Father Burke Masters, Chicago Cubs' chaplain, takes part in a practice with players during spring training in March 2016 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz. Cubs Manager Joe Maddon invited Father Masters to practice with the team. CNS photo/Ed Mailliard, courtesy Topps

Cubs chaplain cares for ‘spiritual needs’ of players

By  Joyce Duriga, Catholic News Service
  • November 2, 2016

CHICAGO – When Fr. Burke Masters accepted God’s call to become a priest, he thought he was giving up baseball forever.

Never did he dream that God would take him back to the field — let alone as chaplain to the Chicago Cubs as they hoped to break a 108-year World Series drought.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would do this with the Cubs and be a priest,” said Masters, vocations director for the Diocese of Joliet.

Four years ago, Catholic Athletes for Christ reached out to Masters when looking for a priest to volunteer as a chaplain for the Cubs. The goal of Catholic Athletes is to provide a network of sports-oriented clergy and laypeople to serve Catholic athletes, coaches and staff.

“Through the grapevine of priests they heard that I played baseball,” he said. “The two things that I love to combine in my ministry is faith and sports, so this was a great opportunity. And having played baseball, this couldn’t get much better for me.”

Before Sunday home games this season, Masters celebrated Mass at Wrigley Field for both teams, staff and those who work at the stadium. More than 30 people typicality attended Mass.

Masters plans to approach Cubs owner Tom Ricketts to see if a chapel can be incorporated into the renovations at Wrigley Field. Some newer ballparks have nondenominational chapels inside so it’s not a new idea. The Cubs also have nondenominational chaplains who could use the space, too.

After Masters celebrates Mass — or during home games that don’t occur on Sundays — he goes down to the dugout and locker room and just makes himself available.

“(Cubs manager) Joe Maddon has really opened the doors for me. He told me, ‘The presence of a priest changes the environment,’” Masters said. Maddon also is a practising Catholic. While with the players, Masters asks them if they have prayer intentions, how their families are.

“It really opens up some nice conversations. Even though they may not be attending Mass, they know that somebody is trying to care for their spiritual needs.”

Masters says he doesn’t pray that the Cubs win — even though he wants them to.

“What I pray for is that they all play to their ability. Honestly, I don’t think God cares who wins,” he said. “If everybody plays to their ability, usually the best team wins.”

Masters had dreams of becoming a major league baseball player himself. He played for Mississippi State University and won the College World Series.

But he wasn’t drafted after college, so he pursued a business career and for a time worked for the Kane County Cougars in Geneva, a minor league affiliate of the Florida Marlins.

The call to the priesthood began to get stronger so he entered Mundelein Seminary in 1997. He was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 2002 and became vocation director in 2006.

This past March, when he went to Cubs’ spring training he got to live some of that baseball dream when Maddon invited him to practice with the team.

“It was while I was on the field — and I had tears in my eyes — that it really became clear that God was saying, ‘This was your dream but now you’re living mine.’ I had this small plan. God wanted me to be a priest and stay in baseball, which has been so humbling.”

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

coach is from hazleton, pa....right near whete i serve the good people if the coal region...
another "underdog" community & he's a great example of faith in action....so glad he brought fr onto the team & that they won!

fr jim t
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