The following article was reprinted with permission from the Michigan Catholic newspaper. It was originally run on April 17, 2014. Click the following link to go to the Michigan Catholic online: http://themichigancatholic.com/2014/04/for-teen-basketball-takes-backseat-to-christ/
by Don Horkey
Clarkston — Credit has to go to Vic Michaels, Catholic League director of athletics, for pointing me in the direction of Lucia Westrick.
“You have to see her play basketball,” he told me. “She’s tough — and she’s going to be a nun!”
I know about those kind of nuns. I had one in the fourth grade who could have been a fullback for the Lions.
But that’s a story for another time. This one is about an 18-year-old popular senior at Everest Collegiate who may or may not be a nun someday, but who has a clear-headed idea of what life is all about and its ultimate goal.
“Passion” is a very important word in Lucia’s vocabulary.
“I have a passion for basketball,” she says, remarkable considering Lucia (pronounced Loo-cee-ah) didn’t play anything close to organized ball until she arrived at Everest two years ago as a junior.
“I recognized her athleticism,” said coach Erin VanWagoner. “She worked extremely hard to be good.”
Her last game for the Mountaineers pretty much exemplified the pivotal role she played in the school’s highest advance in the state tournament, winning district and regional trophies to qualify for the quarterfinal stage, where she scored 14 points and grabbed a dozen rebounds in a seven-point loss to eventual finalist Marine City Cardinal Mooney.
The state girls basketball coaches association acknowledged Lucia with a “special mention” in its all-state selections.
What is truly special about this young lady is her outlook on life. “My No. 1 passion is my passion for Christ,” she says.
She is second oldest of 15 children, ranging in age from 20 years to 8 months, of Richard and Cheryl Westrick, of New Bavaria, Ohio, about 50 miles southwest of Toledo. The children are home-schooled. “There is no Catholic school near where we live,” explains Cheryl, who converted to Catholicism a year before she and her husband, who works at a General Motors plant, were married 22 years ago.
“I can’t imagine life without all of the different personalities,” Lucia says. “It’s my greatest gift.”
She “loves” telling about the time when she received her first Communion, “how I felt Christ invited me to follow Him closely.”
At the age of 13, “I decided to give God the first chance at my life, to find out what He wants of me.”
She enrolled in the Immaculate Conception Program in Rhode Island for high school students interested in the consecrated life of the lay women’s Regnum Christi movement. When the school closed for financial reasons in 2012, Lucia and 10 others were transferred to Everest Collegiate.
The “very sudden” move was “difficult” to understand, Lucia says, but it was made all the easier to accept by the “warm welcome” they received at Everest.
The girls follow Everest’s academic program and slate of extracurricular activities, while boarding at the consecrated women-operated Family Retreat Center in Oxford. The typical schedule calls for a 5:45 a.m. rising, Mass, and then being bussed to Everest for classes. They return to Oxford between 6-7 p.m. for an evening of study, prayer and lights out at 9 p.m. Obviously, accommodations were made for Lucia to play basketball, which normally are night games.
Lucia isn’t “bothered” that she doesn’t participate in such activities as proms, homecomings and the like. “What I give to Christ,” she says, “when I get to heaven, the sacrifices I make will be worth it.”
Lucia’s mother isn’t surprised by her daughter’s singleness of mind. “She’s always been very strong-willed when she believes in something.”
Adds VanWagoner, who also is the school’s dean of students: “Lucia is a very genuine individual, confident in whatever she does.”
By the time you read this, Lucia and her fellow seniors will have returned from their class trip to the Holy Land during Holy Week.
After graduation day May 18, Lucia will consider a handful of options about playing college basketball.
But whatever she decides, “Christ will continue to be the center of my life.”