At the Seton Hall women's soccer Big East home opener on September 30, Stephen Kass, MA, MNE, Adjunct Professor of Catholic Studies, entered the field. Professor Kass isn't one to shy away from challenges: he's a nuclear engineer, U.S. Navy veteran, and a sought-after speaker and writer on Catholic adult faith formation and catechesis. But was he there to take on yet another challenge — playing Big East soccer?
No, Professor Kass was instead joined by seven other Seton Hall faculty members who were being recognized by the seniors on the women's soccer team in their Most Valuable Professor (MVP) program. Two students who had taken Professor Kass's Spirituality and Sports: A Catholic Perspective course in previous semesters had nominated him for this honor.
"I was completely shocked and humbled by this honor" Professor Kass noted. He explained that Spirituality and Sports is very popular among student-athletes, and that the message of the course hits the back of the net for students who want to better understand how they can see their everyday experience through the lens of faith.
In Professor Kass's Sports and Spirituality course, students learn about the intersection of sports and spirituality by examining how the virtues and disciplines that are necessary for successful athletes are similar to what helps one grow and advance in the spiritual life. The course is geared toward supporting faith in Christ and helping students to gain a deeper sense of purpose in their daily lives. Professor Kass himself derives a great sense of accomplishment from teaching this course and finds his own faith enriched as he explores these themes with his students. Professor Kass will be teaching a section of Sports and Spirituality again in Spring 2022, as well as a section of the popular Saints Alive!, a course that invites students to consider the lives and struggles of the saints through comparative analysis of the saints' writings and films and plays portraying the saints.
The work that is done through Catholic Studies' Sports and Spirituality course is significant not only for the students, professors, and Seton Hall, but in the wider efforts of the Church. In further efforts to explore the relevance of sport to spirituality, "Catholic Studies is planning to collaborate with the Holy See's sports commissioner, Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca," said Ines Murzaku, PhD, Director of Catholic Studies. "The Church promotes 'a sport for the person' with the focus on the person and its wellbeing, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Catholic Intellectual Tradition offers a vision for sport that 'is grounded in a Christian understanding of the human person and of a just society,' as the 2018 Vatican document 'Giving the best of yourself' states."
It is very true of Professor Kass that he gives the best of himself in his teaching. "We are very fortunate to have Professor Kass with us in Catholic Studies," said Dr. Murzaku. "It is wonderful to see his students affirming his work by nominating him as an MVP. He has always been an MVP to us in Catholic Studies!"