PRIEST INTEGRATES FAITH INTO ROUTINES OF STUDENT-ATHLETES
Father Martin Latiff is so soft-spoken, you have to lean in to hear every word. It’s not a voice one might associate with the cacophony of sports, where athletes shout to each other, coaches yell out directions, and crowds cheer. But it’s the perfect tone for a university chaplain who guides student-athletes in weekly ethical leadership training sessions that include Bible study, called Pizza with Padre.
Using the platform of sports as a way to transmit the faith, Latiff discusses the gospel for the upcoming Sunday with the athletes, and then presents a different virtue that they can focus on the following week.
“In the reality of sports, you need constancy, perseverance, resolution, determination, a good spirit of camaraderie, patience, kindness, charity, selflessness — all the virtues that help a team do better,” he says.
Pizza with Padre, a name the athletes came up with, doesn’t concentrate solely on sports, however. The group talks about “their spiritual growth, their closeness with Christ and how they can integrate the faith into everything they do,” Latiff says. Topics range from academics to life in the residence halls to friendships and family.
It’s not surprising Latiff connects with students through sports. Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he grew up playing rugby and tennis, but he was particularly attracted to nature-based activities such as hiking, biking and rock climbing. Not only did he find God in the outdoors — in the trees, the lakes and the trails in the foothills of the Andes Mountains — but he also enjoyed the fun and challenge of hard physical activity.
Latiff belongs to the order of Miles Christi, a religious congregation of priests and brothers. It was at their request that he came to the U.S. in 2001, at the age of 24, to study theology in Michigan. Later, after he had been ordained as a priest, the order started a new house in San Diego and invited him to head west. It didn’t take him long to say yes.
A university chaplain at USD for the past four years, Latiff has found other ways to reach out to students besides sports. At Founders Chapel every Tuesday at 8:30 p.m., he welcomes students to join him in a reflection and meditation.
Teaching — and teaching the faith — is what he loves to do. “What really helped me decide on the priesthood was the opportunity of caring and educating others in a very personal way.” — Bonnie Nicholls