Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. is flanked by Father Richard Osborn, chaplain of Red Bank Catholic High School; Father Jean Felicien, parochial vicar, Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley, and Catholic athletes from Christian Brothers Academy, Donovan Catholic High School and RBC. Staff photos.
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. is flanked by Father Richard Osborn, chaplain of Red Bank Catholic High School; Father Jean Felicien, parochial vicar, Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley, and Catholic athletes from Christian Brothers Academy, Donovan Catholic High School and RBC. Staff photos.
" It’s good to be with other schools that share the same purpose – tying our Catholic faith together with athletics. " Justin Fuerbacker Christian Brothers Academy sophomore
"We’re not from the Diocese of Trenton and I’ve waited for a few years to come to this. … I think they have found the day uplifting.  I hope to come again next year and bring even more students.”

These were the words shared by Joseph Servedio, the Catholic Athletes for Christ moderator from Immaculata High School, Somerville, in the Diocese of Metuchen.

His quest to find a group that incorporated faith and athletics began with a Google search when a student wanted to start a prayer group at the school.

“I Googled ‘Catholic Athletes’ and here we are,” he shared.

The “here” was the annual Catholic Athletes for Christ Leadership Conference held Sept. 27 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, where Immaculata students joined some 150 “cathletes” and coaches from Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft; Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River; Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville; Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank; St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel; St. Rose High School, Belmar, and Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy, Hamilton.

PHOTO GALLERY: CAC Leadership Conference 2022

VIDEO: CAC Leadership Conference

Dennis Guida, diocesan Catholic Athletes for Christ coordinator and Father Jason Parzynski, CAC diocesan chaplain and Notre Dame High School chaplain, organized the conference. Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., celebrated Mass for the students and moderators.

Following the morning session which included a keynote address by Gene Zannetti, school psychologist, whose presentation, “Winning Mindset” encouraged the teens to prioritize their faith.

“Athletics is the icing on the cake. But our Catholic faith is the cake,” he said.

He urged the athletes to take stock of how much time they give to their sport in relation to the time they give to God.

“Ask yourselves – how do I use my time, talent and treasure?  Do I use my abilities to give glory to God?”

The students had the opportunity to answer those question and more when they broke into small groups and were mixed with other athletes from the represented high schools. Following the breakout sessions, students shared their answers on faith, leadership, winning and losing with the larger group in a discussion facilitated by Guida and Father Jason.


Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, superintendent for Catholic schools and a former athlete himself, addressed the teens and praised them for being part of the CAC group in their school.

“We didn’t have CAC when I was in high school. I wish we did. It can really make a difference in your lives as Catholics and as you grow into adults. This is an important group to be a part of and I am so proud of you for taking the chance to come here today and for signing up to be in this program. It can change your lives. Now you have support network for the wins and for the losses.”

In his homily on the Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Bishop O’Connell referenced both his and Dr. Schmidt’s patron saint.

“Today, the Church offers us a 17th century French saint as an example, St. Vincent de Paul. His life was never easy. The times he lived were never easy. The circumstances he faced were never easy. But he kept going. He was a man of deep faith. And he used adversity to find God, it led him to God.

As we join together today, let’s pray for that kind of faith and perseverance, always seeking God’s wisdom come what may. When we win, we are the children of God. And when we lose, we are the children of God. A healthy mind and healthy body leads us to Christ.”

Following lunch, the cathletes took group photos with Bishop O’Connell and had the opportunity to reflect on the conference.

Gianna Doran, senior field hockey player from St. Rose High School, was glad she attended the with her school. “Today was really interesting. It was great to be able to connect with other athletes, I thought it was really fun. It can be scary to go somewhere and meet new people, but it was great.”

Fellow senior, Dylan Espineli, a basketball player from Donovan Catholic also enjoyed his time at the CAC conference. “I loved it today. It was my second year coming and I met new people. The speaker was inspiring.  I learned things – how to be a leader and how to live your faith.”

“It’s good to be with other schools that share the same purpose – tying our Catholic faith together with athletics.  Being able to answer questions about our faith with other high schools and hearing the perspectives of athletes from different sports was my favorite part of the day,” Justin Fuerbacker, a sophomore basketball and baseball player from Christian Brothers Academy offered.

As her CAC advisor had hoped, junior Immaculata soccer player, Kim D’Alessio found the leadership conference to be positive. “I thought it was a really good experience. It was something different and it really opened my eyes to what Catholic Athletes for Christ really is. We are the only school in the Diocese of Metuchen right now that has [a CAC chapter].  So, it was great to come together with the high schools even though we’re not from the Diocese of Trenton. I hope to come back next year.”