The teams St. Mary Parish, Barnegat and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lakewood, met in the finals with Our Lady of Guadalupe winning the match and championship trophy.
The teams St. Mary Parish, Barnegat and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Lakewood, met in the finals with Our Lady of Guadalupe winning the match and championship trophy.
For two consecutive Sundays, soccer players pulled from parishes around the Diocese of Trenton competed for the second year in a friendly soccer tournament Aug. 21 and 28, held in the Donovan Sports Complex of Donovan Catholic High School, affiliated with nearby St. Joseph Parish, Toms River.

Father Neiser Cardenas, parochial vicar, organized the tournament designed to bring together priests and their flocks in planning, execution and tournament play.

PHOTO GALLERIES: Parish Soccer Tournament

I saw that we had very good facilities for recreation. That made me think about how we could integrate the community and invite other parishes and make connections, through the sport” he said.

And why soccer?

“We chose soccer to be part of the tournament because it is a sport that Hispanics like a lot,” Father Cardenas offered. “I have a special connection with soccer because I am Colombian and the number one sport in Colombia is soccer. So, for that reason we decided to do this soccer tournament and integrate the different countries of the Hispanic community.”

The matches were divided into categories – men, women and youth. Men’s teams came from St. Joseph Parish, Toms River; the diocesan Cursillo Ministry; Children of Mary Ministry; Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Lakewood; St. Mary Parish, Barnegat; Catholic Charismatic Renewal Ministry, the St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, and even from outside the Diocese, Immaculate Conception Parish, Elizabeth. Women’s teams were formed from St. Joseph Parish, Toms River; St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, and St. Joseph Parish, Trenton.

Finalists competing in the Aug. 28 tournament for the men’s teams were: St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, Cursillo Ministry, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and St. Mary Parish. Our Lady of Guadalupe’s team ultimately defeated St. Joseph’s 2-1. On the women’s side, finalist teams St. Mary Parish and St. Joseph Parish, Trenton, went head-to-head, with St. Mary’s triumphing 4-0.

While the competition was fierce, participants also saw the tournament as an opportunity to come together with friends and family.

“When we come here it is not only those who are going to participate in the event, but there are wives, husbands and children. We focus a lot on the family, and I believe that through the game we can integrate the family,” Bienbenido Quezada, a parishioner of St. Mary’s Cathedral, shared.

Manifer Lopez also felt a connection beyond his own family with the greater community.

“When you start playing and connecting with more people you get to know different people and you get to know the different communities.  You can continue getting involved with those communities and even do more gatherings with other faith and parish communities.”

That is what Father Cardenas hopes the soccer tournament will continue to bring in the years to come.

“Working together is what we are teaching through soccer. We are promoting unity and fraternity; that is what we want with the parish tournament– unity and fraternity in Jesus Christ.”