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Notre Dame’s new football coach converts to Catholicism

J-P Mauro - published on 09/16/22

The Fighting Irish were given some much needed cause for celebration after opening the season with a historically bad record of 0-3.

Notre Dame’s students and fans are understandably frustrated after starting the season 0-3. Not only is this a historically bad start for the Fighting Irish, but their second loss also broke a 42-game win streak against unranked opponents. Through all this gloom, however, the team’s new head coach, Marcus Freeman, is giving them reason to celebrate: He’s converted to the Catholic faith.

The Fighting Irish’s community website, One Foot Down, tweeted its congratulations to Freeman on September 14. Catholic News Agency, however, notes that the ceremony took place in late August, before the football season began. One Foot Down noted that Freeman prepared for his initiation with Notre Dame’s chaplain, Fr. Nate Willis C.S.C., and was received into the Church by Fr. Bill Schooler of St. Pius X Catholic Church. 

The tweet went on to encourage prayers for Freeman and his family as he continues his faith journey. With his conversion, Marcus joined the rest of his family – his wife Joanne and their six children – in the Catholic faith. According to CNA, Marcus was previously a non-Catholic Christian, while his wife and kids were already Catholic.

Catholic display

It’s not surprising that Freeman would take steps to deepen his faith once at Notre Dame, as he has expressed his enthusiasm for working at a school with a strong faith identity. In a recent interview with Notre Dame’s business school, featured above, Freeman recalled two Bible quotes that helped to shape him as a young man.

Freeman has also spoken about the impact the school’s faith practices had on him as a young adult. Aleteia previously reported on Marcus’ first impressions of Notre Dame, when he visited the campus as a prospective student more than 20 years ago. He was struck by the school’s unabashed displays of Catholic unity on campus.

One such tradition was for the team to attend Mass together before their home games. Afterward, the team would all perform “The Walk,” in which the student athletes would leave through the “God, Country, Notre Dame” door for a trek through campus. “The Walk” would not only get the campus hyped for game-day, but it would remind students of the team’s solidarity in the faith. 

When Freeman took up the head coach position he was surprised to find that the school had largely abandoned the tradition, moving the pre-game Mass to the night before. It was one of his first actions as coach to reinstate game-day Mass, as well as “The Walk” across campus afterward. 

In an August interview with National Catholic Register, Freeman commented: 

“To me, what better time is there to go have Mass?” he said. “What better time to be able to really be on the edge of your seat to get every word that comes out of the priest’s mouth and to be as close to God as you can?”

Read more at CNA.

CatholicismConversionNotre DameSports
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