Fr. Patrick Kelly to Present ‘Flow, Sport and Spirituality’ at WJU

The Rev. Patrick Kelly, S.J., Jesuit priest, author and expert on the value of recreational and athletic activity in Christian life, will use the psychological concept of flow to illustrate the connections between sport and spirituality during an upcoming talk at Wheeling Jesuit University.

Fr. Kelly, the author of “Catholic Perspectives on Sports: From Medieval to Modern Times and Youth Sport” and “Spirituality: Catholic Perspectives,” will present “Flow, Sport and Spirituality” at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 22, inside WJU’s Troy Theater. His presentation is free and open to the public.

“We are grateful to be able to host one of the leading Catholic and Jesuit experts on the value of sport and recreation, and its connection to the spiritual life. Fr. Kelly shows that throughout history, Catholics—and Jesuit schools in particular—have championed recreation and sport not just as an optional activity to be tolerated, but as integral to the flourishing of the human person, mind, body and soul. He sees the methods, effects and goals of sport and spirituality to be similar and complementary, when directed properly,” said Jamey Brogan, WJU director of Campus Ministry and Mission and Identity.

Using the flow theory as a starting point, Fr. Kelly will propose during his talk at WJU, concrete ways experiences in sports can lead to human well-being and growth. Sports, he said, also can be understood to have spiritual significance, particularly when considered in dialogue with the spirituality of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.

“The flow theory is one of the most promising psychological theories available for the development of a ‘spirituality of sport.’ This is because of the close attention researchers have paid to the experiences of young people participating in games and sports over the years. Researchers also found some of the basic characteristics of the flow experience – such as living fully in the present moment, a loss of consciousness of oneself, a sense of being part of something greater than oneself and an altered sense of time – are similar to the characteristics of spiritual life as these have traditionally been described by spiritual writers,” Fr. Kelly explained.

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Carrie Hanna, director of Athletic Compliance, said, “We are excited for our student-athletes, coaches and athletics administrators to interact with Fr. Kelly regarding the notion of sport and spirituality. This is a wonderful opportunity to deepen and grow in our understanding of Wheeling Jesuit University’s value of cultivating a healthy mind, body and spirit among our students and deepens our involvement in the NCAA Division II Life in Balance initiative.”

Brogan said, being part of the Jesuit network allowed WJU to host Fr. Kelly, who has spoken on the topic at major conferences in the U.S. and at the Vatican. Last summer, several WJU students heard Fr. Kelly’s talk at the World Union of Jesuit Alumni (WUJA) congress at John Carroll University. The students thought Fr. Kelly would make an important contribution to understanding how sports fit at a Catholic university.

Student Government President Brett Dipuma was one of the students to hear Fr. Kelly’s presentation during that WUJA congress. “I thought that he would be a great person to bring to campus from his studies in flow theory and sports. His talk is something that will resonate with not only athletes, but students who have any hobby. Fr. Kelly is able to show the Ignatian principle of ‘finding God in all things,’ and I believe that anyone would benefit spiritually from listening to him.”

Prior to entering the Jesuits, Fr. Kelly played three sports in high school and was an All-Conference free-safety at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Today, Fr. Kelly is an associate professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Seattle University where he teaches classes in “Sport and Spirituality” and “Religion and Sport in a Global Context.”

He lectures nationally and internationally about sport and spiritual traditions, particularly from a Catholic and Jesuit perspective. In addition, he has worked closely with the Vatican offices that treat the topic of sport, including giving the keynote on “Spirituality and Intercollegiate Athletics” at the conference co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Big East Conference in June 2017 at Villanova University.