EWTN’s Skateboarding Priest: ‘Skateboarding Can Be Another Method of Evangelization’
The Register caught up with the on-the-move chaplain in Budapest, Hungary.
Father John Paul Mary Zeller, the employee chaplain for EWTN, has been co-hosting commentary for EWTN’s coverage of the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Budapest, Hungary. He could be seen skateboarding around the event center throughout the week. The Register caught up with Father John Paul at the congress in between events.
He says that skateboarding has been a favorite sport of his since his teenage years.
“I’m a Christian. I’m a Catholic. That’s my identity. I have to say that everything that I did in my life, I did it with 100% passion, whether it was playing basketball, or skateboarding, soccer, baseball, any kind of sport, but particularly skateboarding.
“When I was in seventh grade, I was about 14, until 12th grade, I met a bunch of friends that used to go skateboarding. I really liked it. I found it was something through which I could express myself in many ways. Going to the skate park with my friends, who were very good skateboarders, forced me to get good.”
He sees his skateboarding as a way to evangelize, including at the IEC.
“I think a lot of people approach me because I’m wearing the religious habit in general — I kind of stick out. People might come up to me and talk every now and then. But ever since I come with a skateboard, people are more intrigued.”
He continued, “About one or two months ago, I decided to take it to the Eucharistic Congress in Budapest. I think that God had a plan in mind because I think that people, when they see me carrying that skateboard, it makes them think. I think people approach me more easily, asking who I am, and what the skateboard is, and ‘Do I really skate?’ I tell them: ‘Yeah, why not?’ I may be a priest, I gave my life completely to God, but does that mean that I can’t have fun, that I can’t have a life full of joy?”
He is happy to provide an example of a younger priest for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
“I never thought about a vocation growing up, and most of the priests were older priests. I never really saw a lot of younger priests that were happy. I had my own conversion in 1997, when I was 21. It really ignited in me a fire of curiosity. At that time, I was into cars. Some people may know the movie Fast & Furious. That was literally my life.”
“I think the Lord, in many ways, has been teaching me that, all of the things in my life that I’ve ever done, whether it was with my cars or skateboarding, can be for the glory of God and the salvation of souls,” he remarked. “Obviously, everything that I do as a priest is directed to that. I celebrate the Holy Mass every day. I hear confessions every day. I preach the Gospel every day ... but skateboarding can be another method of evangelization. How many people do you see out there on a skateboard? Not many! It calls people to think.”
He shared how the Olympics that got him back on his skateboard.
“I started watching the Olympics recently, and this was the first time in Olympic history that skateboarding was considered a sport, and just seeing young people skateboarding at the Olympics ignited, as I like to say, the 16-year-old skater in me. I could picture myself doing these things! I was not a professional skater, but I used to be pretty good, for my age group and the time I put in skating. But watching it aroused my curiosity. I thought I could try skating again. Someone sent me the website LoveYourMotherBoard.com. This company, Mother Boards, is based in Colorado. It provides boards with holy graphics, rather than graphics that are demonic or Satanic. Skateboarding can have this reputation that you’re a thug or a vandal, but it is a prejudice.”
Father John Paul is glad to be a beacon on his board, so to speak.
“When I was traveling over here to Budapest, people asked me about the skateboard, and it just initiated conversations.”
Skate on, Father John Paul!
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