Meet the Chaplain: Father Richard Rocha – Kansas City Chapter
Father Richard Rocha, 54, a priest of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, imagined himself coaching football, getting married and having a family. But as his faith deepened, Father Rocha, who coached high school and college football for 14 years, felt God calling him to move from the gridiron to the seminary. As Father Rocha would later find out, his mother had prayed a nonstop novena those entire 14 years. Today, Father Rocha has been an ordained priest for 15 years. He is the president of the new St. Michael the Archangel High School in Lee’s Summit, Missouri and chaplain of Legatus’ Kansas City Chapter. His athletic background also serves him well as chaplain of the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs. He spoke with Legatus magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.
How did your family influence your Catholic faith?
Growing up in a MexicanAmerican Catholic family, my mother and father were very strong and devoted in their faith and were always very willing to give of their time, talent and treasure. They also fostered the faith in a loving way by their respect for the priests and religious who were in our parish.
How did you discern you were called to be a priest?
It was something that took off when I began going to daily Mass. I was coaching at Northwest Missouri State University. Six months into it, I was asked by an older priest who noticed me at Mass if I was one of the new coaches. After talking, he asked me if I had ever thought of being a priest. I remember looking at him saying “No Father, I’m a football coach.” But that was a seed that was planted. Seven years later, I went into the seminary at age 34.
What role did your mother play in your discernment?
When I told her I was resigning my job and going to seminary, I think 14 years of tears just fell out of her eyes. She told me, “Ever since you started coaching football, for 14 years, I’ve been praying a novena to our Lady of Guadalupe and to St. Jude that God would call you to the priesthood.” She never really said anything or ever pushed me, but she never missed a day of the novena during those 14 years. I would have quit after 14 days, quite frankly.
How does having been a football coach influence your priestly ministry?
I treat homilies like halftime talks. I always thought I was going to be coaching football until God wanted me to coach on His team. I see great parallels in regards to leadership, in regards to motivation, in regards to discipline, correction and doing things right. I think it’s been a blessing that I was able to coach football for so long. What’s it like being a chaplain for the Royals and Chiefs? It’s been a blessing. Having an athletic and coaching background, I’ll use some of those experiences in my homilies, tying that to God and saying we can’t do a thing without God in our lives, without His grace and His blessings. At the stadium, I’ll get stopped by the workers. They’ll want some counseling or prayers. To be able to work with the players and some of the coaches, to help them get through their own small trials and tribulations, is a rewarding experience.
What are your thoughts of being a Legatus chaplain?
The bishop called me and told me that he thought it would be a good opportunity for me to be a chaplain for Legatus. I chuckled and thought, “Jeez, how many chaplaincies am I going to be doing?” With Legatus, seeing these Catholic businessmen and women who are really living their faith has been wonderful. I’m fairly new to Legatus and still learning, but I realize the importance of how the faith aspect needs to continue on with our Catholic men and women in the business world.
BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.