Father Juan Sosa, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Miami Beach, where Don Shula attended the last 10 years of his life, recalled how Shula would attend Mass every day. The priest said Shula also would lend his presence to several galas to raise funds for St. Joseph projects, including a scholarship for students going to an archdiocesan high school.
“He would sign anyone’s program or get a picture with them,” Father Sosa said.
In his book, “Everyone’s a Coach”, Don Shula wrote, “We never missed Mass. Even today, I try to attend Mass every day. Attending Mass and looking to God for guidance aren’t just habits for me. They matter deeply to me. There’s something good about kneeling down, asking for help, and listening for answers.”
Don Shula almost entered the seminary. But the Church’s loss was football’s gain. Shula coached the National Football League’s Baltimore Colts (1963-69) and Miami Dolphins (1970-95), leading the teams to six Super Bowls. The Dolphins won twice, including a perfect 17-0 record in the 1972 season. His 347 victories are an NFL best.
Former Miami Dolphins linebacker, Sean Clancy, said that Shula’s faith pervaded the Dolphins. Whenever the team would travel, the Dolphins had a chaplain with them. Shula would set up a hotel ballroom for a team Mass on game day.
Clancy said that Shula provided a great example of faith and life for his players. He said Shula was a family man, and players wanted to emulate that example in the community. “He was almost like a father figure to me,” said Clancy.
Father Souza anointed Shula the day he died, May 4, 2020. His funeral will be held on Friday, May 8.