Chicagoland

Pastor uses 100th triathlon to raise money for his parish

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
August 7, 2018

Pastor uses 100th triathlon to raise money for his parish

Father Robert Schultz, pastor of St. Beatrice Church in Schiller Park, completed his 100th triathlon Aug. 5. 2018, in Glenview. He competed in the Glenview Sprint Triathlon to raise money for projects at his parish. He swam 300 yards, biked 10 miles and ran a 5K at Glenview’s Park Center and nearby neighborhood.
Father Robert Schultz, pastor of St. Beatrice Parish, Schiller Park, runs near the parish grounds on Aug. 2. Shultz competed in his 100th triathlon Aug. 5, 2018, in Glenview. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Robert Schultz, pastor of St. Beatrice Church in Schiller Park, rides his bike in his 100th triathlon Aug. 5. 2018, in Glenview. He competed in the Glenview Sprint Triathlon to raise money for projects at his parish. He swam 300 yards, biked 10 miles and ran a 5K at Glenview’s Park Center and nearby neighborhood. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Robert Schultz, pastor of St. Beatrice Church in Schiller Park, rides his bike in his 100th triathlon Aug. 5. 2018, in Glenview. He competed in the Glenview Sprint Triathlon to raise money for projects at his parish. He swam 300 yards, biked 10 miles and ran a 5K at Glenview’s Park Center and nearby neighborhood. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Father Rob Schultz wants to be an inspiration. He also wants to fix the leaky roofs and foundation at St. Beatrice Parish in Schiller Park, where he has been pastor since 2009.

So when Schultz, 45, signed up for his 100th triathlon, Glenview Park District’s 17th annual Sprint Triathlon Aug. 5, he decided to use the occasion to raise money for the parish. 

Schultz reported that he finished the race in 1:15:27, and he raised $17,000 for maintenance projects at the parish. That far exceeds his $10,000 goal.

“That’s OK,” he said. “There’s plenty of work we need to do.”

Schultz said he knows he’s an unlikely athlete. He was never good at sports as a kid.

“I was terrible at baseball, and I was always picked last in gym class,” he said. He invites parishioners to watch his races so they can see there are plenty of average people like him.

He didn’t even start running until after he was ordained in 2001. His first parish, St. Joseph in Wilmette, hosted a 5K race the following spring, and he signed up to support the community.

“I was like 29, and I thought, three miles, it will be easy,” Schultz said.

It wasn’t.

“I was out of breath and I had to walk part of it,” he said. “I realized how out of shape I was.”

Some parishioners helped him train for another race, and then another, and eventually, he completed a marathon. One of the parishioners suggested that he also look into triathlons. The first one he went to watch was the Glenview Park District triathlon, which coincidentally ended up being his 100th race 11 years later.

Schultz said he wasn’t a strong swimmer, and at first he didn’t want to race in open water. But most of the sprint-distance triathlons — 300-yard swim, 10-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run — have their swim portion in pools.

After his first one in June 2007, “it kind of inspired me,” he said, and he kept going.

He conquered his fear of open-water swimming enough to complete three half-Ironman triathlons — that’s a 1.2-mile open-water swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run. 

He’s done that while maintaining a busy schedule as a pastor. Finding time to train is a challenge, he said. On the busiest weeks, he only trains on his one day off. Most weeks he manages to run and swim two or three times.

“I don’t train on the bike nearly as much as I should,” he said.

Parish council member Marusia Michalowski said Schultz is an inspiration, as well as being very generous. Every time he has done a race as a fundraiser, he turns every penny he raises over to the parish.

“He pays the race fees and for all the equipment out of his own pocket,” she said.

He doesn’t look like an athlete, she said, but that hasn’t stopped him.

“It’s a tremendous physical effort,” she said. “To stand on the sidewalk clapping is easy.”

Schultz said he would like to inspire not only parishioners but his brother priests to start racing, or do something similar, for their physical and spiritual health.

“Try something you think you can’t do,” he said. “This kind of pushes me beyond what my limits are, and I find God there.”

To read Schultz’s reflections on his three half-Ironman races, visit stbeatriceparish.org/staff.

Topics:

  • priests

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