On a hot summer day, Fr. Alan Benander, O.Praem, is tucked into the cool confines of the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado Canyon for noon prayers.
Before he joined his fellow Norbertines for the daily benedictions in Latin, Fr. Alan removed a black baseball cap – a symbol of the sport he grew up playing and loving, and one that has remained a passion since he was ordained in 2013.
Another passion, of course, is God – as well as fighting for the lives of the unborn.
“Baseball is a game of failure, and we as humans sin every day,” said Fr. Alan, who built a batting cage with his father in the backyard of his childhood home in a suburb of Cleveland.
What players and the prayerful need to do, he says, is get back up and dust themselves off after striking out or sinning.
“Baseball taught me the value of perseverance, which is something every Christian needs,” Fr. Alan said.
As a priest, Fr. Alan has met, worked with, and formed friendships with other big-league ballplayers, including Grant Desme, a former second-round draft pick of the Oakland As who left the game at age 23 to join St. Michael’s Abbey (Desme now is a layperson who continues to help there), and former Angels pitcher Justin Speier, who occasionally visits the abbey.
Although priests must elevate their minds to Heaven and have a certain detachment from worldly things, sports and exercise still can play an important role in their lives, according to Fr. Alan, who at 46 still cuts an athletic figure.
For several years, Fr. Alan coached baseball, basketball and cross-country, and was athletic director at St. Michael’s Preparatory School, which closed in 2020 when the abbey relocated to Silverado Canyon from Trabuco Canyon.
Fr. Alan’s decision to join the priesthood came when he was 26, after his best friend, Eric, took him to visit the abbey when the two took a trip to California to attend some MLB games.
“It was a short visit,” he recalled, “but by the time I left the abbey I was pretty sure I was going to enter the priesthood.”
About a year later, he did.
One of eight children, Fr. Alan always planned to get married and have several children.
But while working in Cleveland as a computer programmer for Progressive Insurance after graduating from John Carroll University, a private Jesuit college, with degrees in math and computer science, things changed.
“After much prayer and study about the priesthood,” Fr. Alan said, “as well as a number of conversations with priests, I came to love the idea of becoming a priest.”
Fighting for the unborn – a lifelong passion instilled in him primarily by his mother, Nancy, and father, Vince, a high school teacher and baseball coach who formed a prolife group at the school where he taught – has become one of the works of mercy that Fr. Alan has done when he has the free time to do so.
“I remember being enamored of my little sister when still was in the womb,” Fr. Alan recalled. “I thought, ‘What, you can kill Megan? That’s ridiculous.’”
When his other duties allow, Fr. Alan counsels and prays with women outside abortion clinics and works with ones who have gone through with abortions as well as those who decided to have their babies.
From OC Catholic