Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fundraising Appeal For Chicago Marathon Team Our Lady of the Angels

This is only the second blog post I've written that has nothing to do with gaming. The non-gaming posts thus come to roughly 3% of the total. I promise to keep it that way.

It's also a fundraising appeal, not for me but from me as a member of the 2014 Our Lady of the Angels Chicago Marathon Running Team. 100% of the money goes to support the work of the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels on Chicago's West Side.

If a fundraising post annoys you, I completely understand. Come back for my next gaming post. No hard feelings. I say that sincerely.

In a moment, I'll say a little bit about the Mission. But first, the mechanics of what's going on: Team OLA (as we call ourselves) are a group of runners of all abilities and talents that are running the Chicago Marathon on October 11th to support the work of the Mission. The team includes three women religious, four priests, at least one seminarian and about sixty laypeople. Each us has pledged to raise at least $1,000. Since I've been recovering from injuries on and off for the last four months--two knee surgeries in the last two years--before being confident of my health a week or so ago, I haven't been actively fundraising (for fear I'd let the donors down if I didn't run). So my active push is starting today--with only ten days to go. I'll have my work cut out for me on those 26.2 miles. But I also have a lot to do in the next ten days. To be honest, I'm not worried about finishing as I've run ten marathons in the last ten years. But I want to make my fundraising goal and more. It's going to be hard, but with God's help and perhaps yours, I can do it.

I have a bit more to say about the Team and the Mission, but first, here are some links:

Donate to Team Member Oakes Spalding (I know it says "to" but it's going to the Mission)

Here's a picture of a dorky runner:

Now, here's some more information on the Team and the Mission:

The Team is led led by Sister Stephanie Baliga--a track star in college, who while nursing a broken foot felt the call to a religious vocation. She has been associated with the Mission for a number of years, but took her final vows last year.

Sister Stephanie is one of the most devout people--female or male--that I have ever met. For those of you interested in these sort of things, she and the other women religious on the team wear relatively modest attire--including a kerchief and light skirt. I say that only to point out that their obligations to remain faithful to their role as religious representatives, outweigh all other considerations.

Sister Stephanie is also fast. She will be starting in the Elite Corral for the marathon and hopes to break three hours.

She also has a million zillion friends. I still don't quite understand how or where they come from (college, I assume, for one). But if your mental picture of a nun (or priest) has ever been at least in part that of a lonely or shy person or whatever, you've never met Sister Stephanie.

Here's a video piece that a Chicago TV Station did last year on 'The Running Nun.'

The Mission of Our Lady of the Angels is located in Chicago's West Humboldt Park area--one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago. It's led by Father Bob Lombardo of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. The mission is to assist the materially poor and to share the treasure of the Catholic Faith.

Assistance to the poor includes a monthly food pantry that serves about 700 families each month, distribution of clothing and household goods, emergency assistance to individuals and families in need, after school programming, senior citizens programming, community dinners and special events.

The explicitly religious aspect includes retreats, street evangelization at Mission organized summer block parties, preaching by Father Lombardo at Catholic and Christian venues, summer Bible camps and Eucharistic adoration.

As a personal aside, for those Catholics or non-Catholics depressed or annoyed at the political disputes seemingly raging within the church at the value of the 'practical' versus 'explicitly religious' (or whatever you want to call it) aspects of the Church's mission, the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels is a great example of how that's really a false choice. You can (and should) do both. So, for example, you can provide food to the poor (who, incidentally, at the moment are virtually all non-Catholic--also believe me, its a ton of food) while at the same time having daily Eucharistic adoration (at a small but often full chapel featuring mostly young men and women).

On a final and more sober note, as some of you may know, the current Mission is the resurrected form of the old mission and church at the same site. In the mid-twentieth century it was one of the largest and most active parishes in Chicago. Then, in 1958 there was a horrific fire in the school. 95 people perished (92 children and 3 sisters). It was one of the worst disasters in modern Chicago history. Partly due to the fire but for other reasons as well, the church, school, parish and neighborhood began a long decline. The parish and school officially closed in the 1990's.

In 2005 Cardinal George asked Father Lombardo to re-establish the Mission, and it's been growing since then. Among other things, after many years of work, the beautiful church on the site, which like many others in Chicago was on the list to be demolished, was restored.

As you've probably figured out by now, I think it's a great cause. If you'd like to help, you can support Team OLA in at least four ways:

1. Donate to our fundraising effort. (We only have ten more days!) Here again is the link to my fundraising page.
2. Share the blog post link or the link I will create on Google+ with those who you think might have the interest and means to support us.
3. Cheer us on at Marathon day, October 11th. Most of us will be wearing light blue Team OLA T-shirts.
4. Pray for the Mission and the runners. Each team member has an individual assigned to pray for us, but the more the better!

Finally, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at

Cheers and God bless you!



  1. Very cool!

    My father was quite the marathon runner in his younger days having run multiple times both the New York and Boston. Me? Not so much though I did take up running for about two years while I yet lived in the suburbs. Nowadays work on my farm keeps me somewhat in good shape just so long as I can limit my intake of my wife's excellent cooking.

    I shall commit to doing one or more of those suggestions!

    1. Thanks, Raul!

      Yeah, it's a great group-'liberal' providers of food and services to the neighborhood poor while maintaining regular eucharistic adoration. It's a great example for the rebirth of the Faith in Chicago.

      Yeah, the problem with foofy gym exercise or meaningful farm work is that it makes you more hungry and you feel less guilty about eating. I think your wife and mine must be part of the same conspiracy.