Catholic ‘Ironman’ Competing for Souls
“According to friends, family and various health care professionals, Tyler Supalla is either crazy, a cyborg or both.”
That is how Olivia Martin begins an article in The Leaven about a Benedictine graduate who has helped organize the Symposium for the New Evangelization, sponsored by the Gregorian institute.
Today, he’s a Western Civ teacher at St. James Academy in Lenexa. On Oct. 14, he will be an Ironman contestant in Louisville, Kentucky.
The race entails a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bicycle race and a 26.2 mile run.
“A cyborg or not, there’s no doubt a lot of heart behind this ironman’s effort,” wrote Martin.
Supalla is using his race to raise $10,0000 in scholarship money for St. James Acaemy’s first-ever St. John Bosco Memorial Scholarship.
“There is a spiritual reality I find in racing and running,” Supalla told the paper, “and the prayer intentions make the training no longer just about me, but about someone else.”
As a teacher, he added, “I’ve found the Christian life to be very analogous to the race. … If somebody is struggling, you literally cannot do the running for them — but you can cheer them on and be there to support them no matter what.
The article recounts how Supalla’s mother introduced him to St. John Bosco through stories as a child and he later took him as his confirmation saint. The founder of the Salesians had a legendary report with children and tirelessly served the poor boys of 19th century Torino, Italy.
“He gave them the chance at a good education and a home with love and support,” Supalla told The Leaven. “He wanted them to have a future in this life and in heaven. That had a big impact on me.”
Through the saint and now through the Ironman competition, he added, “I’ve learned that even my training and suffering can be an encounter with beauty because it can be a moment to relate more to another person who is suffering or offer up my own life for them in a way.”
In 2013, Supalla was instrumental in making St. Michael’s chapel a reality — the first new chapel built on Benedictine College’s campus since the 1960s. Two more new chapels would soon follow.
“The main reason for wanting the chapel in the dorm,” he said, “even though it seems like we have a lot of other options, is that the Eucharistic presence under your roof and in your dorm gives you that extra layer of protection and redirects your focus in your daily life.”