The invocation by Kevin Mackin, OFM, at the annual Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, Florida, was carried on the NBC telecast that drew more than three million viewers.

Franciscan Presence at IndyCar Race Kevin Mackin’s Invocation Is Telecast to Three Million Viewers

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In racing speak, Kevin Mackin, OFM, was in the driver’s seat at Siena College for 11 years as president, giving his share of blessings, speeches, presentations and homilies to large gatherings – but never quite like the audience earlier this month when he was invited to deliver the invocation at the annual Firestone Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, Florida. Besides the thousands of attendees at the 1.8-mile temporary course that ran through the waterfront streets of downtown St. Petersburg, Kevin’s invocation reached more than 3 million viewers and motorsport enthusiasts tuned in to the NBC telecast that was carried internationally.

“It was an enjoyable experience on a number of levels – the weather was beautiful, it was the first race of the IndyCar Series since the pandemic. But it was also very exciting to bring a Franciscan presence to a world-class sporting event. We were wearing our brown habits, which attracted attention. People approached us and asked questions. But many knew we were Franciscan friars,” said Kevin, who was accompanied to the March 5 event by Daniel Kenna, OFM. Both friars live at St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, a short drive to the waterfront and downtown area.

In his invocation prayer, Kevin said, “Heavenly Father, bless our drivers as their engines make your presence heard through these city streets and beyond. We applaud everyone, from pit crew to fabricators; all are essential. As in life, thank you for helping us make the right moves. With swift pace, and careful use of brakes. Please guide the drivers safely, from the green flag to the finish line. God bless the Grand Prix and our city of St. Petersburg, and God bless America.”

Kevin later said, “So much for the prayer.” On the second turn of the first lap, two cars side-swiped each other. One of them made contact with the wall, causing a chain-reaction collision involving six other cars. The 100-lap race had its share of drama, according to Kevin, with two airborne cars, five wrecks, and nine drivers knocked out of the competition and one hospitalized because of the mishaps. But everyone came out of the race safely, so his prayers were answered.

Delivering the invocation and knowing the CEO of the IndyCar Series from one of the local parishes where Kevin helps out on weekends had its perks – as Kevin and Daniel met all the drivers and watched the race from the skybox. He extended a standing invitation to the CEO for lunch at the friary next time he’s in town. The Firestone Grand Prix kicked off the IndyCar season, the premier racing series in North America. It was the 12th time that the series’ season-opener was hosted in St. Petersburg.

“I think there should be a Franciscan presence at all major sporting events!” Kevin declared.