Bishop Schlert Celebrates Mass for Student-Athletes Participating in CYO State Basketball Tournament

Bishop Alfred Schlert celebrated Mass at St. Benedict, Mohnton March 9 for student-athletes, coaches, and their families from eight CYO teams from across the Commonwealth who participated in the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) State Championship Basketball Tournament.

The tournament, held at Berks Catholic High School, Reading on Friday, March 8 through Sunday, March 10, included two Diocese of Allentown CYO teams: St. Thomas More, Allentown and St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring. Several of these student-athletes not only came to play on the court but also stepped up to serve at the Mass on Saturday.

When asked to celebrate Mass for the occasion, Bishop Schlert eagerly embraced the opportunity to participate. During the homily, he unfolded how CYO sports allow athletes to blend their love of faith and athletics.

The Gospel for this weekend included the favored John 3:16 verse that professional athletes wear on their sports gear: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Famously, players like Tim Tebow proclaimed the Gospel on the football field by wearing John 3:16 on their face paint.

Two-time Superbowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs Kicker Harrison Butker publicly shares his Catholic faith in posts on social media platforms and through interviews with media organizations like EWTN.

Therefore, it is no wonder that CYO sports serve not only to form individuals in the faith but also to educate others in spreading the Gospel.

“Without a doubt, our kids just do it differently,” said Dan Jones, Diocese of Allentown CYO coordinator. “You know, because we interject their faith and athletics. It's kind of a way for them to get introduced into their church through athletics. It's another door, and hopefully, we're planting seeds."

Both Maggie Riggins, Executive Director of Evangelization and Formation, and Kristin Osenbach, Director of Marriage and Family Life, deemed the Bishop’s Mass as a pinnacle of the CYO Basketball Tournament precisely because of the mindset that in all things, we serve Christ.

“The Church tries to use everything that we can to evangelize and bring people to the faith, and athletics is another one,” said Bishop Schlert in an interview after Mass. “So that is why we have CYO: because there are many good lessons that you can learn from playing a sport and having a good coach – that only reinforces the things that we are trying to get enlivened in the hearts of young people.”

Ana Mushrush of St. Thomas More, Allentown, who altar-served at the Mass, said she is thankful to have this opportunity to “come to States, spend time with [her] team, and then come to church.”

Janaiyah Ford, an eighth-grade student-athlete at St. Ignatius, shared about the growth she felt her team made throughout the season. “We pray before games, before and after practice, and I think we dedicate all our efforts to God.”

Similar to many girls, Ford expressed feeling "very grateful" that Bishop Schlert took the time to come and celebrate Mass for them. As she described, his intention was to "bless us and bless our futures," both as “seventh graders who are willing to play” and “put their effort” into the team, and as “eighth graders who are going to high school next year.”

Many volunteers helped make the tournament possible. After the Mass, a dinner was held for parents, coaches, and athletes. Monsignor Edward Domin, CYO County Commissioners David Jones and Frances Rowley, and a large group of volunteers helped prepare the meal.

Results of the CYO State Basketball Championships:

1st Place: Sacred Heart, Havertown – Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

2nd Place: Bishop Guilfoyle, Altoona – Diocese of Altoona Johnstown.

3rd Place: Our Lady of Peace, Clarks Green – Diocese of Scranton.

4th Place: Blessed Francis Seelos Academy, Wexford – Diocese of Pittsburgh.

5th Place: St. George, Erie – Diocese of Erie.

6th Place: St. Joseph, Mechanicsburg – Diocese of Harrisburg.

7th Place: St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring – Diocese of Allentown.

8th Place: St. Thomas More, Allentown – Diocese of Allentown.

Article and photos by Annaleigh Gidosh.


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