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Rosary rally for athletes is Aug. 27 in Little Rock

Leader: Goal of rosary rallies for athletics to ‘bring souls closer to Christ’

Published: August 24, 2015   
John Stegeman
Players from Covington (Ky.) Catholic, Cincinnati Purcell Marian and Hamilton (Ohio) Badin watch Father Benedict O’Cinneslaigh as he censes the Blessed Sacrament during a SportsLeader Rosary Rally July 30 in Ohio.

Little Rock is one of 20 cities to host a SportsLeader Rosary Rally for athletes and coaches.

Catholic school student-athletes in fifth to 12th grades are invited to Little Rock’s first Rosary Rally at 5:45 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27 at St. John Center. Hot dogs will be served from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m., courtesy of the Knights of Columbus Council 812. At 6:30 p.m. Lou Judd, director of SportsLeader, will speak to the athletes and coaches followed by Deacon Norm DeBriyn, former baseball coach for the University of Arkansas. The evening will end with praying the rosary at 7 p.m.

Athletes should wear their jerseys or uniforms, especially those playing football, cheerleading, volleyball and cross country. Other athletes are encouraged to wear a spirit or school shirt. Rosaries will be provided to the students by SportsLeader, an independent Catholic nonprofit dedicated to helping coaches instill virtue in players. Students and parents should bring their own drinks, blankets and folding chairs.

The first rally was held in Cincinnati in 2014, but its success spawned a 2015 schedule with at least 20 rallies scheduled nationwide.

On July 30 about 350 boys clad in different-colored football jerseys resembled a mosaic as they sat or knelt on the grass at Cincinnati’s Mount St. Mary’s Seminary with rosaries in hand.

High school football players from different teams and an archbishop gathered to pray the rosary before the Blessed Sacrament.

Louisville, Ky.-based SportsLeader is the rally host.

“We started showing the photos and explaining the story to cities across the country, saying this is what happened here and asking if they want to do something similar,” Judd said. “Since then it’s been up, up and away.”

Ricky Turner, athletic director at Blessed Trinity in Roswell, Ga., assisted SportsLeader in spreading the word to area schools this year. His school alone brought nearly 100 players, coaches and staff to the rally.

“It was a special event to see them all kneeling and praying the rosary with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction at the end,” Turner said. “It is something our kids need to see more often and be involved in more often.

“These are schools we compete against ... but it shows how we all came together as a Catholic group that night,” he told The Catholic Telegraph, Cincinnati’s archdiocesan newspaper. “And for the non-Catholics, to see our Christian faith in everyone come together, it was a pretty neat event.”

Judd said the rallies appeal to student athletes, male football players mostly so far, because it is a masculine environment where they feel natural and can witness to their faith. Players and coaches aren’t the only supporters.

Judd noted that Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Rice of St. Louis and Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati took part in rallies in their cities.

“Through this rosary rally, we see that in fact coaches and school administrators are taking seriously their charge to make certain that every aspect of a Catholic school education is a mode of transmitting the faith,” Archbishop Schnurr said.

In Cincinnati, home of one of SportsLeaders’ founders, Joe Lukens, every Catholic school of the archdiocese that plays football attended one of two rallies. Though SportsLeader targets Catholic schools for the rosary rallies, at least one public school has sent representatives.

Not every rally is the same size, but most follow the same format. Players, coaches and parents gather; a talk is given by a notable speaker; there is exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; and the rosary is prayed. Players get a free rosary and a prayer card of St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes.

The rallies, Judd said, have a singular purpose.

“In my heart and the heart of everybody that’s in SportsLeader, we want to bring souls closer to Christ,” he said. “That’s what we want. We just happen to love sports and want to have this as an avenue to do it. I love seeing these families and young men praying. I’m praying this plants a seed or inspires them to want to grow closer to Our Lord.”

John Stegeman contributed to this article.

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