The Green Bay Packers, although owned by citizens through stock purchases that have supported the team since it’s early days, have long been associated with the Catholic Church. The association comes from people like Vince Lombardi. Curly Lambeau, and many fans and team associates with Catholic roots. There is plenty of room in the Packer fan base for people from any faith, but even in our multi-cultural multi-faith including no-faith-at-all society, you can still smell a little Catholic incense around Lambeau Field. Another Catholic connection is the Training Camps conducted at Saint Norbert College. The Saint Norbert website explains its history:
Packers Training Camp
St. Norbert College has hosted the NFL’s Green Bay Packers’ training camp for more than 60 years. The tradition began in the summer of 1958 and has continued uninterrupted since, marking the longest continual use of any training camp facility by an NFL team.
Players reside in Victor McCormick Hall and eat dinner in Michels Commons. The Packers use their own practice and team meeting facilities at Lambeau Field during training camp and commute daily to there from the college.
St. Norbert College Packers Training Camp History
Then-president of the Packers, Russ Bogda, and then-head coach, Lisle Blackburn, first approached St. Norbert College in the spring of 1957. At the time, the Packers were headquartering at UW-Stevens Point. In the summer of 1958, coach Scooter McLean and his staff brought the Packers to the St. Norbert campus and Frank J. Sensenbrenner Residence Hall’s living quarters, to various classrooms for training sessions and to the dining facilities in the riverbank hall now called Dennis M. Burke Hall. Over the 57 years, various halls have been used, but the string of successive summers at St. Norbert College has never been broken.
President Dominic Olejniczak, successor to Bogda (who had retired due to illness), completed contractual agreements with St. Norbert College. In 1959, newly appointed head coach Vince Lombardi confirmed the summer camp location and formed a friendship with the Rev. Dennis Burke, O.Praem, St. Norbert president. Succeeding coaches and Packers presidents over the years have found the facilities to their liking.
Saint Norbert’s is run by the Norbertine Fathers. “Since 1121, members of the religious order founded by Norbert of Xanten have embraced a tradition of radical hospitality. Today, at St. Norbert College, that same tradition is enthusiastically extended to you. At St. Norbert, all are welcome.”
The distance between Lambeau Field and Saint Norbert College is about 7 miles so the college has provided a beautiful and convenient place for camp. For many midwestern college students, Saint Norbert offered a great place for an education with a bit of Green Bay Packers history and culture. In addition to the reputation as being a working-class team in a small town that was winning against the big city teams, the Packers have also done a lot of things right in their history to establish fans from around the country and around the globe. Personally, I think having camp at Saint Norbert College was one of those.
Saint Michael’s Abbey
A couple thousand miles from Green Bay is another Norbertine facility, Saint Michael’s Abbey. The abbey is in an area of Orange County. The Abbey has 50 priest and over 30 seminarians. By no means do all seminarians become priests, but the Abbey is a success story at a time when there are many tough stories about the Catholic faith. The Abbey has received great support and is building a new Abbey that can accommodate it’s growing number of priests. Life at St. Michael’s Abbey is “organized according to prayer of the Church: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.: For more than fifty years, St. Michael’s Abbey Norbertine Fathers have served the Christian faithful in Southern California–including ministries such as teaching religious education in prisons, chaplains to colleges, the military, and communities of religious women.
Image: Lombardi illustration by William Potter from Pillars of the NFL [book can be seen here under products], Copyright Sporting Chance Press.