With the Winnipeg Jets training camp in full swing, the Manitoba Moose preparing for their own camp, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers continuing their march towards the playoffs it's an especially busy time of year for one Winnipegger: the players' pastor.
Lorne Korol is the Chaplain of all three sports teams. "It is a busy time," Korol says. "I'm really blessed that last week was a bye week for the Bombers and so I was able to be fully present at Jets training camp." He says he saw most of the Moose players there as well as many of the top prospects attend training camp with the NHL club.
Korol leads chapels for the players who often find it difficult to attend regular worship services with a sports team's hectic schedule. He walks through life alongside the athletes and other members of the organizations, and their families, just like any other pastor.
"Often, the term I use, when I talk to the team in the start of the year is, 'Sometimes real life gets in the way of pro sports,'" Korol says in explaining that professional athletes are just like any other person. Often they are dealing with sick family members or children, stresses at home, and a variety of other issues just like anybody else.
"You try and walk through it with them just like you would with anybody," Korol says. He's even done five funerals over the past few years for people within the Blue Bombers organization, including former players. "It's not all doom and gloom. I've done some weddings, too. But, you try to be there for the teams in these situations ... these are moments when God can intervene in the depth of the pain that people have and if I can walk alongside them, and help point them up vertically instead of horizontally then that's part of my role."
Korol's wife, Heather, has also begun leading groups for players wives and girlfriends over the past few years. Korol also leans on the athletes themselves to help lead the groups. Mark Scheifele and Drake Nevis are the chapel leaders for the Jets and Bombers respectively. He says the players are role models in faith.
"If you listen to Drake Nevis speak for any more than a minute or two, you can't help but be encouraged to try and become a better person. He'll speak to truth, and encouragement, into your life."
Meet the players & hear their stories of faith
While people might hear "pastor to professional athletes" and think then that Korol has a contract from the teams to minister to the players, he actually raises 100 per cent of his income and expenses himself each year. "It's a God-sized task," he says, "but God has been really good in helping us to do that and each year He amazes us."
Each year Korol hosts a "Pro Sports & Faith Night." It's a chance to meet a lot of the players like Scheifele and Nevis, share a meal with them, and hear them talk about their faith. It's also a fundraiser for Korol's ministry.
This year's event is taking place at the Fort Garry Hotel on Saturday, September 28. Tickets are $100 and tax receipts are provided (less the cost of the meal per CRA regulations). Korol says it's a great way to make it a part of your annual giving as well as getting a chance to meet your favourite athletes.
For tickets, contact Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204.223.5546. The deadline for tickets is Friday, September 20.
You can find more info here.