Perhaps they graced the inside of a small chapel, or placed high on the walls of a Catholic grade school. Maybe one belonged to a beloved family member, a favorite priest or nun, or was used to administer the sacrament of the anointing of the sick at bedside. The memories associated with an heirloom crucifix are often joyful or bittersweet, depending on the situation, but always accompanied with a divine blessing.

Ali Bahr, Kenosha native and coordinator of sport and virtue at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, was surprised to find that while other departments in the college were replete with crucifixes and religious art, the athletic department was noticeably barren.

“I started looking around in the athletic department and noticed that the locker rooms for both home and visitor teams, and offices of administrators and coaches were without crucifixes on the walls,” said Bahr. “I was pretty shocked that we didn’t have any in these buildings and offices.”

As coordinator of sport and virtue, Bahr reports to the athletic director and assists Mike DeWitt, the cross country and track coach, who is also her father. It is their mission to train athletes to not only be fierce competitors, but respectful, honest, and filled with integrity on the field. Students learn to respect coaches, teammates and opposing team members, competing at the highest and truest meaning of sports.

“I work with the coaches and student athletes and make sure the kids are going above and beyond; and not just to take part in the athletic experience, but to take it up a notch,” said Bahr. “Our school model is excellence in virtue and sport and in making sure that integrity is there. We follow a quote by Pope Pius XII.”

If you would like to donate a crucifix or cross please send to:
Ali Bahr, Coordinator of Sport and Virtue
Belmont Abbey College
100 Belmont-Mt. Holly Road
Belmont, NC 28012
or call (704) 461-5093

Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor; it refines the senses, gives intellectual penetration, and steels the will to endurance. It is not merely a physical development then. Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth and helps man to achieve that end to which all others must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator.

To help support the strong Catholic identity throughout all buildings of the college, Bahr hopes churches, schools or individuals might have a surplus of crucifixes that might be donated to Belmont Abbey to be used in the athletic department buildings.

With budget restraints on the small school, made famous for jumpstarting former Marquette University basketball coach Al McGuire’s career, Bahr thought about the many shuttered Catholic schools and merged parishes with empty offices, and wondered what became of the crucifixes that once adorned the walls.

“I had been given permission by the Abbot Placid Solari, (chancellor and assistant professor of theology) to purchase what I needed, but thought I could save the school some much needed funds if I tried to find people to donate some crucifixes,” said Bahr. “I was wondering if those schools and other entities that were closed might be inclined to donate some crucifixes to be used every day by young, impressionable college athletes. It would be so nice to have these crucifixes and crosses with meaning behind them, that were already blessed, perhaps used in classrooms and handed down to be used here.”

Remembering her Kenosha roots, Bahr thought about the recently closed St. Peter Catholic School, Saint Francis Major Seminary, and other schools, convents and rectories that may have a surplus of unused crucifixes and would we willing to help.

Considering Bahr’s efforts a unique undertaking, Abbot Solari explained that as a Catholic college, it is important to have the Catholic presence permeated throughout the school in all areas.

“A part of that whole mix is that religious art and symbols are important as reminders, and while crucifixes are not imposed in private offices, our identity is Catholic and, of course, the crucifix is what most people identify as Catholic and is an obvious central truth of the Catholic faith,” he said. “Placing these crucifixes in our buildings is simply one part of an attempt to be who we say we are.”

Those who are able to donate crucifixes to the school will help to raise the level of Catholic Benedictine hospitality on the campus, according to Bahr.

“This place is a little slice of heaven in the south; there is no other place like it – there is something here unlike there will be any place else,” she said. “We are not overtly in-your-face Catholic, but there is something amazing going on here. Most students are Catholic who attend this school. We offer 23 sports and all the coaches here have the same plan to recruit mission-fit student athletes and realize that in all things, God is glorified. It is great to have so many coaches here with the right spirit and right mindset.”