Among the perks that come with being in charge of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center on campus is serving as chaplain of the Bay Area-bound Illini football team.
The Dec. 30 Redbox Bowl won’t be the Rev. ROBERT LAMPITT’s first time on the sidelines. Prior to his three seasons counseling Lovie Smith’s Illini, he held the same role as chaplain of the High School of St. Thomas More for five years.
What’s been the biggest highlight of the season for you?
Besides the big wins against Wisconsin and Michigan State, a highlight has to be the growth of this team and their resilience despite the various setbacks. But most of all, for me personally, the greatest highlight has been getting to know some of the players more personally and seeing them not only engage the sport but also their faith.
What’s your pregame message for the team?
My Sunday evening homily will probably try to connect the manner in which we prepare to live virtuously (Colossians 3:12-17) with the manner in which we prepare to do a task well — a football game, for example. Rather than focus on the significance of a particular game, I always try to connect a scripture reading to something practical in both life and on the field.
What goes into a trip like this for you?
I simply want to be available to players and coaches. I’m there to support them. Sometimes, that’s by being a quiet and calming presence, sometimes it’s by cheering, sometimes it’s by offering counsel.
I’ve not had the opportunity to travel much with the team — something I hope to change next year — so I look forward to building upon the relationships already established and then establishing trust with those I’ve not yet gotten to know.
I just want the men to know that I truly am here for them, no matter their needs.
Tell us about your sports background growing up.
I think, like a lot of little boys, I liked playing sports. My favorites were baseball, soccer and basketball. My best sport was basketball, but honestly, I wasn’t good enough to play any of them in high school.
I ran cross-country and track instead, but our teams weren’t very good. By far, I love watching Cardinals baseball. I never grow tired of that.
As for football, I really only became interested in it when I was chaplain at the High School of Saint Thomas More. My first year, we enjoyed a perfect regular season.
I definitely enjoyed our team Masses and standing on the sidelines and cheering the boys on. That definitely prepared me for my duties on campus.
Who’s the most powerful speaker you’ve heard?
I’ve heard a lot of great speakers, some famous and some not. One I enjoy listening to regularly is Bishop Robert Barron, the Chicago native turned auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles.
I first heard him speak back in 1999 when he was essentially a nobody and I was just a junior in college. He blew me away and I knew I’d be hearing more from him. So it’s been fun to follow his career and his rise to prominence.
When do you leave for California, and what sights are you most looking forward to seeing?
We leave on December 26. Honestly, I am most interested in seeing my brother and his family who live in the area. I enjoy traveling, so just being in a different city and a slightly different culture is always educational.