Combining Faith and Sports is a Slam Dunk for St. Charles Students

Bishop John Noonan stands with students at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in Orlando along with “Stuff” the Orlando Magic basketball team mascot during the blessing of the school’s new basketball court on Nov. 1. Former Orlando Magic players joined the school community to celebrate the opening of the court. (ELIZABETH WILSON | FC)

ORLANDO | Students gathered by the basketball court behind St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School erupted in cheers and applause when Bishop John Noonan asked, “Are you ready to play?” This was a long awaited opportunity for the students from St. Charles and Morning Star School for students with special needs. For many years St. Charles did not have their own basketball court, the students have been making use of the neighboring Bishop Moore Catholic High School’s facilities. But after a year of fundraising the school’s own home court was officially opened and blessed by Bishop Noonan on Nov. 1.

“We ask in a special way that God will bless you and bless this place where we can come and play,” prayed Bishop Noonan. “God has given us this place and we ask him to help you grow physically, mentally but also spiritually.”

Bishop Noonan was not the only special guest to visit the court for its inaugural games. Former Orlando Magic players Bo Outlaw and Nick Anderson along with team mascot, “Stuff” led the students in free throws, jump shots, and layups. The professional players wowed the crowd with slam dunks but the biggest cheers of all came when Cody, a student from Morning Star, confidently dribbled the ball from half court and expertly sent the ball flying through the net.

The joy, sportsmanship, and celebrating of another’s abilities that occurred that afternoon are part of the value of participating in team sports. At the first global conference on faith and sport hosted at the Vatican in October, Pope Francis said, “When we see athletes giving their very best, sport fills us with enthusiasm, with a sense of marvel, and it makes us almost feel proud. There is great beauty in the harmony of certain movements and in the power of teamwork.”

“Recreation is not just for fun, it also helps children grow in their relationship with God and each other,” said Nathan Nadeau, principal of St. Charles. “By having the first actions of this court be about God, the students have learned that we go to Him first for all things, even sports.”

“God has blessed us with the ability to play and be a part of sports,” Nadeau continued. “Without a doubt, Jesus played games as a child with his friends. Our children should be taught that our faith comes with us when we are on the court or the field or competing, not hidden under a bushel. Our faith should always be visible, especially when competing in sports, for all to see and to glorify God.”