Stories of sports’ power to unite, uplift shared at Vatican-inspired conference hosted by Marquette

Sport at the Service of Humanity Conference is only global sport, multi-faith movement to see a world where people ‘live like they play’

Nov. 13, 2023

Panelists at the Sport at the Service of Humanity ConferenceMILWAUKEE — Representatives from around the world gathered in Milwaukee Nov. 8-10 for the Sport at the Service of Humanity Conference, an event hosted by Marquette University in collaboration with the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education.

Attendees — including former professional and collegiate athletes, sports executives, and journalists — listened to and took part in conversations that celebrated the strengthened human connection provided by sport and sportsmanship.

“This is really a wonderful opportunity to come together and celebrate how sports and sportsmanship strengthens all of our connections in the way that faith does as well,” Marquette President Michael R. Lovell said. “One of the things that is really important to us as Marquette hosts the conference is to take that inspiration, take what we learn, and let’s do something tangible coming out of the conference about that.”

Marquette was well represented on conference panels, with current coaches, faculty and staff members, and alumni. The university became the fourth Catholic university in the U.S. and only the third Big East school to host the conference, joining Villanova University, Georgetown University and Loyola Marymount University.

Inspired by His Holiness Pope Francis, Sport at the Service of Humanity was launched in October 2016 during the First Global Conference on Faith and Sport at the Vatican. This gathering brought together global thought leaders and influencers from the world of faith, sports, business and other sectors to discuss how faith and sport could work together for the betterment of humanity.

“That gathering also introduced the three pillars of the SSH framework,” Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman said. “Involvement, which speaks to the way sports can transform communities; inclusion, which speaks to the goal of bringing sport to the masses; and inspiration, which speaks to the power of sport to lift us up and create joy.”

Since the initial gathering at the Vatican, SSH has become the only global sport and multi-faith movement with a vision to see a world where people “live like they play” — combining the passion for sport with the values of faith to serve humanity.

Panels and events took place on the Marquette campus, as well as at American Family Field and Northwestern Mutual. The event included:

  • Peter Feigin, president of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Mark Murphy, president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers, who discussed the power of sport on the community in a conversation moderated by Sophia Minnaert, Marquette alumna and director of broadcast and digital features for the Milwaukee Brewers.
  • A conversation on how sport and faith intersect featured Ackerman; Rev. Pat Kelly, S.J., associate professor of religious studies at University of Detroit Mercy and author of “Play, Sport, and Spirit;” and Rabbi Erez Sherman, senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and host of the Rabbi on the Sidelines podcast.
  • Marquette Head Men’s Basketball Coach Shaka Smart, who spoke about the impact coaching can have on a person’s life, as well as the inspiration he receives from his players.
  • Vin Baker, assistant coach of the Bucks and author of “God and Starbucks: An NBA Superstar’s Journey Through Addiction and Recovery,” who spoke on the transformative power of sports to overcome addiction and work toward recovery.
  • A panel of Marquette alumni who discussed why and how they use their platform to give back.

Additional speakers and panelists included: Father José Miguel Cardoso of the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education, Sports; Nancy Armour, Marquette alumna and columnist for USA Today Sports; Marquette Head Women’s Basketball Coach Megan Duffy; and Marquette alumnus Tim Miazga, a Paralympian and six-time CrossFit Fittest Seated Man on Earth.

“If there’s one takeaway for me, it’s believing,” Marquette Athletic Director Bill Scholl said. “Believing that we can actually make something happen and do something good. We at Marquette are absolutely thrilled we were given the opportunity to host this.”

About Marquette University

Marquette University is a Catholic, Jesuit university located near the heart of downtown Milwaukee that offers a comprehensive range of majors in 11 nationally and internationally recognized colleges and schools. Through the formation of hearts and minds, Marquette prepares our 11,100 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and professional students to lead, excel and serve as agents of positive change. And, we deliver results. Ranked in the top 20% of national universities, Marquette is recognized for its undergraduate teaching, innovation and career preparation as the sixth-best university in the country for job placement. Our focus on student success and immersive, personalized learning experiences encourages students to think critically and engage with the world around them. When students graduate with a Marquette degree, they are truly prepared and called to Be The Difference.

About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the associate director for university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or