Trust me, being engaged in a photo shoot amidst 94 degree weather and extraordinarily high dew points while wearing several layers of wool is not exactly my idea of a good time. But given Mike Counter's professionalism coupled with Mike McCarthy's good natured-spirit -- even when the heat is on -- last Wednesday was a pretty good time.
I am not sure if this Monday's Press Gazette A1 photo will live on in SNC alum's lasting memory -- as much as the Burke-Lombardi photo is readily recognizable to so many of us -- but I will remember one aspect of this photo shoot for years to come:
Immediately after the shoot, little Katrina Counter (who attends an area preschool while her dad puts the college on the map) came out of school and saw Coach McCarthy and me walking the campus. Once she saw the two of us, she came running with the largest smile a little kid on a hot day could offer. She came running straight into my arms as she said, "Hello, Father Jim!" (The Look on Coach McCarthy's face was priceless.) Katrina's mother, Mary Counter, greeted her young daughter once she returned home, saying, "Katrina, I heard you had quite the day. I understand you met someone pretty special." "You're right," Katrina quipped, "I saw Father Jim today!" ...I simply had to print the truth behind the story. Now if only the Packers, Prisoners and Parishioners would respond with such enthusiasm!
Friends, while I am honored to have known Dennis Maurice Burke, I must state, "I am no Father Burke!" I really enjoyed living with him during the last years of his life. Even at the end, he had a great mind and a clever and witty Irish humor. He was writing to benefactors of the college just prior to his death. In many ways, he died with his boots on. I know that Father Burke was very happy to know that a Norbertine was serving as chaplain to the team he revered as much as his beloved Green Knights; as such, this picture means a lot to me. While I do not share in Father Burke's ambition to become the President of Saint Norbert College, I do hope that I can be as effective in my priesthood as he was, albeit expressed in a variety of different ministries. At the same time, I do hope that Mike McCarthy has a similar success record as did his predecessor, Vince Lombardi. Mike McCarthy is a good man -- a product of a very good, Irish Catholic family: I wish him all the best.
This year will begin with Mike McCarthy returning home to his beloved Pittsburgh. I do not think he plans to return to Pittsburgh as long as Bishop Zubik plans on staying; I simply hope that Mike will head east long enough to get the job done and come back to Green Bay feeling victorious, showing his family and friends what he does best. Given ministerial obligations in the heart of the Superior Diocese this Saturday, I will be missing this year's Pre-Season-Kickoff. But my car radio will be tuned in to route for the team from afar. I hope you'll do the same.
GO PACK GO!
Father James Baraniak, O. Praem.