ROCHESTER -- Despite more than 200 athletes being gathered March 16 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, nobody seemed terribly interested in discussing wins and losses or who the superior players were among them.
All were on equal footing for this occasion, and for admirable reasons. They were this year's winners of the winter Faith Through Sports Awards.
The honor is bestowed twice annually to Catholic Youth Organization athletes throughout the Diocese of Rochester in grades 3-12. Basketball participants were the featured recipients at the one-hour service March 16, whereas a ceremony last fall honored CYO soccer players.
Each person selected is deemed to embody the following characteristics both on and off the court and athletic field: is a practicing Roman Catholic; consistently demonstrates Catholic values and Christian behavior by word and example; demonstrates the qualities of a team player; works toward both team and personal goals; is a positive role model to teammates; and honors the game through respect for team, opponents and officials.
Alison LeChase, diocesan coordinator of sports and Scouting, observed that the fulfillment of so many ideals is a strong statement of how recipients are progressing on their journeys as young Catholics.
"By honoring those things, they honor their faith. That's what makes this award so important," LeChase said.
Bishop Matano, as well, emphasized the "faith" component of the Faith Through Sports title in his homily.
"I want you to take your gifts and even go beyond the athletic accomplishment represented here today," the bishop told the athletes. "I want you to be future leaders in our communities, in our church and in our society."
Judith Lanahan of Rochester’s Siena Catholic Academy stands with other students during the procession of the March 16 Faith Through Sports ceremony at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Immediately after the homily, Bishop Matano presented medals one by one to recipients as their names were announced. Athletes came mostly from Monroe County, but others made longer journeys. One such person was Hannah Shaddock -- who, along with Chandler Erway, Ryan Hughes and Nick Volpe, traveled all the way from All Saints Parish in Corning/Painted Post.
"It was just a big honor to get it," Hannah said of the Faith Through Sports Award. "It was a big deal back in Corning, and a big deal to come and see the bishop."
LeChase noted that the award allows CYO team members to be recognized for intangibles that go beyond athletic accomplishments.
"It has nothing to do with their skill set as an athlete. It has to do with the characteristics of this award," she said.
Hannah agreed that it's a good idea to give players of all abilities a chance for special recognition. Meanwhile, award recipient Tyler Kielma, a freshman at Spencerport High School, said the distinction serves as a reminder that there's more to playing sports than the thrill of competition.
"It's about making friends and having a good time," stated Tyler, a CYO basketball player from St. Lawrence Parish in Greece, who was receiving his second Faith Through Sports Award.
Good times were in abundance March 16, with youths admiring each others' medals after Bishop Matano draped them around their necks. Following the ceremony, many young people eagerly posed for photos with family members and the bishop while a reception took place in the cathedral's narthex.
The night was extra-special for Hannah, a sixth-grader at Corning-Painted Post Middle School. She not only received her first Faith Through Sports Award, but also was selected to be cross-bearer for the service. In addition, March 16 marked her first trip to the Diocese of Rochester's mother church.
"It's awesome!" she exclaimed with a laugh, when asked for her impressions of the cathedral. "It's huge."