ARLINGTON, Va. – It was in 2002 that Father Jack Peterson was given the charge by a local Bishop of becoming an Assistant Chaplain at Marymount University.
But Father Jack went beyond the call of duty, immersing himself as well into the fabric of student athletes and coaches in the Saints program.
"I have a special place in my heart for athletes and spending time and encouraging them," says Father Jack, who played baseball at Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington and at George Washington University in the early 1980s. "And I enjoy the opportunity to share the faith with them as well. I think athletes and faith go well together and I think the two of them have helped shape me."
When Father Jack came to MU, the athletic director was Bill Finney, who was also a very successful head women's basketball coach at the school.
"He kind of worked his way into athletics in that he was always around," recalls Finney, who is now retired and lives in South Carolina. "He was always doing good things for our athletes. He was always a welcome sight to see. The athletes really appreciated what he did."
"He just did a great job bringing spirituality to the athletes," Finney adds. "I think we were unique at Marymount that we had that resource that helps all of our athletes. I don't think that was happening at other campuses. He loved to come and watch the games and be a part of it."
Father Jack estimates he was on hand "for hundreds" of sporting events at Marymount. Father Jack also attended Homecoming festivities, Special Olympics, Marymount Athletic Hall of Fame ceremonies and other campus-wide programs.
"My best memories was some of the work that I did with the athletes," he recalls. "We ran an athletes Bible study for many years and then that morphed into something we called 'Time Out For Christ.' That would probably be my greatest memory, and the things that I learned from my students."
Father Jack was able to watch as Jamie Reynolds, a 2003 graduate, went from being a standout lacrosse player at Marymount to eventually the current Director of Athletics at the school.
"That was a very exciting process to watch happen for sure," he said.
Father Jack got to know Ashlee Rogers when she was a basketball player at Marymount and later performed her and Chris Roger's wedding ceremony in Maryland. Now, Ashlee is the Head Women's Basketball Coach at MU and Chris is the Head Men's Basketball Coach.
Some of the MU student athletes have gone on to be missionaries. One of them is Rachel Sybor, a former goalie for the women's lacrosse team who spent three years in Africa.
Jon Reynolds, the Head Men's Lacrosse Coach at MU, said Father Jack was a constant figure around the North Arlington campus.
"He was a guy who was exceedingly welcoming," Reynolds notes. "You saw him at everything: basketball, lacrosse. He was very active, and just being there for the students. You could sense his genuineness as being part of these students."
Father Jack ended his 15-year run at Marymount earlier this year and has continued his role as Director of Mission and Development for Youth Apostles, a job he has held since April of 2016. Youth Apostles is a community of women and men who partner with young people and help draw them closer to Christ. Father Jack is also the Youth Apostle Consultant with a new youth ministry at St. Bernadette parish in Springfield.