Fit for the Father: A Journey of Faith
Fr. Paul Treacy, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Brooklyn Park, learned a hard lesson from a conversation with parishioner Pam Baker: know your audience when you reveal your bucket list.
While talking with Pam about running, Fr. Paul casually admitted that a marathon was on his bucket list.
“I used those two words, ‘bucket list,’” Fr. Paul explained, “and her eyes lit up.”
Pam, a runner with 40+ marathons under her belt, a cross country coach and the director of the Faster than the Pastor racing series, latched onto the idea. Pam encouraged Fr. Paul (a non-runner at the time) to run a marathon and offered to coach him. Fr. Paul wasn’t quite ready to commit, but more and more parishioners mysteriously started talking to Fr. Paul about running, and Pam kept bringing up the idea in person. The following year, as Fr. Paul began to realize that his 50th birthday was closing in quickly, he agreed.
At a St. Vincent de Paul auction, the opportunity to join Fr. Paul’s endeavor became a fundraiser. Sixty people bid to join the team, inspired by their spiritual leader. Team Fit for the Father was born and named, not as a nod not to Fr. Paul but to God. The crew adopted the fitting Psalm 26.2 as their tagline, which begins “Test me, Lord.”
In the spring of 2015, Fit for the Father was put to their first test with a simple interval workout: 30 seconds of running, followed by 30 seconds of walking. Meeting anywhere from 1-3 times a week to run together, the team built mileage slowly but surely. Along the way, Pam taught them about nutrition, pacing, recovery and the plethora of other running advice they’d need to complete the marathon.
Along the way, Fr. Paul discovered parallels between his running and spiritual practices.
“For me, a part of my spirituality has always been in the outdoors,” Fr. Paul revealed. “In running, there’s certainly a peacefulness and a quiet time. I’m taking time to appreciate God’s creation, taking time to clear my head.”
The Challenge of Sunday Long Runs
For many runners, weekends provide plenty of time for a marathon long run and the much-needed recovery after. Yet, for Fr. Paul, who celebrates multiple Masses a weekend on top of an already busy and often unpredictable schedule, working running into his calendar was challenging at times.
“Like anything else that’s good, it’s a discipline,” Fr. Paul explained.
Fr. Paul’s discipline, or as Pam describes it, Fr. Paul’s “tenacity of the heart and mind” led to great blessings for Fr. Paul himself and for the entire St. Vincent de Paul community. Fr. Paul and the rest of the team served as an inspiration to fellow parishioners, and Fr. Paul’s fellow teammates like Pam felt blessed “to journey alongside of him.”
This week, as team Fit for the Father heads to the start line, they know they have a community of support behind them. The students of St. Vincent de Paul even said a blessing over Father before a celebratory run through the halls, complete with high-fives. If that’s not enough, they know they have a host of prayers headed their way Sunday morning.
As Fr. Paul and his teammates race to St. Paul this weekend, perhaps they’ll find one last bit of inspiration from St. Paul himself, “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”