Win or lose, Cathletes ‘here for Christ’
By Brittany Wilson | Diocese of Trenton Social Media Coordinator
Nearly 90 members of Catholic Athletes for Christ from across the Diocese of Trenton showed how strong faith, coupled with strong athletics, has helped them become leaders both on and off the field during the annual CAC High School Leadership Summit Sept. 20.
“You have a remarkable potential to be a coach yourself,” said Vicar of Catholic Education Father Gabriel Zeis as he welcomed the more than 90 Catholic student-athletes, or Cathletes, gathered in the Diocesan Chancery in Lawrenceville. ”What you are doing here today – witnessing to your faith among your peers – is what coaching is all about.”
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., expressed his support for the athletes and pride in their accomplishments and took time to talk and snap photos.
“Catholic Athletes for Christ says a great deal – it’s really a sermon. You’re giving a sermon every time you are on the field, or wherever you are engaged in your athletic activities,” he said. “As Bishop, I’m very proud that this organization has grown … I want to say that I’m very proud of you, and I wish you success this year in all that you do. Win or lose, we are here for Christ.”
The Bishop also blessed a basket of lapel pins bearing the CAC logo, praying “Be with these pins and all who wear them so that they may be blessed, safe, happy and healthy in all that they do.”
As part of the daylong event, the CAC members prayed a decade of the Rosary together at the Our Lady Grotto on the campus of Notre Dame High School before moving inside the Lawrenceville school for lunch.
After lunch, keynote speaker Father Jorge Bedoya, parochial vicar in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Marlton, gave a presentation based on 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27, which states: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified .”
“In the journey of your life, for whom or for what are you running and what is the prize?” Father Bedoya asked before showing the group a YouTube video of British triathlete and Rio gold medalist Alistair Brownlee helping his exhausted brother, Johnny, finish a World Triathlon Series event this past weekend in Cozumel, Mexico.
As Johnny, who earned silver in Rio, began to fade and South African Henri Schoeman passed him to take gold, third-place Alistair put his arms around his brother and dragged him the final 100 meters before pushing him over the finish line and into second place.
“That guy [Schoeman] finished first, but he finished alone,” Father Bedoya said. “When you isolate yourself and you don’t share your life with others, it doesn’t do you any good. … That’s why we are the Catholic Church. We are all one team.”
Father Bedoya also spoke about his own athletic achievements. The priest earned a black belt in karate before he joined the seminary and said the discipline he learned from the sport taught him to be respectful to himself, to God and to his opponents.
“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you bow to each other,” he said. “You just bow and be grateful. … Your opponent is not your enemy, but your teacher.”
Father Bedoya ended by telling the Cathletes gathered to view those they admire – from professional athletes to their peers – through the following lens: “Do not be impressed by how much money people have or how many followers they have on YouTube or Facebook. Rather, be impressed by their kindness, their compassion and their generosity.”
Johnny Buchanan, a junior football player in St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, was attending his first CAC summit. He enrolled in SJV as a sophomore after spending his freshman year at Brick Township High School.
“I found out about the club this year, went to a meeting and decided to join,” he said. “I always prayed to God before my football games … and I play for him, so why not join a club that celebrates him?”
Megan Bromwell, a senior who plays soccer for Notre Dame, said being part of Catholic Athletes for Christ for the past three years has been beneficial both to her and her team.
“Playing for Christ helps motivate us to play to our best abilities,” she said.
Students in attendance represented Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River; Holy Cross Academy, Delran; Mater Dei Prep, Middletown; Notre Dame High School; Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank; St. John Vianney High School; St. Rose High School, Belmar; Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, and Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft.