BRISTOL – Football team members from three Connecticut Catholic high schools gathered at St. Gregory the Great Church Aug. 13 for Connecticut’s first-ever Sportsleader Rosary Rally, an event designed to inspire virtue in student athletes.
Sportsleader is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based Catholic organization directed by Lou Jud, who last year organized the first rosary rally in that city, inviting players and coaches from 19 Catholic high schools to gather and pray. This year he expanded the event to several cities in at least 11 states.
Football team members and coaches from St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, East Catholic High School in Manchester and Xavier High School in Middletown attended the Bristol event, which included praying the luminous mysteries of the rosary, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and fellowship among teams. About 30 student athletes attended, bringing their coaches, friends and family members.
“In most dioceses, the overwhelming majority of Catholic youth are playing sports, so the best area, best avenue to reach them with ministry is athletics,” said Mr. Jud. “Sports is an awesome thing,
but it’s an avenue, a formation, a path to help kids grow in virtue in order to become better citizens and better human beings.”
Jude Kelly, head coach at St. Paul, said, “I like the concept of [reaching out to] the football team because football is such a team sport. We have 12 Catholic high schools in Connecticut that play football, and we don’t get a chance to see each other very much because we’re all in different leagues.”
Sean Marinan, head coach at Xavier, said, “I think it’s great for the kids to stay in touch with their religious roots. It’s great for the different teams that go through the same thing year in and year out to get together and stay in touch.”
Steve Calande, head coach at East Catholic, said, “This is a great opportunity. We bring all these young people together to offer some praise and to gain a blessing and celebrate the brotherhood of football and the brotherhood of Catholic education.”
Father Gary Simeone, pastor of St. Gregory, led the athletes in prayer and told them, “Gentlemen, this is a great moment for you tonight.... So let us take this time as being a very special moment in time to come before Jesus.”
Mr. Jud told the players, “You should desire to win in everything you do, but do it with virtue and do it the right way.”