Editor’s note: Legendary NFL coach Don Shula passed away this morning at the age of 90. This article from 2014 looks at his virbant Catholic faith.
His legacy is established as one of the greatest NFL coaches who in the early 1970s twice led his team, the Miami Dolphins, to Super Bowl victories and in one case — 1972 — an unprecedented perfect winning season.
Locals also know the Ohio-born Coach Don Shula for his track record as a community-minded civic leader, businessman, philanthropist and often daily communicant at Mass in south Florida, where he has had long associations with several parishes here and friendships with Miami archdiocesan clergy and bishops alike.
What may be less known to sports buffs is what Don Shula might have become had he not thrown himself into coaching at an early age.
“I was interviewed with him for a network documentary in which he says at one point he wanted to be a seminarian, although that was not included in the final documentary,” said Father Juan Sosa, pastor of St. Joseph Parish on Miami Beach, where Shula has been a longtime parishioner following an equally long affiliation at Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in Miami Lakes.
At St. Joseph Parish, Shula and his wife, Mary Anne, helped the Catholic elementary school there complete a three-story state of the art educational facility with a music room, computer lab and spacious offices. St. Joseph School is now a charter school.
More recently, the Shulas launched a $10,000 annual scholarship endowment fund at the parish which will assist one local family with a child in public schools transition to a Catholic high school in the Miami Archdiocese. The endowment will be in the Shula name and supervised by a parish committee.
It was a good time for the local Catholic community to thank the Shulas, Father Sosa said, noting that the community knows them for their dedication to reconciliation and peace at various times in Miami’s history and for their commitment to Catholic schools.
“Every other organization, the sports world, the business world, the social world of south Florida and even the U.S. President recognized the (Dolphins) team from his era, and many documentaries have been made about him, but I don’t think the church was recognizing him,” said Father Sosa, who joined Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski and the Catholic community recently to honor the Shulas for their philanthropy and leadership in Miami.
Archbishop Wenski presented Shula with a lifetime achievement and appreciation award at a recent parish gala for 150 guests at the Miami Beach Resort, and thanked Shula for his support of Catholic education and in particular for creating the new scholarship fund at St. Joseph Parish.
The archbishop noted that sometimes the priests of the archdiocese humorously refer to him as the ‘Don Shula’ of the local church for his leadership style as archbishop.
Read more at Catholic News Service