Catholic Athletes urged to keep faith at forefront while on social media

September 27, 2023 at 4:07 p.m.
Bishop O'Connell enjoyed meeting students from the various high schools during the Catholic Athletes for Christ Mass and gathering. Here the Bishop poses for a photo with the students from Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River.
Bishop O'Connell enjoyed meeting students from the various high schools during the Catholic Athletes for Christ Mass and gathering. Here the Bishop poses for a photo with the students from Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River.

By CHRISTINA LESLIE
Correspondent

There are no secrets in social media, and the content you post follows you for years, said Paul Sanfrancesco, keynote speaker at the annual Catholic Athletes for Christ meeting Sept. 26 on the campus of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.

To view photo galleries, click here and here.

Teens from Catholic high schools throughout the Diocese of Trenton sat spellbound as Sanfrancesco, director of technology for St. Joseph University, Philadelphia, related tales of athletes on the high school, college and professional levels losing acceptance, scholarships and team membership due to something they shared on social media platforms, even from many years ago.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., was principal celebrant and homilist for the accompanying Mass. In his homily, he advised the athletes to “get in the game,” that is, to prioritize their Catholic faith “with the same energy and passion that we take onto the field, or the court, or the track or the pool.”

“We must take our faith with us there as Catholic Athletes for Christ. When we hear the Word of God and act on it with faith, the most important victory in life will always be ours! So, ‘get in the game,’” he said.

Sanfrancesco told the student athletes their social media posts “should have good character, discipline and common sense. ... If you think your digital footprint doesn’t matter, you’re wrong. As Catholics you have to ask yourself: Are you ready for people to see that account today?”

Looking at the numerous tech savvy teens seated before him, the speaker admitted to scouting their social media accounts; even without having their names, he was able to see some profiles based on them tagging their team or high school.

“It was easy for me to find some of you; you look familiar to me,” Sanfrancesco said, eliciting a few nervous looks from the teens to their friends and teammates. Most of their accounts were fine, he said, but others held some troublesome content.

“You are held to a different standard because you are in a Catholic school,” he continued. Referring to the objectionable posts, Sanfrancesco warned, “If I read it, someone else could. Who in your future could find it?”

He encouraged the teens to remove phone apps that seemed to be the greatest temptation for posting negative content, and each month to strive to spend just 1% less time immersed in social media.

He also encouraged them to be more like Blessed Carlo Acutis, who has the potential to be the first saint with an email address.

“As an athlete, you are influencing everyone in your school,” he said. “Are you encouraging? Remember the four Fs when you post on social media: faith, your family, friends and your future.”

Students and coaches in the Catholic Athletes for Christ professed their appreciation for the program as well as Sanfrancesco’s advice.

Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, senior A.J. Surace, a member of the football team, said his time in the CAC program helped him be involved with athletes in similar situations. “It was good to learn about what is right and what is negative on social media,” he said.

“Technology is usually brought up in a negative way, but [the speaker] emphasized what a positive effect it can have,” said Susanna Sloh, a Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy senior who plays tennis and cheerleads. “Just keep God close to you throughout all you do, even your social media presence.”


Bishop O'Connell celebrates Mass for the students, teachers and coaches who gathered for the Catholic Athletes for Christ event Sept. 26 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Concelebrating priests are, from left, Father Richard Osborn, chaplain in Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank; Msgr. Sam Sirianni, Co-Cathedral rector, and Father Garry Koch, chaplain in St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel. John Batkowski photo

 



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There are no secrets in social media, and the content you post follows you for years, said Paul Sanfrancesco, keynote speaker at the annual Catholic Athletes for Christ meeting Sept. 26 on the campus of St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.

To view photo galleries, click here and here.

Teens from Catholic high schools throughout the Diocese of Trenton sat spellbound as Sanfrancesco, director of technology for St. Joseph University, Philadelphia, related tales of athletes on the high school, college and professional levels losing acceptance, scholarships and team membership due to something they shared on social media platforms, even from many years ago.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., was principal celebrant and homilist for the accompanying Mass. In his homily, he advised the athletes to “get in the game,” that is, to prioritize their Catholic faith “with the same energy and passion that we take onto the field, or the court, or the track or the pool.”

“We must take our faith with us there as Catholic Athletes for Christ. When we hear the Word of God and act on it with faith, the most important victory in life will always be ours! So, ‘get in the game,’” he said.

Sanfrancesco told the student athletes their social media posts “should have good character, discipline and common sense. ... If you think your digital footprint doesn’t matter, you’re wrong. As Catholics you have to ask yourself: Are you ready for people to see that account today?”

Looking at the numerous tech savvy teens seated before him, the speaker admitted to scouting their social media accounts; even without having their names, he was able to see some profiles based on them tagging their team or high school.

“It was easy for me to find some of you; you look familiar to me,” Sanfrancesco said, eliciting a few nervous looks from the teens to their friends and teammates. Most of their accounts were fine, he said, but others held some troublesome content.

“You are held to a different standard because you are in a Catholic school,” he continued. Referring to the objectionable posts, Sanfrancesco warned, “If I read it, someone else could. Who in your future could find it?”

He encouraged the teens to remove phone apps that seemed to be the greatest temptation for posting negative content, and each month to strive to spend just 1% less time immersed in social media.

He also encouraged them to be more like Blessed Carlo Acutis, who has the potential to be the first saint with an email address.

“As an athlete, you are influencing everyone in your school,” he said. “Are you encouraging? Remember the four Fs when you post on social media: faith, your family, friends and your future.”

Students and coaches in the Catholic Athletes for Christ professed their appreciation for the program as well as Sanfrancesco’s advice.

Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, senior A.J. Surace, a member of the football team, said his time in the CAC program helped him be involved with athletes in similar situations. “It was good to learn about what is right and what is negative on social media,” he said.

“Technology is usually brought up in a negative way, but [the speaker] emphasized what a positive effect it can have,” said Susanna Sloh, a Trenton Catholic Preparatory Academy senior who plays tennis and cheerleads. “Just keep God close to you throughout all you do, even your social media presence.”


Bishop O'Connell celebrates Mass for the students, teachers and coaches who gathered for the Catholic Athletes for Christ event Sept. 26 in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold. Concelebrating priests are, from left, Father Richard Osborn, chaplain in Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank; Msgr. Sam Sirianni, Co-Cathedral rector, and Father Garry Koch, chaplain in St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel. John Batkowski photo

 


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