“As people of faith, we are called to grow, to engage fully in Christian life,” Bishop Michael Woost told a gathering of CYO athletic directors during their annual summer meeting. The athletic directors represented parishes and schools throughout the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland that field CYO sports programs.
The bishop was introduced by Paul Kelly, director of CYO athletics for the Diocese of Cleveland.
He told the group, which attended the all-day session at Brecksville Community Center, that his father was involved with CYO when he and his six brothers were young. “I appreciate the time and dedication you have,” he added.
(See photo gallery above.)
“Your work with these young people is a ministry in our Church. Thank God for giving us the chance to teach our faith to others by our actions.”
The bishop opened his talk by reciting the CYO prayer with the group. He noted it’s important that each CYO game or match begins and ends with prayer. In addition, he encouraged them to use prayer at practices, as well. “Help these young people grow not only as athletes, but in their faith, both on and off the course, the field and the court.”
Bishop Woost said he has come to realize – after hearing from people, especially since his appointment as diocesan auxiliary bishop – “that I was having an impact on people’s lives. The same is true for you.”
Using a sports analogy. He said runners all run in a race, but only one wins the prize, which he termed “a perishable prize.” But it’s important not to run aimlessly. St. Paul told the early Christian community they needed to be engaged in the race. As Catholic Christian people, we’re called to grow, to engage fully in Christian life, the bishop said.
“There’s more to life than winning a prize or a trophy and it’s important to show that to the young people. Help them engage in their faith,” he said. “What do we hope to win? An imperishable crown – eternal life.”
There are lessons young people can learn by being a part of a team, by working together and growing. These things also apply to their faith life, the bishop explained. Qualities like self-discipline and skills like running require practice and showing up. “These same things apply to our faith, to living out the principles of Christ.”
Families, teams, parishes and the Church are all important communities where we learn life lessons, the bishop said.
“These young people look to you for an example. You become a role model for them, an example of faith. That’s what’s so significant about CYO,” the bishop noted.
“See yourself as an apostle, a Catholic life coach. Practice prayer any time the team comes together. Ask the players what they need prayers for and how the team can support one another. Pray with and for them,” he said.
The bishop also encouraged the athletic directors and their coaches to build community, to encourage one another, to build teams and to foster a sense of belonging. He explained it’s important to feel they can belong to something important and do something meaningful.
Attending Sunday Mass as a team is another way CYO athletes can integrate their faith lives with athletics, the bishop explained. “Extend that invitation to come, to be a part of the faith community,” he said. This meshes with the CYO mission statement: “Inspiring young people to know God, to love God and to serve God through athletics.”
The bishop told the group that they are providing help to form young people for the future, to create hope, to help them develop their gifts and abilities and to recognize their gifts as well as to serve all by inviting, welcoming and encouraging them.
He noted in recent years, CYO has been reaching out beyond just the parishes and extending an invitation to neighborhood youth to participate. “It’s part of our mission as the baptized to invite people in,” he added.
The bishop also noted that as he travels around the diocese celebrating confirmations, he has seen many boys choose Sebastian as their confirmation name. He shared some background on St. Sebastian, who is considered the patron saint of athletes.
“Don’t think our young people aren’t trying to make a connection between their faith lives and athletics. Encourage them. And trust me, Christ intends to visit your team, to be with you. The 72 Jesus appointed and sent ahead – those are you. Trust the presence of the Spirit in your lives. You’ve been given a ministry. Thank you for who you are and what you’re doing. And please know of Bishop (Edward) Malesic’s and my support of and for your ministry,” Bishop Woost added.
In addition, the following CYO athletic directors were recognized for their years of service: 10 years – Gwenn Childers, Mary Queen of Peace Parish, and Michael Fletcher, Lakewood Catholic Academy. Recognized for five years of service were Craig Behn. SS. Joseph and John; Reinaldo Caraballo, St. Leo the Great; Vincent DeAngelis, St. Barnabas; Chris Garr, St. Mary, Berea; Bob Jacobs, St. John Vianney; Ryan Harrington, St. Ambrose; Don Pavlik, Immaculate Heart of Mary; Frank Willett, St. Jude; and James Yanosko, St. Joseph, Amherst.
Bishop Gries Good Shepherd grants were presented to Mary Queen of Peace Parish (Cleveland), St. Francis de Sales Parish (Akron), St. Michael Athletic Association (Independence) and St. Patrick Church Athletics (Kent).
Cleveland Browns Foundation grants were awarded to Immaculate Heart of Mary (Cuyahoga Falls), St. Hilary Parish (Fairlawn) and St. Bartholomew Parish (Middleburg Heights). These grants support CYO football by helping to start a new team or to purchase safe equipment.
Click here for more information about CYO,