By Peter Tormey
The addition of a Crucifix in the southwest corner of the McCarthey Athletic Center last basketball season reminds Zags’ fans and the public of Gonzaga’s Jesuit, Catholic and humanistic identity, but few know the story behind this beautiful Christian symbol.
It was installed in December and dedicated and blessed in May, before Baccalaureate Mass was held there, by Very Rev. William S. Skylstad, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, and Gonzaga’s Father C. Hightower, S.J., director of University Ministry. It’s a gift from Fr. Hightower and his uncle Fr. O.L. Hightower, Lakewood, Wash., in memory of their niece Molly Mackenzie Hightower. Molly was killed while volunteering in Haiti when that country was struck Jan. 12 by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.
The Hightower priests arranged for the hand-carved Crucifix corpus to be flown to Spokane from the Lovers of the Holy Cross Convent in Gòp Vấp, Vietnam. Gonzaga master carpenter Gary Nicolai designed and built the cross for the Crucifix, which will be spotlighted on special occasions, and is visible to passersby on Cincinnati Street.
Fr. Hightower, Gonzaga’s chaplain for athletics, sits on the men’s basketball team bench. He blesses the Kennel at 26 minutes before tipoff for each men’s home game, just as the Zags run onto the court. The blessings began intermittently two seasons ago when A.J. Treleven (’10) suggested Fr. Hightower bless the Kennel Club before games. Last season, Fr. Hightower expanded the blessings to the entire Kennel for all men’s home hoops contests and said that practice will continue.
While the Crucifix symbolizes Gonzaga’s identity, it doesn’t necessarily mean God roots for the Blue and White.
“I don’t think God cares who wins the basketball game,” Fr. Hightower said. “Besides, we all know Christ is a soccer fan.”
View Fr. Hightower’s comments (below) about the Crucifix.