Catholic Diocese of Wilmington - The Dialog

75 Years of CYO Memories

To mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of Catholic Youth Ministry in the Diocese of Wilmington, The Dialog asked readers to share memories of their participation in CYO, the forerunner of today's CYM. These are the submissions we received.

Trophy is a piece of my history
Check out my room. The trophy on the bureau (a basketball player on its top) says "CYO JR GIRLS, won by St. Elizabeth's 1950, 1951 and 1952."
I rescued it from the trash. Apparently, those trashing it thought it was ancient history. I didn't. It was my history.
If memory does not fail me, my experience with CYO began in 1947-48. Every Saturday morning at St. Elizabeth's auditorium-turned-gym, a girls basketball league was held for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in the diocese.
Female athletes may not have been popular at that time, but many showed up. I still have friends I met that first year. They hailed from St. Mary's, St. Ann's, St. Thomas, Christ Our King and, of course, St. E's.
In 1950 St. Elizabeth's girls beat Christ Our King at Fournier Hall for the league championship. Pat O'Donnell Buckalew and Joan Connor were the coaches. The gym was brand-new, big (compared to St. Elizabeth's), and provided our first experience with glass backboards.
CYO annually participated in the four-city Middle Atlantic Tourney (Wilmington, Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia). I remember the games we played at the University of Maryland, where several games were played simultaneously on courts side-by-side.
CYO was more than basketball. In the spring of 1949 a CYO softball league began for grade-school girls. And of course there was the popular track meet at Baynard Stadium.
The CYO leagues were the foundation for the present high school competition. In 1948, St. Elizabeth High School founded a girls' basketball team. They played St. Peter's High in New Castle and St. James in Penns Grove, N.J. I played for SEHS when I was in St. Elizabeth Elementary School's eighth grade in 1949-50. The next year, the only local public schools St. E's engaged were Howard and Mount Pleasant high schools. The team played mainly out of state.
At that time, girls had six players on a team, three forwards and three guards. They did not cross half-court. It was a passing game, since dribbles were limited to two and only forwards could shoot.
Today, of course, the game is different, and women's sports are popular. How many people attend the state tourneys now, especially for girls, and think it was always this way?
One of the best women's basketball players in the country, Kadijah Rushdan, hails from Wilmington, from St. Elizabeth High School and formerly from St. Elizabeth Grade School.
I played CYO sports for nine years. During that time, I umpired softball and refereed basketball games. CYO was a great influence on me and on many of the youth of Wilmington. The CYO provided fun for youth and nurtured them with values and discipline.
My four children and two grandchildren have all played CYO/CYM sports.
Thank you, CYO and CYM. You minister well.
Barbara Mulrooney Cresci
Wilmington END
Originally published Sept. 7, 2006

The game we won by a foot
I would love to share a sports-related memory from Nov. 13, 1983.
St. Mary Magdalen was in the CYO football championship for the third straight year. We were playing St. Elizabeth's, who was undefeated and loaded with tons of talent and size.
At the end of the fourth quarter, we found ourselves in a 6-6 tie heading into an overtime that involved four plays for each team from the 10-yard-line to decide the winner.
St. Elizabeth's won the coin toss and had four plays to try and score from the 10-yard line. After preventing them from scoring, it was our turn to try and score, again in four plays from the 10-yard line.
Having little success with the first three plays, we called on Rob Kochie, a co-captain and two-way starter, to line up for a 25-yard field-goal attempt. Field goals were virtually unheard of at the grade-school level at that time, and may still be for all I know. However, Rob came out and nailed it right between the uprights to give SMM the victory and third straight CYO championship.
Steven Rizzo
Originally published Sept. 28, 2006

A hayride, a truck ride, and the ride of a lifetime
I was a member of St. Paul's CYO in the '50s and later, after college, a parish moderator who directed a few shows in the annual radio play contest held at St. Peter's Cathedral in Wilmington.
My favorite memory, however, was from 1953 during a hayride from the church to the Merryland Roller Rink in Glasgow.
We all had a great time, but most of us had to ride home in the back of the truck on a very cold late-December evening. There were only two seats in the heated cab and, as president of the group, I was lucky to sit up front with the driver and Pat Anderson, the future Mrs. Joyce.
I guess being an officer had its perks (and future benefits) as well.
Frank Joyce
Originally published Oct. 12, 2006

Able leaders inspired me to get involved
During the early 1950s I was introduced to the CYO through St. Anthony of Padua School. When the sixth and seventh grades were being taught in the same classroom, a baseball team was formed under the leadership of Oblate Father Robert Diekman, who was assigned to St. Anthony's.
 Money was tight, as we were in the process of building a new school building. But a team was put together, and although we had no uniforms, we played in the CYO league.
Later I developed an interest in basketball, and since Salesianum was using Fournier Hall for its home games, the CYO became a Saturday morning ritual at Fournier.
During my high school years, St. Anthony's CYO was directed by Oblate Father Sal D'Angelo. Under his leadership we attended the 1957 convention of the National Council of Catholic Youth in Philadelphia and met with the guest speaker, Vice President Richard Nixon, and actress Irene Dunne, who received an award. I was asked to run for the office of the central committee, which I won in a close election.
The diocesan CYO was led by William L. Kapa. Mr. Kapa was one of the finest people I have met and worked with. With him at the helm, many activities were broadened and many more young people became interested in Catholic youth activities. His able assistant, Beverly A. Cerchio, had a deep desire and love to work with young adults. She inspired many of us.
Fran Lano
Originally published Oct. 12, 2006

CYO helped keep me out of trouble playing game I loved
The Catholic Youth Organization offered me the chance to play basketball for St. Mary's in Wilmington in the late 1940s. Games were well-attended, especially on Saturday morning, by priests, sisters and parents.
Moving to Sacred Heart Parish, I played there and we won the title game and got a chance to go to New Jersey, where we beat the New Jersey champs.
Coaches like Joe Brennan and Doc Winner looked out for me as a kid when I lost my father at age 12. Friends I played with back then stayed with me in my adult life, and that is one of the best things about sports.
I attended Sallies for a short time and then transferred to Wilmington High. I enjoyed playing in high school and later in the major CYO league with St. Ann's. When the Army called, I was able to play basketball with Special Services.
The start I got with the CYO helped keep me out of trouble and play the game that I loved.
I have two granddaughters who now play in the CYM program, and my daughter, Kathy Cowan, helps to coach.
Jim Patton
Rehoboth Beach
Originally publised Oct. 19, 2006

Tennis brought fond memories for family
In the early 1970s, CYO sponsored an annual tennis tournament. Toby Craig was in charge originally. At that time it was held at public courts in the city, and later at Brandywine College (now Widener University campus).
 Youngsters from many parishes participated, including several from Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Mary Magdalen.
Our family were tennis enthusiasts. Five of our offspring entered, and we have quite a few trophies commemorating these occasions. Later on, somehow I was persuaded to take over running the tournament, and did so for several years. Later, Dee Jakotowicz from the CYO office took over. She was very efficient and ran the tournament for several years.
Mary Kegelman
Originally published Oct. 19, 2006

St. E's baseball team dueled prison squad
The 1951 St. Elizabeth's baseball team is remembered for its skill and domination of CYO and for its unusual exhibition games.
The late Father Francis Burns was very involved in all the sports programs in the parish school in the 1950s. As chaplain at the state prison at Prices Corner (now the Webb Correctional Facility), Father Burns had his high-powered eighth-graders play against a prison team inside the walled compound.
The aggressiveness of the prison team surprised the young CYO champions. The Vikings players found themselves knocked to the ground when trying to stop the prisoners from stealing second base (no pun intended). The fastball of Bill Olewinski, however, was too much for the prisoners, and the athletes from Hedgeville, Canby Park and Browntown had another victory.
The highlight of that season was a match with the undefeated champions from Philadelphia. The game was played before a Blue Rocks game at the old park on Governor Printz Boulevard and again, the Vikings scored a victory.
There were many outstanding players on this team, including Franny Lynch, Rick Maguigan, Rich Williams, Bill Olewinski, Jim Fiorelli, Ted Kempski, Harry Manelski, Don Sansone, Phil Di Medio, Bob Lougheed and Mike Melloy. We often reminisce that we were fortunate to have the encouragement and support of St. Elizabeth Parish, its priests and nuns.
Michael F. Melloy
Originally published Oct. 19, 2006

St. Thomas athletics made me who I am
I would not be who I am today without the CYO athletic program at my childhood parish, St. Thomas the Apostle in Wilmington.
I played softball, basketball, track - softball continued throughout my life, in ladies' leagues and through CYO softball for my three daughters in Pennsylvania. I even coached CYO softball. Until then I didn't realize the commitment of time and energy given by my CYO coaches, Al Donofrio, Dan Marino, Dee Jakotowicz.
I learned many lessons - camaraderie, team effort, respectful competition, working hard toward a goal. Not to mention the friendships formed and, of course, the fun and now the memories, 45 years later.
All of these qualities prepared me to raise a blended family, be involved in my community, maintain my faith and live my Ursuline motto, "Serviam."
Renée Price Fox
Ocean Pines, Md
Originally published Nov. 9, 2006

Another coach's gesture  gave Corpus Christi runners a lift
My greatest CYO memory is that of the 1970 CYO track season. Coach Irv Wisniewski, who also was an assistant football coach at the University of Delaware, was the head track coach for Holy Angels. I was fresh out of the U of D and a teacher and coach at Corpus Christi School in Elsmere. Corpus Christi did not have a track team for several years, and I agreed to help build the program.
I befriended Irv at various track meets leading up to the CYO championship meet. Irv could see that I was developing a good team; however, he felt the team would have a significant opportunity in the championship if all runners had spikes. Through a sporting-goods store that his family operated in Newark, Irv arranged to meet me the week before the meet and let the athletes buy new spikes at an almost-cost price.
The Sunday of the championship was a long and grueling day for athletes and coaches and it appeared that the perennial champions out of St. Joseph's, Clayton, would be champions again. The results were not finalized when the teams left Baynard Stadium in late afternoon. When the results were tallied, Corpus Christi's team had won the championship.
The first person to call and congratulate me on my team's success was Irv Wisniewski. The next year, I was unanimously voted the CYO track chairman.
Joseph E. Salvatore
Originally published Nov. 9, 2006

'Hey, Luzinski!'
I joined St. Helena's softball team back in 1973. That season the team was invited to a Phillies' game. Led by Nancy Fry and Sheila Williams, we were on a mission. "Luzinski! Hey, Lu-ZIN-ski!" we shouted at the top of our lungs. After what seemed like a half hour and a mile away, Phillies outfielder Greg Luzinski turned and looked up from left field to see a collection of preteens waving. What a moment!
However, my fondest memories are of Mr. Angelo Martino, our coach, calling us by our last names or some reasonable facsimile - "Ber-bee-zee, you get on 'foist,' Brooksie, 'ceneh' field, Angeline, 'toid' base" - in his pronounced accent. If we acted too much like girls: "Dis is a ball game!"
I still hear Mr. Martino when I play ball with my kids. There is nothing like the smack of the ball and glove as they meet. My kids know that "Stop!" means to close your eyes, put your face in the glove, and take a deep breath.
Ahhh. Thanks, St. Helena's.
Cathy Deluke Stamegna
Originally published Nov. 9, 2006

Thanks to friends, I was queen for a day
In 1960 in the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel du Pont, I was crowned CYO Harvest Ball Queen, representing Christ Our King Parish. It was a magical night!
What I best remember about the event was how the COK "youths" rallied at the 11th hour to raise funds for the CYO. Whatever parish raised the most, their nominee for queen was crowned CYO Harvest Ball Queen of that year. I don't recall the amount of money COK raised, but as the representative of the winning parish I received a complimentary photo of my one-day reign, a beautiful bouquet of a dozen red roses, and a silver charm commemorating the event (which I still have today).
Unfortunately, the tiara and the crimson velvet and ermine trim robe had to be returned after the photo shoot. I believe 1960 was the last year that the ball was held.
Susanna C. Bellafante-Cloud
St. Petersburg, Fla.
Originally published Nov. 30, 2006

St. Paul coach taught gentlemanly values
The 75th anniversary celebration takes my mind back to the early 1940s. I was graduated from St. Paul's School, Wilmington, in 1943.
I have vivid memories of Mr. Edward Callahan, our baseball and basketball coach. In every aspect of athletics, he was very much aware of what to do and when to try to do it. He insisted that we give our best at all times. He was a dedicated gentleman who taught us more than the fundamentals of the game. He instilled in us values for life - in every way we must be gentlemen, and in the eyes of God we always win when we give our very best. I must add, we won most of the time.
Ed is no longer with us, but may he always rest in the peace of Christ.
Father Vincent Burke, OSFS
Childs, Md.
Originally published Jan. 4, 2007

Former athletes still show volunteers respect
In the mid-1970s I had the opportunity to be affiliated with the CYO sports program at St. Anthony of Padua Church. I was vice president of St. Anthony's Youth Activity Council. We raised money for the children's sports programs, helped to buy new uniforms and performed other services.
Most of the parents were members. It was a great experience and an honor to be part of this program - just knowing that we helped many children learn to play sports, have self-esteem and grow into good human beings.
Thank goodness for all the coaches, who gave their time, and the volunteers, who helped with fund-raising. I had two of those coaches in my family, and my three children all played CYO sports.
Years later I run into some of these kids and they are grown with their own families. They still remember you and give you the same wonderful respect.
Thank you, CYO, and God bless.
Filomena M. Duncan
Originally published Jan. 4, 2007

Two runners gave shining examples
Ten years ago, the Holy Angels cross country team, originally founded by Al Castagno, was reactivated. John Yasik, a former Archmere Academy and University of Delaware runner, brought energy and experience to the first group of 14 runners and their parents.
Over the years, several hundred Holy Angels youth have had the opportunity to improve their self-confidence and physical conditioning, make new friends with teammates and competitors, and learn the values of sportsmanship and teamwork.
Some runners have gone on to compete at the high school and collegiate levels, while some have put away their running shoes after just a few years.
But the greatest life lesson these runners and their families have learned over the years has come from watching the incomparable efforts of two memorable runners: Elizabeth Nolan, a young lady with Down syndrome who ran for St. Mary Magdalen, and Kaz Sortino, a young man with cerebral palsy who competes for Christ the Teacher.
They have taught us all that the effort, sacrifice, and desire to participate far outweigh the importance of winning.
Mark Brindle
Originally published Jan. 18, 2007

CYO got its start in family kitchen
In 1930 Bishop Bernard J. Sheil started the Catholic Youth Organization in Chicago. In 1932 Father John Sheehy of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Wilmington felt that athletics would teach young people Christian values and provide them with a constructive activity. So Father Sheehy, Tom Brand and my father, Gerald Doherty Jr., met in the kitchen of our home on Woodlawn Avenue and began the planning of what they called the Catholic Athletic Council, later known and incorporated as the Catholic Youth Organization. It is believed to be the second one incorporated, after Chicago.
For many years, my father was in charge of the annual track meets at Baynard Stadium.
Helen Doherty
Originally published Jan. 18, 2007

CYO activities influenced my life
As a member of the Class of 1968 at St. Helena's School, I was greatly influenced by CYO during junior high and high school. On the diocesan level we were always very competitive in every activity, especially athletics. I recall that we won a championship touch football game played at Archmere Academy on a very rainy Sunday afternoon. We were also CYO bowling champions when the CYO had a very successful league on Sunday afternoons during the winter at Bowl-a-Rama. On the parish level we had a very strong program led by the late Father John O'Brien, as well as a very supportive athletic association.
Monday night was CYO meeting night. After CCD classes we met in the school hall, where we conducted a brief business meeting followed by a social meeting. We played all of the "hot" records of the day (Temptations, Supremes, Four Tops, Stones and Beatles). Sometimes we would have dual meetings with another parish in our area. We danced and had a great time. To fund our activities we sold Christmas trees, washed cars and held pancake breakfasts.
Good times, good memories and great friends!
Bob Hayman
Originally published Jan. 18, 2007

There was 'not a Nike in sight'
Probably our first taste of competition, outside our own circle, was the Catholic Youth Organization track meet at Baynard Stadium. This picture, taken about 1937, shows St. Joseph on the Brandywine team members Mary Biddle (Russell), Jeanette Rogozzo and Louisa Feliciani in the back row from left, and Frances Ferguson (Schumacher), Agnes Bonner (Sister Catherine Michael) and Jane Toomey (Best) in the front row from left.
We are wearing our blue ribbons and, of course, Sister Floriana saw to it that we all wore our Sacred Heart badges. Yes, we ran in these clothes - not a Nike in sight. Later we went to Alexis I. du Pont High School and lettered in hockey, basketball and cheerleading.
I also remember playing volleyball at St. Joe's, being coached by Miss O'Neill.
Mary B. Russell
Originally published Feb. 15, 2007

'Best brother' shepherded girls at St. Anthony
Fifty years ago, a group of St. Anthony's seventh- and eighth-grade girls asked Oblate Brother Michael Rosenello to start a girls' basketball team. He did!
Our school gym was not completed, so we practiced in Fournier Hall's third-floor gym. We didn't have uniforms. We wore yellow dickies over our clothes. Every Friday night during basketball season, Brother Mike took us to our games in an old van owned by St. Anthony's. We lost every game, but we learned basketball and sportsmanship and had lots of fun.
In the spring of 1957, Brother Mike started the first St. Anthony's softball team for girls. Many of these girls went on to play basketball and softball at Padua Academy.
The next basketball season we had great-looking St. Anthony's black and orange uniforms. Our team improved. We even played in St. Elizabeth's then-new gym, now called "The Box." Saturday nights were saved for St. E's dances.
On behalf of the past, present and future female athletes of St. Anthony's and Padua, thanks, Brother Mike. He is the best "brother" a girl could have.
Ann Kane Paoli
Originally published Feb. 15, 2007

CYO social events, sports united youth
After World War II many parishes had senior CYOs for post-high school members. There were many social events sponsored by each parish and the central CYO. There was the annual Harvest Ball, hayrides, roller skating parties, etc. Another event was the CYO Variety Show at Sacred Heart Church in Wilmington, held in 1947.
In 1947, CYO had three levels of basketball leagues: major league (semi-pro), parish (high school) and parochial (grade school). Christ Our King's major team won the Wilmington CYO title by beating St. Ann's and St. Patrick's in the playoffs after finishing fourth in the regular season.
In March of that year, COK entered the CYO Eastern Regional Tournament at Fordham University in New York City. We beat the undefeated NYC champs, St. Peter's of Staten Island, and Mount Carmel (Pa.), before losing in overtime in the finals to St. Teresa of Brooklyn.
The main player on that team was Malcolm Pritchett, who also played with a strong VFW team, Speer Post No. 615, which went to the VFW national tournament in Nebraska. After winning the Wilmington CYO title, Christ Our King wanted to enter a state tournament at the Wilmington Central YMCA, but we realized we would not be the same team without Pritchett, who had chosen to play with Speer Post.
With Bob "Peanuts" Riley, Jim Thomas, Joe Hurley and myself from COK, we needed more players from an established team in order to enter. So I contacted some old public school buddies who played in the Protestant Church League with Hanover Presbyterian Church. My friends joined us, and in an ecumenical move I entered as Hanover A.C., wearing Hanover tops and Christ Our King shorts. Realizing we would need a good replacement for Pritchett, I contacted Billy Doherty, a very good all-around athlete, up at Villanova University, and he agreed to play with us.
As luck would have it, our team met the favorite, Speer Post, in the opening round and beat them. They had three players 6 feet, 5 inches and taller. We beat every other team and won the state title. I later learned that when a priest at Salesianum School saw the lineup in the paper he couldn't understand why all those Catholic boys were playing for a Protestant church!
Many of the players on that team played for Christ Our King until the major division disbanded in 1953.
It was through CYO basketball that I met my future wife, Theresa Grant of St. Thomas Parish. We were blessed to be the parents of two "starting fives" of four boys and a girl each.
Guido Schiavi
Originally published March 1, 2007

'There wasn't a slacker' on St. Helena's team
The 1955 CYO football championship game matched St. Helena's against Holy Rosary at Archmere Academy. The newspaper account reported more than 800 people watched the game (before the National Football League was a Sunday television staple). This was a natural rivalry because we were neighboring parishes, both taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph. That Sunday, the game was announced at all the Masses and parishioners were encouraged to attend.
Although the game was very exciting (St. Helena's 7, Holy Rosary 0), the legacy of this game was the accomplishments of the participants in later years. That St. Helena's team included Sen. Joe Biden and notable attorney Joe Hurley, along with many other distinguished businessmen and professionals. This group included three attorneys, three engineers, a college professor, accountant, state police major, Labor Department official, podiatrist and servicemen (including a Vietnam MIA). I have kept in touch with most of the teammates, and there wasn't a slacker in the group.
I consider it a tribute to the work ethic of post-World War II, the discipline and morality of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and the cameraderie of CYO sports participants.
Edward J. Hynes
Originally published March 29, 2007

St. Elizabeth athletes proud to represent parish at tournament
In 1940, Archmere Academy, under the direction of Father Justin Diny, athletic director, invited basketball teams from various schools in the area of New Castle County and Pennsylvania to participate in the Archmere tournament.
Included in this tournament was St. Elizabeth School. We were very proud to represent our parish school at this event. St. Elizabeth won the tournament and placed three players on the all-star team.
Joseph R. Walling
Originally published March 29, 2007

Unique approach spurred 'experience of a lifetime' for coach
Living in the Newark area, your choices for CYO in the '80s meant you were going to hear and meet Vance Funk. Signups, registrations, you generally saw a reminder from Vance to be part of a CYO activity.
Vance, the current mayor of Newark, was an official in the St. John's Holy Angels athletic association and a longtime coach. He had a unique answer for coaches looking for parent helpers or assistant coaches or "set up crew": "The children have parents - ask them!"
I must credit an experience of a lifetime as an assistant and a coach to Vance. Great memories helping coaches and learning to be a coach at Holy Angels and Holy Spirit.
Vance, thanks for the CYO experience.
Michael Handlin
Originally published March 29, 2007

Champions on the diamond
The 1942 baseball team from St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Wilmington was the 1942 summer league champs. The team included Fran "Shanty" Reilly, seated second from the left, who said his six children - including son Kevin, a former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker - and 18 grandchildren have participated in CYO sports, "and now I have a great-grandchild playing for St. Mary Magdalen." The priest in the photo is Father William Jennings, who was assistant rector of St. Mary's in the early 1940s. Father Jennings, now 93, lives in Newark.
Fran Reilly
Originally published March 29, 2007

CYO life comes full circle at volleyball practice
In 1953 my love of all things athletic began with sixth-grade CYO basketball. I vividly remember our young, enthusiastic coach piling six giggling girls into her 1950 Plymouth for the drive to practice in a dark, dusty inner-city gym. It was there that we gals began to call each other by our last names. Mine, Quillen, followed me through grade school, high school and college sports. In the 1950s, CYO dances and games were our weekend entertainment.
My sons, Brian and Neil, and daughter Sarah all played CYO at St. John the Beloved. I coached field hockey there in the 1980s. Neil coached volleyball at St. John's/Holy Angels in the early 1990s.
On Oct. 9, 2006, my CYO life came full circle. I live and work downstate, but while "up north" went to pick up our granddaughter Caroline from a St. Mary of the Assumption volleyball practice. Her team was a man down when it came to the end of the practice scrimmage. One of their coaches asked me to fill in. Until that special evening, I had never played organized volleyball and perhaps will never have the opportunity to play again.
At 65 I scrimmaged with a very spirited team. I realized then how much CYO has meant to my family.
Barbara Quillen Dougherty
Dewey Beach

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