Parishioners returned Feb. 25 to celebrate Mass at St. Monica Church for the first time since late December, when an arsonist burned its Nativity scene, severely damaged the altar and caused extensive smoke and water damage.
After the arson, the parish in Creve Coeur held sacramental events in the school, with Sunday Masses in the gymnasium. This displaced many basketball games that had already been scheduled there for the coming season. That's when other parishes in the West County district of the Catholic Youth Apostolate's CYC sports program stepped in to fill the void.
Rodney Arnold of St. John Bosco Parish and Steve Meyerhoff and Bill Davis of St. Richard Parish came to the rescue. "Without their help we would not have had much of a season," said Chris Irby of St. Monica's athletic association.
The fire started right as the basketball season was beginning. The parish could schedule only three early morning games on Saturdays, so "we were definitely scrambling," Irby said. "They helped us get through the season."
He scoffed about the perception that parishes are such rivals in sports that their members don't care about one another. "If we were rivals, they wouldn't have helped us out the way they did," Irby said. "They didn't complain, just let us in and worked with us on the scheduling."
Irby laughed as he added, "Now, we'd still like to beat them on Saturdays ... ."
St. Monica had 14 basketball teams and a training league group, which would boost the number to 16.
Meyerhoff of St. Richard described the scheduling aid as "a no-brainer," considering the close proximity of the parishes and previous partnerships of the athletic associations. Plus, the area public schools include parts of both parishes, so people from both parishes know each other.
"I sent them a note, 'Here's what we have available, let me know what you need and we'll make it work,'" said Meyerhoff, adding that the last thing anyone wants to do is leave kids without games to play. "It's been good for them and for us."
The decision meant a few extra hours for his small but dedicated group of "gym rats who like to hang out anyway," but they didn't mind. St. Monica sent helpers as well.
Butch Rosier, assistant director of the CYC Sports office, praised St. Richard and St. John Bosco athletic associations for offering to hold games at their parishes. "I am sure this meant more hours spent in the gym and more work for the folks at there," Rosier said. "I think this is a great example of teamwork, sportsmanship and belief in the philosophy of the CYC.
Rosier said he is "continually impressed by our volunteers with all the time and effort they put into making our program work, especially in a sport the size of basketball or soccer. Losing a key venue after the season has been scheduled is a major problem. That they were able to work together and not miss a beat is a very special effort."
Girls and boys youth basketball championships will be April 1-9.
It takes a lot of effort to run a sports program, and the CYC has been a leader for more than 75 years, thanks to its volunteers. I've seen many inspiring efforts of coaches and other adults who not only make the games happen through their service but also model their Catholic faith.
Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville. RELATED ARTICLE(S):FAITHFUL FAN | Athletes' community spirit often begins at the high school level