By Katie Mathews
It has been 5 years since I embarked on what was to be one year of post graduate volunteer work. I was assigned to be a radio deejay on the Rosebud Reservation in St. Francis, South Dakota. It was a couple days before I was scheduled to leave for orientation, and my dear friend Fr. H.Paul Kim called to say he was going to drive down to Columbus from Cleveland to take me to lunch.
To offer some background, we first met at John Carroll University; I had just finished my undergraduate degree and he had just finished a master’s degree. H.Paul is a man of true wisdom and great faith in God, a person I look up to very much. During lunch that day, I asked him if he had any advice as I prepared to leave.
He smiled, and told me to do 2 things while in South Dakota: pray and run.
During his time in Cleveland and at John Carroll, Fr. H.Paul created “The Living Person” During my senior year, he set a goal to get 125 individuals to commit to run a distance of their choice in the Cleveland Marathon. He encouraged me to register many times, but each time, I explained that running was not for me. Being a competitive swimmer, I told him that me running would be like a fish thrown out of water.
As the race approached, H.Paul asked if I would be interested in volunteering. Water and Gatorade - now that I could handle. On the day of the race, I watched as H.Paul led prayer on the steps of the cathedral in downtown Cleveland with all the “Living Person” runners. I was amazed as the leading men and women passed by, and
I was later inspired by the runners out there with Scripture passages written on their shirts.
What I remember the most about that day is H.Paul’s smile as he ran by me.
Fast forward to that day at lunch, I was instantly filled with dread picturing myself attempting to run. My head was moving a mile a minute wondering if he meant to run and pray at the same time - was it even possible to run and pray at the same time?! I was not sure I could handle remembering to breathe while I ran, let alone adding in a moment of prayer. It was all enough to make me chuckle.
I nodded in response, fully intending to not follow through with his advice.
South Dakota soon proved to be one of the most challenging times in my life. I was living in a very desolate place, and the surrounding poverty weighed heavy on my heart. I actually really enjoyed being on the radio every day, but I also wondered if I was doing any visible good. Being behind a microphone is quite different from the service work I was accustomed to doing.
I cannot remember when exactly, but I decided to try H.Paul’s advice. It started with 10 minutes of running a couple times per week, and slowly, I began to increase the time and distance.
Over time I was able to relax and settle in making the workout a prayerful one.
I would run up and down the endless country roads, through the corn fields, past neighborhoods, and around the old track at the middle school. And on many occasions, I was even joined by a partner or two as the stray dogs followed alongside me.
Despite how good I felt while running, I could feel myself slipping into depression. In November, I made a difficult decision to return home. I was gone only 100 days.
I kept running though and eventually found acceptance in my choice to leave South Dakota.
I continue to run today. It has been just a little more than 5 years since H.Paul first told me to pray and run, but I am continuing to piece together the power that message holds for me.
“You must do 2 things: pray and run.” This advice has enabled me to grow closer to God while bettering myself physically and emotionally. I have learned that the two help me to hold myself in balance.
I am my best self when I run and pray - I feel strong, faith-filled and at peace.
There is a tremendous parallel in my life between exercise and prayer, especially my relationship with God. The two go hand in hand - not just in South Dakota but life in general.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi everyone, my name is Katie Matthews! I live in Cincinnati and am the Director of Campus Ministry at St. Mary's Church working with the college students at Miami University in Oxford. Fr. H.Paul Kim first introduced me to his idea of the Living Person in 2010 when he encouraged me to do two things: pray and run. Since then I've fallen in love with this concept and challenged myself in a variety of ways. I most enjoy swimming, running, yoga, laughing obnoxiously loud, dancing, and all aspects of Ignatian Spirituality.