Professor Msgr Vladimir Feltzmann, AKA Fr Vlad, shared his inspirational fundraising story of completing 83 half marathons on the Sir Mo Farah Athletics Tracks to raise funds to replace the University’s Chapel Organ with the BBC’s flagship faith programme Songs of Praise for its New Year’s episode.
The programme on Faith and Fitness saw presenters the Rev Kate Bottley and Radzi Chinyanganya speak to people across the country about how their faith interlocks with sport.
In the episode, Fr Vlad reflected on his epic fitness challenge and shared his philosophy for keeping the body and soul healthy, noting that “Everything I have is a gift from God and the giver is in the gift, and I don’t want to insult the giver by not looking after the gift. So, I look after my body, my mind, my emotions and my spirituality.”
This is amazing work, incredible. You set yourself a big challenge – so many laps around my track for a good cause…what amazing work.
Sir Mo Farah
The programme also saw Fr Vlad receive a message from a superstar St Mary’s alumnus. Sir Mo Farah, who studied and trained at St Mary’s from 2001-2011 send a video message to Fr Vlad to congratulate him on his incredible effort. “This is amazing work, incredible” he said, adding that “you set yourself a big challenge – so many laps around my track for a good cause…what amazing work.”
With 52 laps of the Sir Mo Farah Athletics Track coming in at 20.8km, through his 83 walks Fr Vlad has completed a total of 1726 kilometres, or 1066 miles. Which equates completing the distance from St Mary’s University all the way to the edge of Europe in Cadiz, Spain.
Fr Vlad set himself the challenge to combine his love for music and sport. Having originally come to the UK as a refugee from Czechoslovakia after World War Two, sport has been a key part of Fr Vlad’s life. He found when joining a British school for the first time that through competitive athletics and playing football he was able to make friends when he couldn’t speak English.
Speaking to Adrian Chiles on Radio 5 earlier in his epic challenge, Fr Vlad said, “It was sport that enabled me to get inserted into society, I realised if I could do sport then I began to belong.”
I hope that the new organ will enrich not just the Chapel liturgies but enable St Mary’s to host Organ Recitals for the local community as well as create a choir for underprivileged local children
Fr Vlad, who volunteered at the London 2012 Games as a Chaplain, passed the time completing his challenge by being joined by St Mary’s students, staff, and alumni for laps of the track.
Speaking of the challenge, Fr Vlad said, “I believe in St Mary’s University, I believe in the organ’s Apollonian music opening people to the presence of God, so I committed myself to walking the talk of my faith. I hope that the new organ will enrich not just the Chapel liturgies but enable St Mary’s to host Organ Recitals for the local community as well as create a choir for underprivileged local children, as has been achieved in the Diocese of Leeds.”
In recent years the Chapel has welcomed Pope Benedict XVI, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople of the Eastern Orthodox Church Bartholomew I of Constantinople, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rt Rev Rt Hon Prof Baron Rowan Williams, and the then Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Rt Rev Richard Clarke.
The University wants to expand and enhance these current uses, while also breaking new ground in pursuing linkages between music and disciplines such as theology and drama. St Mary’s will also utilise it in extending our outreach to local schools, unlocking the Chapel's full potential as a resource for music, art, and religious education.
If you would like to find out more about Fr Vlad’s Challenge or give a donation, you can visit his JustGiving page.