12-11-10-CHN15Former NFL and European football player Kevin O’Brien, and a founder of the local Men of Christ Conference, speaks about the importance of religion for professional athletes and has them do 20 pushups during his presentation at the Cousins Center in St. Francis, during the three-day retreat for young football players. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson) For this and other photos from that weekend, visit CHNonline PhotosIn addition to Packer chaplain Fr. Jim Baraniak’s keynote address, The Remnant weekend for high school football players at the Cousins Center, Dec. 10-12, featured talks by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki; Fr. Mike Lightner, director of campus ministry at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and Domenick Tirabassi IV, a first-year seminarian in Chicago.

The archbishop regaled participants with stories of his youthful sports experiences in the same neighborhood in which legendary Chicago Bear Dick Butkus grew up. Fr. Lightner, a 6’ 5”, 320-pound lineman at Eastern Michigan who chose seminary studies over a shot at the NFL, shared his personal conversion story. The talk by Tirabassi, an outstanding prep quarterback who graduated in 2010 from St. Joseph High School in Kenosha, was titled “Virtue, Vice and Sportsmanship.”

Also appearing on the Cousins Center dais were Kevin O’Brien, a preseason player for the Buffalo Bills who also played professionally in Canada and Europe who heads the Men of Christ group in the Milwaukee Archdiocese; Dave Archibald, St. Norbert College standout player turned Wisconsin Lutheran College assistant coach; and Phil Hetue, a UW-Madison graduate whose topic was Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Hetue “challenged players to live their faith by defending and promoting the dignity of women,” said Kurt Krauss, a founder of The Remnant.

“Our speakers are men who have successfully been able to integrate their involvement in the sports world and their Catholic faith,” noted co-founder Ryan Pruess.

Supplementing the talks were numerous spiritual and social activities. Saturday and Sunday morning Masses were celebrated, Benediction and periods of adoration were scheduled and the sacrament of reconciliation was available. Attendees watched the football film “Facing the Giants” in the theater at the Cousins Center and bowled and played dodge ball at neighboring Saint Francis Seminary (SFS). A football scrimmage, an early morning run and weightlifting were scheduled as well, along with a cookout – “Lambeau Field style,” in Krauss’ words, “in the back parking area with headlights to illuminate our propane grill. It was just like tailgating.”

Krauss, 25, grew up in Door County and lettered in football at Southern Door High School. He is in his first year at Saint Francis Seminary, studying for the Green Bay Diocese. Pruess, 27, a gridiron enthusiast since boyhood, is slated to be ordained a transitional deacon in April and a priest for the Milwaukee Archdiocese in 2012. Assisting The Remnant co-founders during the weekend were fellow Saint Francis students Patrick Burns, Peter Patrick Kimani, Brad Krawczyk, Jim Leeser and Phil Schumacher.

The connection of “football, the faith and kids that share a common belief” brought Liam Dooley to The Remnant weekend, the Brookfield Academy sophomore told your Catholic Herald. Dooley is a member of St. Peter Parish in Slinger. Pruess, whose home parish is also St. Peter in Slinger, called the weekend “a great opportunity for student athletes from different schools around the archdiocese to come together, united by their faith and passion for the game of football.”

“It’s a great thing to kind of bring your passion into your faith,” added Burns.

A basketball version of The Remnant is expected to be held in spring.

— Steve Jozwik contributed to this article.