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Evansville, Indiana
May 30, 1997     The Message
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May 30, 1997
 

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,3 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana hes for Life Alban, Sister Mary I Matthew honored by former students Message m the Message were Father. of Saint and former at St. and igburg, is afflicted with an insidi- its victims came to Langley of eighth Tom was a on the 1954 basketball pectac- under the °fFather Alban. Langley had starters meet at Saint let together as a time before of that , completely." e Opportuni- their beloved Benedic- fine Sister Mary Matthew Baehl of the Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand. The five arrived• at Saint Meinrad on May 2, and were lodged in the Gessner House, a perfect gathering place for its home-like atmosphere for remi- niscing. The five sat around' the kitchen table and swapped sto- ries, laughed freely at memo- ries, and cried tears of love and gratitude. And in the process, they discovered that they were more than just former team- mates, that Father Alban had been more than just a coach and that Sister Matthew had been more than just a teacher. They were family. Thanks, Coach The next day, the team had the chance to meet again with Father Alban -- and what a reunion it was! Although the men were appre- hensive about whether Father Alban would remember them, their fears evaporated as hugs were exchanged and memories flowed. More than 40 years later, names and events came back as if they were yesterday. It was a day full of old photos, stories of resents a plaque to Benedictine Father Alban coached the 1954 basketball School, Evansville. mentioning... reported error, the husband of Mary Alice Zarella in the Bishop's Forum, May 23. Mary Lister of the late Msgr. William Lautner. Her The Message regrets the error. degrees of Theology awarded Master's degrees Donald Lamkin, a student for the priest- of Evansville, received a Master of Arts receiving degrees in absentia was Master of Theological Studies. of Huntingburg and Eric Weidenbenner of students to graduate from St. Meinrad and Weidenbenner received a Bache- in history. funds was earned for schools in the Diocese of from "The Tradition" affinity credit office of stewardship and devel- one percent ofcharges by credit card users sch(x)ls. g the deaneries in accord with the credit card users within the deaneries: East, $1,168 to Evansville West, $528 to burgh, $322 to Princeton, $239 to Vin- ;hington. boys in their formative years, new revelations about friends and family, and the creation of new, treasured memories. While acknowledging that St. Ben's football team, coached by Father Alban that season, was also undefeated, they spent most of their time on the glories • of the basketball team. They recalled various victo- ries, including the two wins over Memorial's freshmen team. They remembered blowing out the team from St. John, Newburgh, even though Father Alban benched his starters ten minutes into the game. He even made the replacements avoid defense until the other team crossed the center line. And finally, there was that thirtieth win against St• Joseph, Dale. Fath6r Alban admitted that he really wanted his team to win that game, but couldn't remember if they did. Forward Joe Nichols of Evansville leaned in toward him and smiled, "Father, we dusted them!" It was most fitting that the team had a Mass together that day, con-celebrated by Father Alban and his ordination class- mate, Benedictine Father Eric Lies. The players remember fondly how important their faith and the community of St. Bene- dict were to them -- in the 1950s and today. Says Guard Bix Kroener of Los Angeles, "We came from a culture where we made a com- mitment to teamwork and to each other -- and to our faith. We were altar servers and went to communion every day. We said the rosary regularly and went to confession once a week. Our lives; and the lives of our" families and everyone we knew, revolved around St. Benedict." Later in the day, the team took FatherAlban to a feast at a local restaurant, and then pre- sented him with some memen- tos of their affection. Presented by team captain, Center John Stuckey, of Bloomington, the gifts were commemorations of the 1954 season's excellence. First, Father Alban received a framed photo of the 1954 team. Then he received a blue ribbon and a "State Champi- onship" medal signifying recog- nition for the team's success• Each team member received a matching medal. Finally, they presented Father Alban with a plaque that stated, "Awarded to Coach Fr. Alban Berling, O.S.B., 1954 Indiana State Champions, St. Benedict's. With Love, from the team, May 3, 1997" Each ofthe starters was Tom Langley, John Stuekey, Bix Kroener, Joe Nichols and Jim Hunt are reunited with their eighth grade teacher Benedictine Sister Mary Matthew Baehl. listed. "It's a few years late," winked Stuckey, "but I'm so honored and pleased that we could give this to him." Intermingled in the "war sto- ries" were recollections of the influence that FatherAlban had on his students. Guard Jim Hunt, who lives in Lexington, Ky., noted that Father Alban was always there for him while they were in school and in the passing years. I wrote to him when I had important decisions to make, seeking advice," Hunt says. "He always took the time to talk with me or to write back. These weren't necessarily life-altering decisions, but having him as a source of advice certainly changed my life. I'll always be indebted to him." That was one point on which the team members agreed: Father Alban was there for them -- and for many others -- when they were 13 and in the years since. "Whenever we'd be back in Evansville visiting family, we'd look Father Alban up," smiles Kroener. Langley agrees, noting, "Father Alban always seemed to know what was new in our lives. He kept up with us. And I think that's wonderful." We knew you loved us, Sister Later on Saturday, the men had the chance to rekindle their relationships with Sister Mary Matthew, who joined them around the kitchen table at Saint Meinrad. As with Father Alban, there were stories and laughter, and some very touch- ing moments. John Stuckey expressed why it was so important to him to have the chance to share impor- tant memories with his mentor. "I've coached kids for years and People we care about... Following is a feature in the Message, designed to help draw together the People of God in southwestern Indiana. Readers are invited.to submit information about people who may ben- efit by some extra prayers and attention. • Prayers are requested for the quick recuperation of Margie Williams of Washington, who underwent back surgery on May 29 at St. Mary's Medical Center, Evansville• She is the sister of Paul Newland, Message advertising rep- resentative. Please send information for PEOPLE WE CARE ABOUT to Mary Ann Hughes, The Message, P.O. Box 4169, Evansville, IN 47724. when you do something like that, you wonder if you're get- ting across to them• And you feel 10 feet high when they come back and say 'I enjoyed it and I really appreciate it.' And that's what I'm doing for Sister today." One special memory that Jim Hunt wanted to acknowledge was Sister Matthew's periodic notes of encouragement. "For a long time," Hunt laughs, "I thought I was her favorite because she'd send these little personal notes. Looking hack, I know she sent them t, all ef us. And it meant so much t me, and was so effective and appreci- ated. that I use those notes now in my sales business, l know ho encouragement or thanks." Sister Mary Matthew is still teaching, inspiring confinnation classes at St. Ferdinand Church, Ferdinand and Sacred Heart, Schnellville. And the men, some now grandfathers, know she's providing as much love to these students as she always has m her nearly 50 years of ministry. Joe Nichols remarked, "There something about the Bene- dictines and their work ethic that's tied in with love. We knew they loved us, and that experi- ence was intertwined in our lives as boys and remains with us today. * As the recollections among the former teammates contin- ued long into the night, the) kept coming back to one simple truth: Who they are as meu husbands, fathers, successful businessmen amt active laymen in their parishes -- has been greatly enhanced by the sup- port, encouragement and love given to them as youngsters by the nuns and priests of St Bene- dict Church. They believe strongly that their long and fulfilling mar- riages and loving families are a direct result of what they learned as children. Tom Langley sums it up as, "honesty, loyalt; respect, respon- sibility, caring, gentlemanly behavior, and encouragement. In short, teamwork." The team nods in agreement as the observation is made that the)' were coached in many ways by Father Alban on the court and in their free time. and by Sister Ma" Matthew in the classroom and as they learned to be good altar scrapers. There is no doubt: these were lessons, given in love, that prepared thera.fr life.-.., f..'..'_'.'..