Of the 109 presentations happening for Saint Mary’s University’s annual Celebration of Scholarship April 22, no two were alike.
Presentations ranged from studying the effect of overexpression of TBX4 on centrosome amplification and micronuclei in MCF10A Cells, to analyzing the Louisville Slugger production supply chain, to examining racial profiling in police investigations.
When Mark Schumacher decided on a presentation topic, the Cardinal basketball athlete and senior theology major looked for a way to combine his two passions.
At first, he considered taking a pessimistic look at modern professional sports. In a world filled with sports-related headlines spotlighting exorbitant pay, misconduct, and exploitations, Schumacher decided to focus on the papal view of sport.
His adviser admitted to being skeptical, Schumacher said. On everyone’s mind was the question, “What does theology have to do with sports?”
It turns out—everything.
The Perham, Minn., native examined the papal perspectives on sports as avenues for human and social development from the 1890s to the present.
He called his presentation “The Popes on Sport.”
Pope John Paul II spoke about athletics many times, Schumacher said. The Pope alluded to the fact that when athletics are practiced the right way, athletes develop strength, proficiency, resistance, and harmony—in addition to loyalty, courage, endurance, tenacity, and brotherhood.
“Sports, in fact, can make an effective contribution to peaceful understanding between peoples and to establishing the new civilization of love,” Pope John Paul II said.
Schumacher further used as an example how Pope Francis took a photo with members of the Italy and Argentina football squads at the Vatican. Pope Francis tasked the players to foster the “beauty, generosity, and camaraderie” that sport can produce. He went on to say, “Sport is a school for peace—it teaches us how to build peace.”
In another viewpoint, Pope Pius XII, Schumacher said, voiced his belief that if players are not showing justice, it isn’t fun, it isn’t fair, and it is not a sport.
Following graduation this May, Schumacher—who was named Saint Mary’s Outstanding Senior Male—hopes to coach at a high school level, as well as work in a campus ministry office and possibly teach theology.
“For me (this topic) was a personal interest,” Schumacher said. “I’ve been a lifelong athlete, and I wanted to see what the Church has said and why. If my students have issues, this is one of the ways that I want to relate to them, so I can listen and give feedback based on their experiences—using my experiences but also the wisdom of the Church.”
To see photos from the day, go to smumn.edu/photos.