Sunday, February 16, 2020

Morgan Wootten: More than a Coach, a Fellow Parishioner

In the wake of Kobe Bryant's sudden and tragic passing, the world lost another basketball legend: Morgan Wootten. Coach Wootten might not be a household name here on the left coast, but for those who love the hardwood and especially those in, near and around the Beltway it certainly is, it was. Those who knew Wootten, most likely remember him as a coach who won 33 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships and coached more than a dozen NBA players. Others may recall that his overall record of 1,274-192 and multiple national titles earned him a spot in the Naismith Hall of Fame, I would however, like to point out that for the folks at St. Mark's in Adelphi he was something else....possibly something more...a fellow parishioner.
Dr. Daniel McMahon, the principal of DeMatha Catholic High School brought this to my attention when I extended condolences for this loss. He wrote
Thanks so much. I grieve but I was Morgan's colleague for many years, a fellow parishioner, and I worked in the program for five years as assistant JV basketball coach. I was sooooooo lucky to have him in my life. An extraordinary life, faithfully lived. And, I suspect that I am one of the few people who ever wrote a letter of recommendation FOR Morgan--though I know he wrote thousands for others. 
Though principal since 2000, I'm sure Dan would first tell you that he has taught English at DeMatha for 35 years. When I spoke to the Washington Catholic Athletic League last January, Dan penned the most thoughtful introduction I have ever heard. He is gifted with both the pen and with prose. Therefore, I wasn't surprised that he informally wrote the briefest of tributes in this way. I knew they were colleagues and that he would relate to Coach in many ways—I just didn't suspect it would be as a fellow parishioner.
As a member of a parish, I understand what that means and the value in that title. To know a person as a fellow parishioner means that you are united through a community of faith. You offer the same prayers, sing the same songs, hear the same homily and profess one creed. It means your bonds, your connection and rooted in God's love and mercy. In the past, it meant that you saw this person and their family on a weekly basis. It means you might know their habits—where they sit, Do they arrive on time? a little late? Do they go away in the summer? Today it means that I know a person and their family—sometimes directly, many times indirectly by showing up to share the sacraments and hear the Word of God (weekly, bi-monthly etc). We weather the storms of life—personal and public tragedies and loss together and rejoice in God's gracious gifts and abundant blessings with one another.

I worry that people my age and young may not recognize the value having a parish...in knowing others as fellow parishioners and as being one to others. I write this post because I believe Coach Woot
ten ought to be honored for not only being a great coach, but from what I read a great man of faith. I will let those who know him at St. Mark's share more.
On Valentine's Day, I opened my friend's annual holiday card to read (after the introduction) that they too find joy and value in a parish....in being parishioners. Alicia wrote:
2019 was full of fun adventures. Our parish, St. Agnes, celebrated 125 years in the Haigh Ashbury. We are so blessed to have found such an inclusive, diverse and compassionate spiritual home. To kick off the celebration we had a block party with food trucks, rides and a talent show and then the big Gala which allowed Nelson to dust off our dancing shoes and fancy clothes. It was an amazing event with friends, food and entertainment.
St. Agnes has been a spiritual home for my family too. My grandparent's funeral masses took place at what is now a Jesuit parish; my cousin Kristi was married at this church, too. Although my parish is St. Vincent de Paul in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, I am grateful that both of these parishes aim to strengthen and bolster a community of faith in the City of St. Francis. 

UCLA basketball legend John Wooden called Morgan Wootten the greatest basketball coach on any level. “I stand in awe of him,” Wooden said. He will not be forgotten in sports or in spirituality.

Photo Credits
Funeral
DeMatha
Bus

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