Sports contribute to the love of life, and teach sacrifice, respect and responsibility, leading to the full development of every human person. -St. (Pope) John Paul II
When my oldest son was in grade school, he came home from school on jersey day and said that his friend, Joseph Zimmerman, was wearing a Colts jersey with a player number he wasn’t familiar with at all. Joe claimed, he explained further, that the player in question had a connection to their family and to the parish, St. Louis de Montfort. My Nick wasn’t at all sure that this was correct and he wanted me to check on that suspicious claim…ha?!!
A few days later I ran into Joe’s mom, Tina, and I told her about Nick’s curiosity over that #76 jersey. Tina laughed and said, “Well, you might know the family actually. He’s just been signed by the Colts and his name is Joe Reitz!” I said, “Like Jane and Dave Reitz? How cool is that?” She said, “Yes, their son is going to play for the Colts.” As you can imagine, this news was a hit with the testosterone heavy Thieme household.
It wasn’t long before Joe began holding sports camps every year at SLDM, and the Thieme boys still have pictures of themselves propped in little frames in their bedrooms with Joe from those fun and memorable camps that were filled with a great message about faith, family, academics and sports. His successful career in NFL football (and before that in college hoops) has been well-documented, and if I’m honest, this part of his life has very little to do with the reason I’ve chosen to write about him today. However, because he is a fairly public figure, his words and example are noticed more than most, I’d argue, which is why the following really matters even more.
Joe and his beautiful wife, Jill, are clearly faith-filled people. They have a large family full of gorgeous toe-headed kiddos, and as they were sitting behind me at 9:30am mass this morning at OLMC, I was unable to get an accurate head count without turning around to stare like some kind of weird stalker. The kiddos range from newborn to maybe 7 or 8 years old, if I am a good guesser? They are active and squirrely, as well as respectful and (mostly) quiet. I see this stunning family week after week, usually sitting a few rows in front or behind us near the front of church. I can hear Joe organizing who will sit where, or employing a gentle but firm “shush”. They’ve got the zone defense working every single Sunday morning.
It’s flat out impressive and inspiring to see a large, young family engaged in their faith and consistently attending mass. If others wonder sometimes if coming to mass isn’t a bit inconvenient or a scheduling hassle, there’s the Reitz clan providing a beautiful witness of how it’s supposed to be done by their consistency.
As much as I love the work Joe has done over the years to help fight homelessness, or to encourage sick kids, or to inspire young athletes, what makes him a true man of integrity and character in my mind is the way he honors the Lord by his faithfulness. A high profile, but humble man who loves Christ and who is present AND PATIENT every single week with his gorgeous pew full of children at mass is just plain refreshing and encouraging. It’s easy to see he’s a wonderful dad who has his priorities in order. NICELY DONE, JOE AND JILL REITZ!!