Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bocce_Aug11SEYMOUR – Faith, family, friends, fellowship and, yes, fun.

That’s what members of St. Augustine Parish have been sharing every Wednesday evening this summer after building two bocce courts on the parish property last year.

And, judging from the fact that the number of participants has doubled to more than 40 since the games started, the new activity is a hit.

"It’s a lot of fun," said parishioner Fred Ortoli of Oxford. "It’s great being together and having this time as an opportunity to meet socially outside of church."

Even Father Honore Kombo, Pastor of St. Augustine’s, is joining in the fun, setting aside his passion for soccer to master the game of bocce.

"It’s wonderful for me and the people of the parish," he said. "It’s building community and helping us get to know each other better. Plus I’m getting out and competing. I don’t want to lose, but I will take it."

The bocce courts are the brainchild of Deacon Mario DiRienzo, who who envisioned the sport as a win-win way to build parish spirit and family.

"We see each other every week at church, but no one knows their fellow parishioners," said Deacon DiRienzo. "So I came up with the idea of bocce ball as a way for people to get to know each other and have some fun as well."

The enterprising deacon went to work, building two 16-foot long, wood-framed courts containing eight inches of stone. Parishioners John Fanotto and Joe Zamoic laid-out and dug the courts.

A pole was added in the hope of installing lights in the future for night play.

Another of Deacon DiRienzo’s motives was to recapture the sense of the church as the center of community that he enjoyed as a child in his native Italy.

"Years ago, the church was the center of everything," he said. "That’s where I learned my love of soccer after spending hours playing as a young boy. The church was always central, unique, and where everyone helped each other. That’s what I’d like to re-create."

The game of bocce, which has its roots in ancient Rome, was popularized in Italy.

To defray expenses, players pay a weekly fee of $3. Four sponsors also have stepped up with $100 donations that were earmarked for a mid-summer pizza party and end-of-the season awards banquet. Any remaining funds will be donated to the parish.

Deacon DiRienzo also designed a shirt that bears the name of the parish and the crest of the Archdiocese of Hartford as another way to build parish identity and funds.

"It’s great," said parishioner Steve Wiesniak of Seymour. "It gives me a chance to get out and exercise, get to know parishioners other than in a meeting or at church, and just enjoy the spirit of being together."

First played in ancient Rome, bocce later became popular throughout Italy. Each player on two teams has four chances to bowl a bocce ball as close as possible to a target, called a jack, to win points.

Father Kombo begins every Wednesday night’s match with a prayer.

"They love it, they absolutely love it," said Deacon DiRienzo’s wife, Rosemarie, who has been a behind-the-scenes coordinator and driver of the games. "Everyone is getting joy out of this and having fun; and one of the nice things is that Father Kombo comes.

"It’s been really nice," she said, "very, very successful … thank God."