The Rev. Ron Raab will not be attending Notre Dame's football game at Air Force this weekend. Truth is, despite earning three degrees from the university, he just never took to the game.
For many, of course, the very name Notre Dame conjures images of football tradition. For many others, Rev. Raab included, Notre Dame is associated instead with the Congregation of Holy Cross, a worldwide religious community within the Roman Catholic Church that founded the university and is based near South Bend, Ind., but has strong ties in the Pikes Peak region.
Men considering the priesthood are sent from Notre Dame to spend a year in Cascade at the Holy Cross Novitiate for study, prayer and contemplation before taking their first vows.
"We are a lot bigger than Notre Dame," said Rev. Raab, who was part of the first class at the novitiate in 1978 and is in his second stint as a pastor at Sacred Heart in Old Colorado City.
"We're worldwide and we're about education, we're about serving the poor, we're about parish ministry and we're about other things."
In the Colorado Springs area, those with ties to the congregation and school helped to rebuild a trail in Garden of the Gods that had eroded after the Waldo Canyon fire and the ensuing floods. They also spend a day each month serving meals at the Marian House, they help the elderly with lawn care and they fill the Thirsty Parrot with their watch parties every time the Fighting Irish play a football game.
Yes, that sport keeps coming up, but Rev. Raab and others in the church don't seem to mind.
"Sports gives us an entry into people's lives," Rev. Raab said. "It opens up different channels for us to help minister among people."
Helping in that area - and in supporting that football team - is the Notre Dame Club of Colorado Springs. The club stretches as far as the New Mexico border to just south of Castle Rock and from Utah to Kansas. It is designated a B-sized club, which places it near the middle of clubs nationwide. Denver's club, by comparison, is an A-sized club and Chicago is in the rare Double-A category. The club is open to graduates and nongraduates, the only stipulation being a devotion to Notre Dame.
To give an idea of just how big the club is, it has sold more than 1,100 tickets to a tailgate party before Saturday's football game.
"What I like to tell people, being a graduate, is that football is what provides a focal point for the community," club president Bruno Mediate said. "But it's from that focal point that we reach out to the greater community."
Mediate's family represents a somewhat sizable chunk of the area's connection to Notre Dame. He is a graduate, his wife, Vicky, is also a graduate and the couple has two children enrolled at Notre Dame after attending The Classical Academy - daughter Emmy is a Notre Dame junior and son Quint is a freshman.
It is believed that about a dozen area students are enrolled at the university, including volleyball player and Pine Creek graduate Simmone Collins.
There are sports again, creeping back into the picture. Truth be told, they really can't be avoided. For another example, the dozen novices in Cascade will take a break from their solemn year of devotion to take in the game Saturday. They will also be on hand for the postgame festivities that will include a Mass led by the Rev. Donald Dilg, C.S.C, an assistant novice master at Cascade and a Notre Dame graduate.
Hotels will be booked this weekend and, in many ways, Notre Dame will come to town. But in many more ways, Notre Dame has been here all along.