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Message from the President

Surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses

Dr. Joseph D. Hollowell

Two state championship games. Two state championship records. No, I am not talking about bases-loaded hits in the bottom of the ninth. I am not talking about interceptions at the goal-line that are returned for touchdowns. I am talking about state records that, in many ways, tell you about one of the most important aspects of what I love about Roncalli. The last two times Roncalli teams have played in the IHSAA state finals – the baseball State Championship in the spring and the football State Championship several weeks ago – state record crowds were in attendance. And those record crowds were driven by the extraordinary turnout of Roncalli students, families, fans, alumni, and friends.

It started in the spring when our athletic director David Lauck had to go back to the IHSAA office not once but twice to get more presale tickets for our baseball fans who were buying them faster than we could get re-supplied with more. David’s last trip took every last ticket they had on hand. The end result was that the Roncalli Rebels played in front of the largest crowd ever to watch a high school baseball game in Indiana! Conservative estimates were that three fourths of the fans were there to support the Rebels. Roncalli fans got their money’s worth as the Rebels captured a pulsating extra-inning State Championship win over the 10th ranked team in the country!

Building on the legacy of our baseball fans, the recent appearance in the football state finals bore certain similarities. Prior to the game the Friday after Thanksgiving, when Mr. Lauck turned in our presale ticket monies, IHSAA officials informed him that Roncalli had sold more than twice as many tickets as any of the other 11 schools in the state finals! If you had the opportunity to be there for the game, or perhaps see it on TV, you know that our crowd dwarfed all of the others that were in attendance. Driven by the extraordinary turnout of our supporters – for the second time in as many State Championships – Roncalli fans were a part of the largest crowd to attend the football state finals since the tournament moved to a six-class format.

On the morning of our state finals appearance in football, I had the opportunity to attend the pregame Mass with our players and coaches in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. My son, Fr. John Hollowell, a State Championship competitor himself during his years as a Roncalli football player, had been asked by Coach Scifres to celebrate Mass with the team that day. During Fr. John’s homily, he reflected on one of the readings of the day which was from the 12th Chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews. Fr. John reminded our players that just as the author of Hebrews encouraged the Christians of that time to take heart by recalling that they are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” who were heroes of the faith, so our players should be encouraged by the many family members, friends, loved ones, and alumni who would be there supporting them in prayer and with their noisy and fanatic presence. Fr. John said “Listen for those shouts of encouragement from those who love you. Feel the power of the prayers for all who would be surely praying for you to do your best.”

The turnout and support of the Roncalli Family made the words of Fr. John seem prophetic. The Roncalli crowd stretched from one end zone to the other in Lucas Oil Stadium. And when it was needed most, as the game got within one touchdown in the fourth quarter and our undefeated opponent got nearer to scoring a touchdown which would have given them their first lead of the game, the Rebel throng rose to a deafening roar of encouragement for our players. As the roar reached its fever pitch, the Roncalli defense responded with an interception and long return that sent the place into an absolute frenzy - not unlike the frenzy that broke out with a two-out bases–loaded single in the bottom of the ninth at Victory Field five months before. The great crowd of witnesses was once again celebrating! It is both fun and deeply satisfying to be a part of a Championship team. “Satisfying fun” is what former Roncalli head football coach Bill Kuntz called it. However, it is even more fun and more satisfying to be a part of a family that loves and supports one another. That love, support, and encouragement has been at the heart of what I have loved most about the past 38 years of my time here at Roncalli.

Thank you for surrounding our students with love. Thank you for being there for them when they need you most – whether it be at a big game, in moments of nervousness before a concert, or in the middle of a late evening when they are studying for that important Math test. You know when they need you. Your sacrifices, support, and love of our students fits a tradition worthy of our faith and spoken of in Sacred Scripture.

Thanks to all who are part of that great cloud of witnesses that surrounds our students with love and encouragement!

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