Saving goals and saving souls

March 12, 2008 2:57:47 PM PDT
The Blackhawks are in the race for a playoff spot for the first time in years. And on Wednesday, the hockey team is hosting a charity game pitting some of its alumni against a celebrity team all to benefit the Chicago legal clinic.

It's the biggest legal aid services organization in the region. And it's the brainchild of a man who plays hockey, but more importantly, serves a higher calling.

There's an NHL game in Chicago Wednesday. But people are gathering a lot earlier to watch such Blackhawks alumni as Cliff Korroll and Grant Mulvey play members of the Chicago Master's hockey league in a charity benefit for the Chicago legal clinic.

In goal for the Masters is Tom Paprocki, a lawyer and bishop of the Catholic Church in Chicago. It's an interesting hobby for a guy who started the clinic in law school, which he attended after divinity training. A part of this committed man's approach to saving not only goals, but souls.

Music underscored the message of Bishop Paprocki, a man who on this day is installing a new pastor in Western Springs and invoking Bruce Springsteen's ode to the heroes of 9-11, "Into the Fire" In his prayers to the faithful

"Let's all try that together. May your strength give us strength, may your faith give us faith, may your hope give us hope, may your love gives us love," Paprocki said.

The unity of spirit in that song inspires Bishop Tom, an accomplished theologian whom Francis Cardinal George elevated to bishop in 2003. He says he chose a career in the cloth because of the church's commitment to social justice. And in law school he founded the Chicago Legal Clinic with his schoolmate Ed Grossman. He has played hockey since he was a kid and ranks it among his passions after God and the law.

"Well I hope they get excited about all of them, I try to keep God in all of them," said Paprocki.

"He's quite a learned man. It just amazes me, and when I found out he played hockey I couldn't believe it," said Warren Frolik, parishioner.

The Chicago Legal Clinic is housed in a former school on the South Side. Its 22 lawyers, who are paid well below what they could make elsewhere, serve 15,000 people per year in civil matters. Janice Hawkins is a client who has been allegedly ripped off in a rent-to-own scam.

"They were my voice to speak with this guy, to let him know what you're doing is wrong," she said.

The bishop uses hockey to clear his mind and says it offers lessons for all who strive

"And believe it or not, God is part of hockey too because God gives us the gifts and talents and we try to use those to the best of our ability, too," said Paprocki.