Parish 2 Parish Relay builds fellowship, faith

Surrounded by family and friends, runners exchanged greetings as they adjusted to the cool, humid morning on Aug. 18 and prepared for the fifth annual Parish 2 Parish Relay Race at Mary Our Queen Parish in Omaha.
Tom Worthington, a member of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha, kicked off the race with a prayer about the powerful unity of the Catholic faith and having that faith on full display. Nearly 300 people representing 10 parishes participated in the 19.1-mile race and tailgate party.
Members of 48, six-person teams lined up quickly for the 7 a.m. start. Some runners wore matching shirts in a race that was split into six legs of about three miles each.
“It’s a unique multi-parish event that once a year really helps bring everyone together as one bigger Catholic family in Omaha,” said Dave Mills, an event organizer and member of Mary Our Queen.
Indeed, fellowship and faith are big winners in the event, which has grown from its inaugural year of about 40 participants in two parishes. Friendly competition also is important at each year’s gathering, which is sponsored by the Men’s Club at Mary Our Queen. 
Many people find themselves rekindling relationships with friends from Catholic grade school and high school, said Rob Woodling, an organizer and member of Mary Our Queen. 
“It’s a chance to see people you haven’t seen in 20-plus years,” said Melanie Caster of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha, who was asked by friends to volunteer five years ago. She has helped every year since. More than 25 volunteers helped with the relay and party.
Chip-reader technology logged each person’s race times this year, and the stops were familiar: V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School, St. Stephen the Martyr, back to the high school, St. Wenceslaus and St. Robert Bellarmine churches, and then back to Mary Our Queen for the party featuring a lunch of homemade sausage. 
While the race is competitive, lead runners wait at each stop for all runners to arrive. And this year, St. Vincent de Paul Parish deposed four-year reigning trophy-holder St. Wenceslaus with both the fastest individual team and overall parish times.
 “We definitely have some fantastic runners and there are people who do it just for fun, and so we wait as a group visiting while everyone finishes each leg,” said Mills.
“Typically, the five people not running the leg go by car to the next stop to cheer their teammates on. Everyone and their families come to the last leg,” Woodling said. “It’s a pretty big finish line with family and teams cheering everyone on.”
Two people from Kansas and Texas came this year, a reflection of the event’s growing popularity, said Mills, who noted that the next relay will be Aug. 17, 2019.
“Five years ago, we just had five teams from MOQ and one from St. Wenceslaus. I never dreamed it would have so many parishes represented,” said Mills. “I heard several people say they mark this kind of stuff on their calendars.
“This was one they said they mark because they enjoy it.” 
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