St. John Chrysostom once wrote, "Not to enable the poor to share in our good is to steal from them and deprive them of life. "
While I'm not sure if San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbough has ever considered this thought, it apparently has not been lost in his charity.
The first year NFL head coach just returned from a missionary trip to a small town in Peru, where the majority of the population is lives in poverty.
Harbough, who is Roman Catholic, visited
Piura, Peru with a group of U.S. volunteers to help the 1400 peasant
families of the village.
An article in the Catholic New Agency on Tuesday reports that the consensus 2011 NFL Coach of the Year, after guiding his team to a 13 win and 3 loss season and leading them to their first NFC Championship Game since 1997, not only helped build about twenty homes and provide food for the neediest of the needy, with the group, but also spent a little time teaching the kids about the game that has been and continues to be a large part of his life:
It's not every day that children in
, learn to play American football from the coach of a National Football League team. Piura, Peru
Jim Harbaugh, the head coach of the
San Francisco49ers, told CNA that impromptu lessons with the kids during a recent eight-day trip to the town brought him joy.
Harbaugh was one of several
U.S.volunteers who traveled in June to Piura– a small town nearly 600 miles north of Lima– to help the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish with its daily ministries to the poor.
The parish's outreach includes a women’s shelter, an orphanage, a drug rehabilitation center, a hospice facility and, most recently, tuition-free Catholic school for kindergarten through eleventh graders.
“It’s incredible the amount of work they do and they joy that they do it with,” Harbaugh said, noting that more than 60 percent of
Piura’s population live in poverty and over 20 percent in extreme poverty.
The coach said he first learned about the mission trip through friends at St. Raymond's, his parish in
Menlo Park, Calif.
Now, four years and three trips later, Harbaugh said he has seen Most Blessed Sacrament become a “very vibrant and growing parish.”
“I’ve always been struck by the attendance and the joy they have for Mass,” Harbaugh said, adding that the pews are filled with faithful at daily evening Masses. “You can only describe that as the fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
|Harbough with a boy in Piura, Peru|
The 15 year former NFL quarterback, who was a number one pick for the Chicago Bears in 1987, has been involved in the sponsorship program, titled Santisimo Sacramento, and organized by the pastor of the Most Blessed Sacrament parish and school, Father Joe Uhen, who grew up in
Milwaukee, encourages American families “adopt” a family in Peru, by supplying scholarships to its Catholic school, food and basic housing needs.
The 48-year-old coach, who is a husband and father of five children, decided to adopt a family and when he heard about the mission, he decided to go.
The experience of serving God by serving the least and most vulnerable, and seeing that despite their hardships and deplorable living conditions, they remain devout, hopeful and Godly, was so profound that he has already gone two more times, including this month. In fact, he says the missionary trips have changed him forever.
“The doors that God will open for you by the people you meet or by the circumstances you’re in (allow) your character to be shaped and your spirit to grow,” he said. “Those kinds of doors are opened for (me) here.”
Harbough says he plans to continue taking trips to Peru in the future.
In the Letter of James, it states that faith without works is dead, and if you can measure a man by the love he gives, then through his work for the less fortunate in Piura, Harbough is showing the true sense of faith and love, by, as St. John Chrysostom wrote, enabling others to share in the good that God has given him...