Students with love of faith, sports come together as Catholic Athletes for Christ
By Brittany Wilson | Diocesan Social Media Coordinator
Dozens of high school athletes proved their love of athletics, grounded in faith, has helped them become leaders both on and off the field during the annual High School Leadership Program for Catholic Athletes for Christ held in part April 26 in the Diocese of Trenton’s Chancery in Lawrenceville.
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“These Cathletes here are the future of professional sports,” said Dan Duddy, former varsity football coach in Donovan Catholic High School, who now serves as the Toms River school’s pastoral minister for athletics. “But they are the more immediate future of our one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.”
Duddy, who served as the event’s facilitator, said the Diocese of Trenton’s CAC membership grew even more than he thought was possible since its inception during the 2012-13 school year.
“It has grown beyond my dreams,” he said of the 1,700 students who are CAC members in the Diocese. “We put things in God’s hands and we get things that we never could have imagined.”
Duddy stressed that the success of the program rests in the support it has from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who warmly greeted each of the dozens of student-athletes, coaches and administrators gathered at roundtables.
The Bishop expressed his support for the athletes and pride in their accomplishments and took time to talk with many of them about their sports of choice and future plans.
The Bishop also blessed a basket of lapel pins bearing the CAC logo, praying “Lord, we thank you for your gifts, among them our abilities, our physical strengths.
“So we ask you now to send your blessing upon these pins, which we will wear proudly, because they say to the world what we are, what we stand for and what we hope to accomplish in life, on the fields and on the courts.”
As part of the day-long event, the CAC members prayed a decade of the Rosary together as a light mist fell at the Our Lady Grotto on the campus of Notre Dame High School before moving inside the Lawrenceville school for lunch.
Former St. John Vianney star wrestler Anthony Ferraro, 21, served as the event’s keynote speaker. Ferraro, who was born blind, talked to the student-athletes about overcoming adversity and accomplishing their goals.
“All through high school I had challenges; One of my challenges was that my opponents, because of my vision impairment, would have to stay in contact with me throughout the match, ” said Ferraro, who was a two-time district champion at 160 pounds for the Holmdel school. “Coaches and opponents would get kind of sour about that … they would do whatever they could to rile me up or get me angry.”
Ferraro said that’s when he turned to God.
“The second that I started to accept God in my life and strengthened my faith, I started to really pay attention to all the great things Jesus did during his life,” Ferraro said, referencing several miracles Jesus performed, as well as when he washed people’s feet. “And he was royalty — the Son of God. … He led by example. He’s one of the most humble people ever. And I believe in sports, that’s one of the most important things you need to be: humble.”
The student-athletes in attendance took a lot from the day of camaraderie with others who are sometimes their rivals.
“My favorite part about CAC is the bonds you form with people, and you realize you all share common beliefs and you can put into action on and off the field and share your beliefs and interests with others,” said Elizabeth Goss, a St. Rose High School senior who is a member of the Belmar school’s soccer and lacrosse teams.
Her St. Rose classmate, Katharine Taylor, a senior who plays volleyball and throws discus, javelin and shotput on the track team and volleyball, agreed.
“Being able to go on the field as Catholic Athletes and being able to share our Catholicism with other people on our team and other schools is great,” Taylor said. “Not many other schools can do that, so it’s really special.”
Students in attendance represented Donovan Catholic High School; Holy Cross Academy, Delran; Notre Dame High School; Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank; St. John Vianney High School; St. Rose High School; Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton; and Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft.