Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rock Chalk Mass: Omaha priest shares KU allegiance with his church, congregation

Father Tom Fangman claps during Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Omaha, Neb. Fangman is a 1985 Kansas University graduate and joins in the Rock Chalk chant during certain Masses at his parish.

Father Tom Fangman claps during Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Omaha, Neb. Fangman is a 1985 Kansas University graduate and joins in the Rock Chalk chant during certain Masses at his parish.

Father Tom Fangman leads the Rock Chalk Chant during Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Chruch in Omaha, Neb., on March 18, 2012.


— They say it takes a little luck to get through March Madness and into the Final Four.

But there's a man at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in north Omaha who believes a little holy devotion can help, too.

Sunday, at the 10:30 Mass at his church, Father Tom Fangman, a 1985 graduate of Kansas University, led his parish in a quick rendition of KU's famed Rock Chalk Chant.

"He does that during football season, too," parishioner Chuck Caniglia said. "If they're doing great, he'll go up there and act like he's gonna pray and then he'll do it."

Sunday's celebration did not catch anyone at the 110-year-old church on the northwest corner of 22nd Street and Binney by surprise. For starters, most in attendance were well aware that the second and third rounds of this year's tournament had invaded their town. Many in the pews even had on Creighton University shirts, showing support for the local team still alive in the tourney.

In addition, before the service began, one lady stepped to the front to remind everyone the Fangman's beloved Jayhawks likely were on the front of his mind. To help out, she quickly reminded everyone what the words "Rock Chalk" meant.

"Now he knows we remember his sermons," she said.

Not long after that, Fangman entered the church and got right to it.

"I had no idea we were going to start the way we did," he said, not 20 minutes after showing off his Rock Chalk miniature fan to a couple of visitors behind the church. "But since we did ... We gotta do it."

With that, Fangman invited any and all Jayhawks in the room to come up to the front to join in the chant with him. On this day, that included Lawrence orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Randall and his wife, Kelly, as well as Cathy Jenkins-Walsh, the sister of John Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame.

Fangman's love of KU is so well known around the church that his parishioners often like to needle him with jokes about some of KU's rivals.

Craig Enenbach, who drives 20 miles from nearby Elkhorn, Neb., to attend Fangman's Mass each Sunday, shared one story involving another local university.

"Every once in a while he wears the Jayhawk logo," Enenbach said of Fangman. "So one time, they gave him a Nebraska sweatshirt to wear. They put it on his chair at the start of Mass one day. He took it off the chair and went on with his business."

At the end of the day's service, when Fangman was sharing hugs and handshakes with his parishioners out front as they exited, one lady poked fun at his traditional purple Lenten garb, saying it reminded her of one of KU's rivals.

"I didn't know you liked K-State," she joked.

"I know," said Fangman with a laugh. "It is a little too purple."

If Fangman's love for KU gets under the skin of any in his congregation, they weren't letting it show on Sunday. Of course, part of that could be because Fangman made sure to show some love for Creighton, as well.

"We made such a deal over the Jayhawks," he said near the end of the Mass. "It's only fair that we recognize our Creighton Blue Jays. We are so proud of them."

It should be pointed out that Fangman also refers to them as "our Kansas Jayhawks," but it was clear that many people appreciated the tip of the cap to Creighton, as the church erupted in applause shortly after Fangman brought up the Blue Jays, who will face North Carolina in the third round Sunday night.

It's not just Sunday Mass that takes on a KU flavor in this inner-city Omaha neighborhood. Across the street is the Catholic school and down the block is the Sacred Heart rec center. All three are run by KU graduates and many in the area affectionately refer to that one-block stretch of Binney Street as "Jayhawk Boulevard."

Around here, Fangman is known for much more than his Jayhawks. During his 14 years heading up the church, he's raised thousands of dollars that helped restore the building inside and out and helped enrich the lives of hundreds in the area. It's clear by watching the way he interacts with his parishioners that Fangman is loved and a friend to many. His services are described as inviting and happy and operate at a tone that makes it feel as if everyone truly wants to be there.

Occasionally, a visitor from another town — of which there are many each week — will stop in and be impressed by what he sees. Enenbach recalled one time when a friend from New Orleans told him that he went back to his own church and immediately went confession because, as he told his priest, "They have too much fun there."

No time is that more true than in March when Fangman, who will attend Sunday night's game against Purdue at 7:40 at CenturyLink Center, gets extra fired up for his Jayhawks. When asked if the parking signs that stand near the four reserved spots just north of the church were painted crimson and blue on purpose, Fangman admitted the truth.

"Someone else picked those out," Fangman said. "But they're perfect. You can never have too much red and blue."


yates33333 2 years ago

Can you imagine! This was harmless play in a Church before Mass and it provoke some outrageous comments in these postings. I can't believe the person who as a younger person went to Masses although not an RC. Of course, during Mass parishioners are solemn, but this wasn't during Mass. Plus the Church has changed since the liturgy went to the vernacular. The fellow with all the #%&%$# stuff is just to be ignored as one should primarily do with the invincibly ignorant. Way to go Father Fangman. The vestments have nothing to do with cheering or not cheering for your team.

BTW, Jacques you're a piece of work.


pigballin 2 years ago

who cares about what a priest says.Come up with something better,Tait. And quit deleting my posts that don't agree with your articles/ MAN UP. Be a journalist.


JulieBJayhawk 2 years ago

FYI: Bishop James Conley from Denver is a Jayhawk. I don't know if he has ever done a Rock Chalk during mass, but when I met him and he found out I went to KU too (and my parents too!), we had an instant connection!! He shared that he was still a big fan, and how much he enjoyed the games when he gets a chance to watch them! He is a great man, and my husband and I very much enjoyed meeting him. Hope he was watching tonight.


10point8 2 years ago

The Jayhawks won!

Sorry to everyone who hoped against it because of this article.


KUlolly 2 years ago

I"m not Catholic but have spent quite a few Sundays at mass many years ago. The masses I attended were so serious that we weren't even allowed to speak while sitting in the pews before the service even started. This story just made me laugh because it seems so out of the norm compared to what I'm familiar with.

Even so with all my adoration of the Jayhawks, I certainly hope he isn't praying for victories because I personally don't think God cares who wins basketball games and I hate to "clog up the request line" with petty things like this when He has many more serious issues to deal with!



milwaukeeJAYHAWK 2 years ago

For once....a religious figure says something that's true!


JackRipper 2 years ago

The other thing you have to remember is the teachings of Jesus (from whom the name Christian derived) have little to do with the ways of the Catholic church and more to do with Romans (remember who put Jesus to death?) and their use of the church for their power. I respect the teachings of Jesus but not into displays of materialism that are so obvious in modern Catholic masses.


JackRipper 2 years ago

Uh huh, gosh and how many write those school costs off on their taxes so it actually did cost the government? Already aware of that game loyal and mindless sports fan. Hospitals, for charity, lol, yeah dream on. Oh and if protestants are screwing the congregration that makes it ok for Catholic priest to rape small children? Sports fans are too much like rabid nazis in the early days, oh that's right and the church didn't do too much to ruffle feathers with nazis either did they, and refuse to use their brain and instead believe in magic fairies. I'm not coming at this as someone not totally aware of the what the church stands for in the past or today. Gosh, let's talk about the percentage of parish budgets that actually go to help the poor or all those scumbag wealthy people who made their money screwing this country up who the bishop appoints to head his campaigns. Dream on and just assume everyone who says something about the church is from the outside. Might want to check how many priests actually abide by the infallible teachings of the Pope LOL!


JackRipper 2 years ago

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HawksWin 2 years ago

Great article Matt! Enjoyed it immensely.


Steve Brown 2 years ago

peace be with you always, crimson and blue forever.


Mike Kendall 2 years ago

Hey Matt, you had been taking some heat about the Hardees comment but this article was a fun read. Thanks, man! Let it all hang out tonight!


Clarence Haynes 2 years ago

Not quite the Gregorian chant!


mae 2 years ago

Sacrilege, that guy is wearing purple and singing a KU song in a church? He is as good as the "Home of the Chiefs" chanters. Worthless. And yes I am catholic, but that's not a place to sing that. I'm sure Nebraska fans patronage his parish with their money.


Tony Bandle 2 years ago

We Catholics leave nothing to chance..we'll pray for the sick, the troubled family member and a good bingo card all in the same prayer.

I never pray for victory...I pray for our team to do the best they can and let the chips fall where they may. [Except maybe against Missouri, then I ask for every break allowed!!]


bubbahawk 2 years ago

Love it. Go KU. Nothing wrong with a KU alum remaining faithful to his school.


Brian Haase 2 years ago

Great read, thanks for the story Matt!


tical523 2 years ago

Cool story, thanks for an off beat iand ntersting read Matt.


10point8 2 years ago

Saint Sebastian, Patron Saint of Athletes, pray for us.


Jackmoon 2 years ago

its not necessary the church and religion has nothing to do with sports! Kansas is gonna take the win tonight! and cover the 8 point spread broooooooooo i got why as well as some nice picks! come check it out and tellll me wut u think!


SaltLakeHawk 2 years ago

"Is this story really necessary? LJW, why can't you leave religion out it?" blah blah blah

"It's a harmless story, and like it or not, everyone has a right to their own beliefs." blah blah blah

"Religious nuts are hypocritical idiots." blah blah blah

"Atheists are intolerant, immoral jerks." blah blah blah

There. It's all been preemptively said. Now nobody needs to say any of this crap. Rock Chalk. Amen.

B E A T P U R D U E.


gchawk 2 years ago

Fun story, thanks for running it. Rock Chalk!


BCRavenJHawkfan 2 years ago

And I'll take some devine intervention from St. Benedict and St. Scholastica.


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