“Many of us here played C.Y.O. when we were younger, and it’s why we give back to C.Y.O. today,” continued Father Suckiel. “C.Y.O. left a mark on our hearts, it impacted how we are as adults.”
On Friday, May 16, at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, the C.Y.O. Diocese of Brooklyn recognized this commitment and dedication in grand fashion as it inaugurated the C.Y.O. Hall of Fame with 15 inductees chosen from throughout the diocese and across the ages, as well as from the full spectrum of sports that the C.Y.O. includes – Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Soccer, Swimming, Track & Field, Volleyball, and Cheerleading.
Bob Corrigan has been the Track coach at St. Joan of Arc for 41 years. Still, he was humbled and surprised to be among the inaugural class of honorees. “I thought there were other candidates more deserving than I,” he said. “And I still do.”
In his acceptance speech, the Archbishop Molloy/Fordham alum decried the loss of good role models in today’s sports, exactly why he feels the ongoing work of the C.Y.O. is essential, with its emphasis on Christian values. “C.Y.O. is the perfect kind of sports education you can give kids.”
Also inducted in the inaugural class was Corrigan’s St. Joan of Arc colleague Mary Glascock, the Girls’ Track coach there for the past four decades. Corrigan said of Glascock, “[Mary is] the kind of coach every parent would want to see.”
Elsie Kenny and her husband, the late Gene Kenny, were inducted for their years of service to the parish of St. Pancras in Glendale. In 1964, Gene Kenny helped to spearhead the formation of the parish’s C.Y.O. program, with his wife serving in a wide variety of capacities - treasurer, social secretary, and coach.
Their dedication grew St. Pancras into one of the largest C.Y.O. programs in the diocese. “For twenty-one years, St. Pancras became our second home,” Kenny told the audience. “Actually we thought it was our only home because we never went to our own!”
The thing that makes her feel proudest of her work as she looks back on it? The significant number of former players who’ve returned to the organization to become coaches themselves, to help perpetuate what the Kennys began more than 50 years ago. “We must have put something in them to make them want come back, and that’s what I’m proudest of,” she said. “If we hadn’t done that, then we’d have failed.”
The late Msgr. Charles Bermingham, the organization’s very first director back when the Diocesan C.Y.O. was formed in 1940, was fittingly the Hall of Fame’s very first inductee.
Kevin Mahoney was also honored posthumously, with touching introductory remarks by one of his former players, St. Mary Winfield’s own Rep. Joseph Crowley.
Perhaps even more to the point, Crowley noted, each year the C.Y.O. will present the Kevin Mahoney Sportsmanship Award in his former coach’s memory. “He’s gone almost twenty years,” said Crowley, “but through this award, we ensure that the values that Kevin instilled in us are still alive today.” The 2014 recipients of the award were the parishes of St. Adalbert in Elmhurst and Our Lady of the Snows in Floral Park.
Other inaugural C.Y.O. Hall of Fame inductees included Bob Koch, Stanley Swiatocha, Mike McGovern, Vincent Harkins, Denis Carroll, Joe Michalowski, John Moran, and Joe Costello.
Hall of Fame Committee member Michael LoCascio, the Parish Athletic Representative for St. Stanislaus Kostka in Maspeth, was pleased with the tremendous turnout and the fact that so many were getting recognized for decades of service to the community.
“You’re talking about volunteers,” he said, “I’m not sure everyone realizes that. You’re talking about people giving of themselves, and their time, for years and years.”
And yet, despite the emphasis on PAR’s, coaches and referees who dedicated their lives to the C.Y.O. for years, it might have been one of the youngest attendees of the night who emerged as the evening’s most eloquent spokesperson.
Fiona McCaul, an 8th grader from the parish of St. Gregory the Great in Bellerose, won the 2014 C.Y.O. Hall of Fame essay contest, and her poignant reflection on teamwork, sportsmanship, and fortitude earned her the evening’s first standing ovation. Her profundity – “together all of us are stronger than we are alone” – also earned her a grant of $1000 towards her tuition at Archbishop Molloy High School, which she will attend in the fall.
Perhaps the highest profile inductee of the inaugural class, Chris Mullin, the former NBA All-Star and Carnesecca-era St. John’s basketball standout, was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict. Mullin, who attended Brooklyn’s Xaverian High School, first got noticed as a hard-working athlete in St. Thomas Aquinas in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn.
Mullin’s brother accepted the Hall of Fame honor on his behalf, relaying in jest a comment Chris had made upon receiving news of his induction. “Wow, this Hall of Fame must have really high standards. I got accepted into the Naismith Hall of Fame before I got into the C.Y.O. Hall of Fame!”
In all seriousness, though, while the C.Y.O Hall of Fame was an idea that had been on the table for years prior, it was something first-year C.Y.O. Director Rob Caldera had vowed to make a reality almost as soon as he was hired in July of 2013.
Credit Caldera with fanning the flames significantly enough to make it happen, managing the various personnel involved, and orchestrating a multitude of logistics. Ten months after he arrived on the job, Caldera made the dream of a C.Y.O. Hall of Fame a reality.
“Rob’s unique,” said Jerry Fleming, the former PAR from St. Adalbert, now a coach with St. Stan’s. “He’s got a lot of energy, and he’s able to stay very focused on what he wants to do.”
Thanks to more than 325 attendees paying $100 each to attend, revenue acquired from ads sold for the dinner’s commemorative journal, a sports memorabilia raffle, and a 50/50, the inaugural dinner was able to raise a substantial amount of money for the diocese’s sports needs. And yet, it was more than financial success that Caldera was measuring when all was said and done.
“I think what I’m proudest of,” said Caldera at the evening’s conclusion, “is that everyone who went up to that podium – they didn’t talk about personal accomplishments. They talked about what the C.Y.O. is truly about, what our true legacy is – that we’re teaching our children the importance of Christian values.”
A message that, for the C.Y.O. is as timeless as sports itself, but one that is always worthy of repeating, to any and all who will listen, and as often as possible.