The Blazer gift that keeps giving


This is a firsthand recollection by a priest who has been serving as chaplain of Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbia, home of the Trailblazers, since its founding in 2011:

I was about to give the final blessing at the last all-school Mass in November, 2021 when Dr. Everett, our president and principal, stepped to the microphone and asked a couple of students to come forward.

It was the 40th anniversary of my priestly ordination, and the students presented me with a beautiful St. Louis Cardinals jersey.

On the back was inscribed “Father Mike 40.” I was moved to tears.

Little did I know that this amazing gift would touch lives other than my own.

A few months later, I wore this beautiful jersey to a Cardinals game early in the 2022 season.

I was in the back row of the bottom section. The Cardinals were trailing by a run in the seventh inning. The first two Cardinals reached base. The whole stadium crowd was on its feet cheering.

I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around and a young woman who looked to be in her early to mid-20s said to me, “I saw the back of your shirt, Are you a Catholic priest.?”

When I said I was, she asked if she could talk to me.

I climbed over my seat (quite ungracefully I admit) and followed her a few feet onto the concourse.

“Today is the one-year anniversary of my 4-month-old baby dying of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Could you please pray with me?”

I took her hand, and the Lord put a beautiful prayer on my heart to share with her.

The words just seemed to flow. I could just feel the Holy Spirit speaking through me.

When I finished praying, tears were streaming down her face.

She gave me a hug and said, “I have really struggled with my faith since my baby died. This morning, I prayed for a sign that my baby was with God and that he loved me. He sent me a priest at a Cardinal game. You have no idea how much this means to me.”

As I walked to my seat, I had never felt more grateful to be a priest.

And I never felt prouder to be a Blazer. By God’s grace, I had touched someone’s life, and it could never have happened without such a beautiful gift from my beloved Blazers.

By the way, the Cardinals scored three runs in that inning and won the game 5-3.

I missed the rally, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Fr. Coleman is also pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Centralia.