Tuesday April 9th: Born from Above
April 9, 2024
Wednesday April 10th: God’s love is the greatest!
April 10, 2024

Building Catholic youth sport ministry

The power of sports is undeniable but quite often sporting events and recreation seem to conflict with religious events and practices.

More than seven years ago, the Archdiocese of Port of Spain began investing in sports ministry through the Shepherd’s Cup Competition. At that time, the ministry focused on vicariate and archdiocesan football/futsal competitions in which Catholic youth played inter-parish tournaments.

Shepherd’s Cup as a competition became a well-loved set of events, particularly appealing to male teenagers. When the young adult team of leaders who managed the competition sat down to determine the future of the ministry during the Covid-19 pandemic, they discerned a very different future.

Three years later, the Archdiocese is moving away from an event approach to sport ministry and re-focusing relational and evangelising approach to sport for youth. The parishes are encouraged to redirect their ministry energies to:

  • Building relationships with youth infrequently attending Mass
  • Establishing a routine of prayer and sporting practice with youth they meet
  • Work with the other ministries in the parish to minister to the family of the youth

The new Vision and Mission of sport ministry are stated below and reflects this change in the prevailing purpose of the ministry:

Vision – Healthy and Holy young disciples

Mission – Evangelising and building community with and for our youth through sport and recreation.

Two important pivots have been made.

  1. Evangelisation – participants in parish/group-based sports ministry are invited to get to know God and ignite their prayer life, through scripture
  2. Community building – parishes with a sport ministry for youth are called to connect with young people in their geographic community and help build the bonds of Catholic fellowship among youth in various ministries in their parish

This is an uncomfortable change, because it forces parishes to do more than respond to a call for participation in a youth event. Greater emphasis is on the relationships (youth and God, youth, and parish community) that the ministry seeks to improve. This calls for youth ministers, coaches, parishes, and event coordinators to become more intentional in the ways they interact with youth before, during and after events.

Pope Francis in his letter to youth Christus Vivit (CV) identified outreach as a goal of youth ministry, effectively reminding pastoral leaders that we can no longer sit in our parishes and expect youth to come to us. As leaders of all ages reach out to youth, “we need to use above all the language of closeness, the language of generous, relational, and existential love that touches the heart, impacts life, and awakens hope and desires. Young people need to be approached with the grammar of love, not by being preached at. The language that young people understand is spoken by those who radiate life, by those who are there for them and with them” (CV 21).

There are so many more ministry opportunities for parishes once parish coaches are willing to work as a part of a whole parish approach to ministry. At the parish coaches meeting on April 6, coaches from Siparia and Chaguanas spoke about their experiences of ‘sweating’ with you in public parks and working with parents to encourage discipline in their children.

The group also shared on the challenges experienced—limited support from other parish ministries, and a lack of recognition for the power of integrating sport and faith formation.

In 2024, the Office of Youth Ministry (OYM) will be working with interested parishes to integrate sports in the life of parishes with a goal of every parish having a coach by the end of 2024 and at least 20 parishes daring to:

  • Host regular prayer and practice sessions in their community
  • Host or participate in sport-themed faith formation events in which all the youth of the parish, including altar servers and Confirmation candidates, participate side by side.

We look forward to working with people and parishes hoping to use a holistic approach to ministry.

For further details about Shepherd’s Cup Activities 2024 contact the OYM: cyc@catholictt.org or facebook.com/rcyctt