Priests ‘Praise the Lord’ Before Cubs ‘Play Ball!’
The 2022 Major League Baseball season, now ending, gave two diocesan priests the chance to “step up to the plate” to celebrate Mass.
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
October 6, 2022
CHICAGO—Father Keith Romke, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Crystal Lake loves two things in life: Jesus and the Chicago Cubs. So when he got the opportunity to merge both loves this season, it was truly a grand slam.
“I’ve been a die-hard Cubs my entire life. When I became the vocations director for the Diocese of Rockford in 2013, I became friends with Father Burke Masters, a priest from the Diocese of Joliet, who is also the chaplain for the Chicago Cubs,” Father Romke explains. The two priests formed a fast friendship over promoting vocations and their love of the Cubs.
“Father Masters was a well-respected vocations director whose advice and mentorship helped many other diocesan vocations directors and me,” Father Romke says. “Of course, we always talked about the Cubs. I jokingly told Father Masters that if he ever needed a priest to celebrate Mass for him at Wrigley Field, I would be more than happy to help out.”
When Father Masters went on sabbatical this spring, Father Romke got the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to celebrate Mass at Wrigley Field. “I got an email from Father Masters that said, ‘The time has come, I need a sub to say Mass, are you available?’ I promptly said, “Yes!’ very excitedly,” he recalls.
Father Romke was the celebrant at a 2:30 p.m. Mass, June 5, held in the stands at Wrigley Field. Masses at the ballpark, he said, are for Catholics who work at the ‘Friendly Confines’ and, due to their job schedules, wouldn’t be able to attend Mass at their home parishes. Mass is held before each Sunday home game at Wrigley Field and is also open to Catholic ballplayers from the Cubs and visiting teams.
“What impressed me the most was that every person in attendance at the Mass wanted to be there. Their faith was tangible, and they were so appreciative to have the opportunity to receive the Eucharist,” Father Romke says. “Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC) is the group that organizes Masses at the ballparks. They were founded in response to St. John Paul II’s initiative to evangelize deeper in the world of sports.”
Father Sean Grismer, assistant principal at Aurora Central Catholic High School, also celebrated Mass at Wrigley Field this year. He got to know Father Masters while considering the priesthood. 
“The first vocations director I spoke to back when I was discerning my vocation was Father Burke,” he says. “We’ve stayed in contact through the years, and when he emailed me about celebrating Mass at Wrigley, I jumped at the opportunity.”
“I’m not as big of a Cubs fan as Father Romke,” Father Grismer says. “I grew up watching the Chicago White Sox, but I think Father Romke will be happy to know that I’m ‘discerning’ rooting for the Cubs.”
“It was surreal to be in Wrigley Field before it was open to the public,” Father Grismer says. “It was a privileged experience to offer Mass for the athletes and staff and to know that wherever the Body of Christ is gathered, He is also there.”
For Father Romke, the experience was unprecedented. “It was unbelievably exciting to take a worldly thing like baseball and bring our Catholic faith to it in the most powerful way: celebrating the Eucharist at Wrigley Field,” he says.
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