Sports Faith International is an initiative of Catholic Radio WSFI 88.5 FM that honors athletes, coaches, and others from sports at the professional, collegiate, and high school levels who lead exemplary lives. This year’s annual Sports Faith International (SFI) Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held at the DoubleTree Hilton in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, from 6-9 PM on Saturday, May 22, 2021.
This years’ professional level honorees included former NBA referee Deacon Steve Javie and former NFL Players, Jim Grabowski and Rich Gannon. School honorees included the Catholic Memorial High School Varsity Girls Soccer Team; Dave Pishkur, Coach of the Andrean 59ers Baseball Team; and Hugh Brown and the Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic High School Football Team.
Honorees shared a little of their story and the role that faith has played in their lives.
Deacon Steve Javie received the Father Smyth Award that honors those who left professional sports for an opportunity to serve others in a Religious role. Javie was a 20-year veteran of the NBA who served in that role in many dramatic situations including NBA playoffs. Javie spoke about his faith and his unexpected vocation to the deaconate–something that was unplanned, but once discovered was something he dedicated himself to it.
SFI Hall of Famer, Rich Gannon, has played for four NFL teams in an 18-year career. He was named to 4 Pro-Bowl Teams and was a first team All Pro twice. He was the 2002 Most Valuable Player and won the Bert Bell Award as Player of the year in 2000. In 2002, Gannon led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who went on to win. Gannon has been a football analyst for 16 years. Gannon attended Catholic School in Philadelphia at Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School and went on to set records as quarterback at the University of Delaware. Gannon is a proponent for Catholic Schools and active participation in the Church. He offers men advise on raising Catholic kids in his talks: pray with them, discuss the faith, take your kids to Mass, read the Bible with them, and share the faith with them. Gannon and his wife Shelly have been spoke persons for the Celiac Disease Foundation which afflicts one of his daughters.
SFI Hall of Famer Jim Grabowski was University of Illinois All American, All Academic American, and Rose Bowl and Big Ten MVP before he hit the pros. His first two years in the pros, were with Lombardi’s last two Green Bay Championship Teams. His final season was with the Bears. The running back played 6 seasons in the NFL. After his pro career was cut short with injuries, Grabowski provided color commentary for the University of Illinois Football broadcasts. Grabowski talked about his experiences and his family. As a young boy, Grabowski attended Catholic Grammar School at Saint Tarcissus School in Chicago.
All-Star Catholic High School Lifetime Achievement Award
Athletic Director Matt Bergen accompanied girls, soccer team members from Catholic Memorial High school for the ceremony. The athletes expressed the importance of Catholic faith in their program at the Catholic School in Waukesha, which is about 20 miles west of Milwaukee. Catholic Memorial High School has won Girls’ State Soccer Championships 14 times. There are many sports programs at Catholic Memorial that allow every student who wants to participate the opportunity. According to the School website:
“At Catholic Memorial High School, we educate students as individuals, intellectually and spiritually. We guide students to work to their highest, God-given potential. We prepare them for post-secondary education and to become leaders who serve the Church and the world.”
Catholic Memorial High School is at 601 East College Avenue in Waukesha.
Coach Lifetime Achievement Award
Dave Pishkur, Varsity Baseball Coach of Andrean High School discussed his 41 years of accomplishments at the school, which is located at 5959 Broadway in Merrillville, Indiana. Dave Pishkur has racked up a record of 1014-284 with a .781 winning percentage and amassed 7 State Championships. Under Pishkur, the Andrean 59’ers have sent 10 players into the professional ranks, over 130 players went on to be collegiate baseball players.
According to the School Website:
“Founded in 1959 in the Catholic Diocese of Gary, Andrean High School is committed to providing a faith-based college preparatory experience, laying moral and intellectual foundations that guide students throughout their lives. We remain forever faithful to our school’s founding mission – guiding 59ers so they might transform the world in positive prophetic ways through faith, learning, leadership, and service.”
All-Star Catholic High School Team of the Year
Hugh Brown shared stories of encouragement and inspiration of his Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic High School Football Team of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Brown repeated a motto that certainly supports the Sports and Faith philosophy:
“Football is the vehicle, Christ is the destination.”
Brown shared with the audience the story of the Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic High School Football State Championship that was won on 4th down with seconds left on the clock. Behind by 3 points, rather than go for a tie, the team expressed their desire for an attempt at last second win and made it happen.
The School’s Mission Statement from their website :
“To prepare each student to lead an exemplary Catholic life through the development of his or her full academic, spiritual, moral, artistic, and athletic potential.”
Saint Michael the Archangel Catholic High School is located at 6301 Campus Drive, Fredericksburg, Virginia.
The ceremonies were hosted by Patrick McCaskey, Chair of Sports Faith International. Prayers were lead by Episcopal Advisor to SFI, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, from the Diocese of Springfield. The Event was organized and managed by Angela Tomlinson Station Director of WSFI and a host of others.