It was the early morning hours of Christmas Eve 1994.
Most people were likely dreaming of silver bells, sugarplums or Santa Claus as the holiday season was in full swing.
But not Father Ed Kachurka.
Instead, Father Kachurka was enjoying the sweet taste of victory after his ice hockey team, the Hackers, won its league championship game.
While he of course would have liked to go out to celebrate with his teammates, Father Kachurka knew he had responsibilities to take care of on Christmas Eve – most importantly preparing for Midnight Mass at his then-parish, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ozone Park.
However, what happened at that Mass exemplifies the true spirit of Christmas and what it means to be part of a team.
Known as a devout fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Mets and of course “Star Trek,” Father Kachurka, currently pastor at Mary’s Nativity-St. Ann’s, Flushing, was once an avid ice hockey player.
He befriended another hockey player, 1991 Cathedral Prep, Elmhurst, graduate Brian Casatelli, and a number of friends joined the Hackers of the Nassau/Suffolk Midnight Hockey League in 1994.
That season was the first year Father Kachurka had played in an organized, competitive ice hockey league. He suited up as a defenseman and occasionally played right wing.
Following a successful 15-game regular season and a journey through the playoffs, the Hackers found themselves in the championship game, which began at 11 p.m. on Dec. 23, 1994, at the New York Islanders’ practice rink in Syosset, L.I.
By 2 a.m. on Christmas Eve, the Hackers were league champions after a 10-3 win. The box score featured a goal by No. 6, Father Ed Kachurka, who received the game puck after the victory.
His teammates went out to celebrate as he spent the morning prepping for Midnight Mass. It was at the Mass that the priest received a welcome surprise.
“Mass started and I had no clue what was going on, and as I got in the pulpit to proclaim the Gospel and do my homily, I noticed the guys,” Father Kachurka said.
A handful of team members were in the congregation during the Mass as a way to show their support for their teammate.
“It was really nice of them to come; I didn’t expect it,” he said. “It was just really good to see them, and I felt honored and blessed that they were there. They were kind of enough to spend some time with me sharing faith and Christmas together.”
Even more so than supporting a teammate, the gesture displayed what Christmas is truly all about.
“It was a special day; it was Christmas,” Father Kachurka said. “The center was Christ and His birth, God becoming man, and we celebrated that together, which was more important than winning a hockey championship.”
We sometimes can become engulfed by the secular practices surrounding the holidays, but this particular example reminds us about the true spirit of Christmas and how it is our responsibility to “assist” others in achieving their “goals.”
Of course, the hockey pun is intended.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.