their own needs. At times, it's a ministerial presence. At times, it's people seeking spiritual understanding and discernment."

Father Ortega anticipates the ministerial needs for the Ryder Cup will extend beyond the course. With thousands of visitors to the community, he hopes his parish can serve as a temporary spiritual home for people seeking a place to worship.

Similar to most of the clergy serving with the police chaplaincy at the Ryder Cup, Father Ortega doesn't follow PGA golf. He said he golfed once.

"It's a relaxing, enjoyable sport, (but) I have not become a golfer," Father Ortega said.

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