Sr. Mary Teresa Bettag, a Sheboygan native, threw out the first pitch during the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ballpark Day of Faith game on June 26. (Submitted photos and photos by David Bernacchi)
Even though the first pitch was an unintentional curveball that veered to the left, the Milwaukee Brewers may have had some divine intervention during their 10-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on June 26.
Sports enthusiast Sr. Mary Teresa Bettag, a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity, threw out the first pitch at the annual Ballpark Day of Faith. While nuns aren’t known for partaking in bullpen sessions, Sr. Bettag looked like a pro on the mound, resulting in cheers from the stands.
Sr. Mary Teresa is one of eight children and the daughter of Drs. Mark and Teresa Bettag. The 29-year-old Sheboygan native joined the Manitowoc-based Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity after her 22nd birthday in August 2015. She begins her fifth year of temporary profession next month and hopes to profess her final vows next summer.
“Once I professed my first vows, on June 24, 2018, I was given my first mission assignment to serve as a theology teacher at Yuma Catholic High School (Yuma, Arizona),” she said. “Since that time, my duties there have expanded to include a public speaking class, campus minister, as well as track and field and cross-country coach, which is probably my favorite title.”
Sr. Bettag credits her family for her faith, vocation and love of sports. The family never missed Mass and they prayed nightly together as a family.
“I think one of the most impactful things in my life has been the witness of my parents and their marriage,” she said. “In fact, as a religious, I find that I often look to married couples as to how better to live out my religious vocation; the reason being that their love for one another is so tangible and concrete — they cannot abstract it as is sometimes the temptation in our relationship with God.”
Throughout their marriage, Sr. Bettag said she was impressed that her parents put their faith first by attending daily Mass together each morning before her father left for work and her mom readied the children for school.
“But they also prioritize their own relationship, and so each night, no matter the weather, they would go on a walk through our neighborhood,” she said. “In the meantime, us kids were expected to get the kitchen cleaned, and if we did, then when they got back, we would all gather and play something outside. In the winter, it was hockey; in the fall, football; in the spring and summer, it could be basketball, baseball, four square, tennis or kickball. Everyone played, my parents included, and so a healthy love of sports and a fierce competitive spirit definitely comes from them.”
She never imagined throwing out the first pitch, but Sr. Bettag was not only excited for herself but also for her family because everyone is a sports fan.
“My mom loves March Madness basketball so much that for the mother-son dance with my older brother at his wedding, she chose ‘One Shining Moment,’ the March Madness theme song,” she said. “Both of my parents are from the Chicagoland area, so we all grew up big Bears fans. Being a Bears fan in Packer country was not always easy, but as my mom likes to say, ‘It breeds character.’ In fact, I was twice kept in from recess in grade school because I was a Bears fan. I still follow them, but also enjoy watching soccer, which was my favorite sport I played in high school, and especially, watching the Olympics.”
Sr. Bettag still has no idea how she ended up throwing the first pitch, but remembers where she was when she found out.
“I was sitting in our living room in Yuma, grading some papers when an email came through from our vocation director, Sr. Julie Ann Sheahan. She asked if I would be interested in throwing out the first pitch at the game on June 26,” Sr. Bettag said. “I didn’t even look at my calendar. I unhesitatingly said yes. I was thrilled and immediately emailed all my siblings because I knew my parents, my sisters and my brothers especially were going to go crazy. To this day, I don’t know how the Ballpark Day of Faith got my name, but I am so grateful they did, as it was a fantastic experience.”
To prepare for her big day, Sr. Bettag practiced pitching with her family. Her brother Joseph prepared her to “throw a gasser,” but when she was on the mound, she said her mind went blank and she ended up throwing a curve. It didn’t seem to matter, though; her pitch was met with loud cheers of support, and she received so many accolades it was difficult to make it up to the stands afterward.
“My family was up in the Johnsonville Party Deck with the rest of our crew, including the sisters, family and friends,” she said. “Despite my curveball, everyone seemed so genuinely happy to see a sister. This is one of the blessings of wearing a habit. I believe all sisters, really all religious, have a missionary vocation because we are such a visible sign of God’s presence in the world. We ought to be present in the world so we can be that reminder to people. That is one of the greatest discoveries of my vocation, that so often I don’t need to say or do much, I just need to be present, and Christ takes care of the rest.”