By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
About a half dozen high school football teams will gather at St. Patrick Church July 31 for a “rosary rally” prior to the start of the 2015-2016 school year and football season.
The rally — organized by SportsLeader — is a public way for the student athletes to demonstrate their Catholic faith, said Paul Passafiume, one of the co-founders of SportsLeader.
The Louisville-based Sports-Leader is a national training program for coaches focused on teaching virtue. It aims to provide coaches with resources to form young men and women with good character, said Passafiume, a member of St. Louis Bertrand and St. Agnes churches.
Several local high schools, including Trinity, DeSales, St. Xavier and Holy Cross, as well as Providence High School in Southern Indiana and Owensboro Catholic High School will take part in the rosary rally.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, along with Father Jeffrey Shooner, pastor of St. Patrick, will lead the rally, which will include praying the rosary and Benediction. Organizers expect 400 to 500 people to attend, including athletes.
“Many of them need positive peer pressure instead of negative peer pressure. When they see teammates and competitors doing a devotional practice, it has a powerful effect,” Passafiume said.
The Louisville rally is one of a dozen such rallies that Sports-Leader will host this summer and fall in more than a half dozen states.
“We need to be boldly Catholic. We need to confidently impart devotional practices to young people. They don’t want a watered-down faith, but a strong faith,” he said.
SportsLeader began in 2004 when Passafiume and fellow co-founder Joe Lukens, a former Ohio State University football player, saw a need for a new kind of sports mentoring program, Passafiume said he recalled.
Passafiume and the Sports-Leader staff work with elementary, high school and college coaches in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Canada by providing methods and curriculum to help teach virtue.
Passafiume was recently invited to attend the International Study Seminar on the topic “Coaches: Educators of People,” organized by the Catholic Church and the Sport Office of the Pontifical Council for the Laity at the Vatican May 14-15. At the seminar, Passafiume delivered a presentation on how to not simply train coaches, but to also form coaches “to become virtuous mentors of their athletes,” he said.
In a message Pope Francis sent to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council of the Laity, he conveyed the importance coaches have on their athletes.
“The presence of a good coach-educator is revealed providentially, especially in the years of adolescence and early youth. … In this delicate phase of life, the responsibility of a coach is great, who often has the privilege of spending many hours a week with young people and of having great influence on them by his conduct and personality,” Pope Francis said in the message.
“Therefore, how important it is that a coach be an example of integrity, of coherence, of good judgment, of impartiality, but also of joy of living, of patience, of capacity to esteem and of benevolence to all, especially the most disadvantaged.”
Trinity High School’s athletic director, Rob Saxton, said events like the rosary rally are opportunities for students to combine elements of faith and character.
Saxton also said that praying with schools they compete against is a way to “build on the elements of community and sportsmanship.”
By attending and taking part in a devotional prayer in such a visible way, Saxton said, high school athletes may take a deeper look at their faith. “We feel our young men will learn more about the impact prayer can make within their lives and the lives of their family and friends,” he said.
Passafiume said he and his staff hope to add similar rosary rallies for high school girls’ teams and possibly even grade school teams next year.
For more information about SportsLeader or the upcoming rosary rally, visit sportsleader.org.