“You are like teachers in a school of Christian values,” said Bishop Nelson Perez as he addressed the annual Catholic Youth Organization Membership Conference on June 8 at the Holiday Inn, Strongsville. CYO inspires young people to know God, to love God and to serve God through athletics.
Representatives -- including athletic directors -- from parishes and schools with CYO programs gathered to pray, reflect and discuss proposals for CYO athletics. The diocese’s CYO program is entering its 83rd season for more than 20,000 athletes through grade 12 who participate in a variety of sports.
Bishop Perez began the conference with prayer and his own reflections about the importance of sports. His focus was “Giving the best of yourself: a Document on the Christian perspective on sport and the human person,” which was released June 1, 2018 by the Vatican’s office for laity, family and life.
The bishop compared the process of running a CYO program to giving birth. In a pregnancy, there are appointments, morning sickness, cravings, emotional and physical changes, but the underlying result is bringing life into the world. The same is true for CYO programs, he said. A lot goes into the program from paperwork, schedules, practices, equipment, meetings, games and more, but at the end of the process, sports are preparing children to be better Christians.
Bishop Perez interlaced his remarks with references from the Vatican’s document including a reflection from Pope Francis, “I also hope you can taste the beauty of teamwork, which is so important in life. No individualism! No to playing for yourselves.”
Ursuline Sister Mary Jean Raymond, principal of St. Aloysius-St. Agatha School, also addressed the group. She is a fervent supporter of CYO athletics as a coach, athletic director and recent inductee into the CYO Hall of Fame.
During her reflection, she reminded those present about the importance of prayer in conflict and related the story of an encounter she had with an upset parent. Prior to addressing the parent’s complaint, she requested that they first take a few minutes to pray about the conflict before discussing what happened. While she was a little apprehensive about her own request -- even as a religious sister -- she found that this helped to focus the meeting on the mission of CYO athletics.
Auxiliary Bishop emeritus Roger Gries, OSB distributed grant awards from the Bishop Roger Gries Good Shepherd Fund that supplies funding to CYO programs for a variety of requests including uniforms, equipment and participation fees. Since its inception in 2007, the grant has awarded over $380,000 to parish and school CYO programs. This year's awards totaled $10,700.
The balance of the conference included a reflection on mission and culture led by Greg “Dobie” Moser, CYO’s executive director, updates and discussions about the upcoming season and other initiatives that are in the planning stages.
To learn more about the diocesan CYO program, click HERE to visit the website.