Meet Sister Miriam James Heidland

| October 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

Former volleyball coach and radio host is keynote speaker at third annual Archdiocesan Youth Day

Photo courtesy of Sister Miriam James Heidland

Photo courtesy of Sister Miriam James Heidland

Sister Miriam, a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, answers questions about her stint as a college athlete, how she went from reading fashion magazines to fully living the faith, and what she has learned from talking with teenagers nationwide.

Q. You were a college volleyball player. Talk about your background in the sport.

A. I started playing volleyball in middle school and then joined a club team in high school. While I was playing for my club team, I was scouted at a big tournament in Las Vegas. I ended up signing a full scholarship to play for the University of Nevada-Reno, which was at that time in the Big West Conference along with teams like Hawaii, Long Beach State, Pacific and Santa Barbara.

Q. There is a conversion story there, too. Can you offer a snapshot of that?

A. While playing volleyball, I majored in speech communications, and at one time, it was my dream to work someday for ESPN or CNN. I ingested a steady diet of MTV, fashion magazines and partying. I tried to appear as perfect as possible to others, so they wouldn’t notice I was really broken. And I wasn’t ready to look at my brokenness, either. “Perfection” was a facade that hid deep pain, addiction and secrets. It was the kindness of a Catholic priest and the prayers of my mother that instigated my conversion. It was a long process, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I heard Jesus call me to be his bride, and I said yes!

Q. You later became a high school volleyball coach. Did you turn a few heads walking onto the court in a habit?

A. Yes, many people were surprised to see a nun as a volleyball coach. The looks on people’s faces were often humorous.

Q. Did you have trouble convincing your players that you knew a little something about volleyball?

A. The first few days either coaching or playing volleyball with others can be a little awkward, but eventually people can see that I love the game and have a little experience with it.

Q. How does your background in playing and coaching help you connect with youth in the Church?

A. I think it helps people see that I am a real person just like they are. I still love sports and often talk about different sporting events or competitions. Sports can be an excellent path to virtue, learning and self-sacrifice. It’s a great teacher.

Q. What will you talk about when you’re here for Archdiocesan Youth Day?

A. I will talk about authentic happiness, our desire for greatness and God’s incredible love and plan for us as his children.

Q. As you tour the country and talk with students, what do you see on the landscape, in terms of Catholic youth today?

A. I see several things. I see the challenges of a hedonistic society that is waging war against our youth today and that is inundating them with propaganda and lies. I see their tremendous desire for happiness and purpose in life. I see deep questions of what it means to love God, oneself and other people. When I see youth seeking God and being a witness in the world today, it’s very inspiring to me. Young people have so much energy and vision. They will often give of themselves with high ideals and great zeal.

Q. Do you still play volleyball?

A. When I lived in Seattle, I played for many years on a team in the city. It was a lot of fun. Since moving to Texas, I haven’t played in a while, though I am active in other ways.

Q. Any advice for young athletes?

A. Seek excellence in your sport and give yourself fully at practices and at games. Learn the lessons God is trying to teach you in your daily life and have fun. But always remember that sports are not the final goal of our lives. It’s very important to have balance in life. Many times we worship at the altar of sports rather than God. Sports will pass away, God never will.

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Do you ‘thirst for happiness?’

Archdiocesan Youth Day will be from 1:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25 at the Anderson Athletic & Recreation Complex (Field House) on the University of St. Thomas campus in St. Paul.

The event includes music featuring Twin Cities band Sonar, dinner, opportunities for reconciliation and eucharistic adoration, activities and service projects.

For more information, contact your parish’s youth director, or visit the event page on archspm.org.

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