Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Teachable moments on the gridiron

Coach Brian Moscona, standing, second from right in sun visor, gathers the Holy Spirit Preparatory School football players together following their Sept. 18 game against Griffin Christian. Standing around him are assistant coaches
(l-r) Peter Schoenthaler, Tommy Curtin and Patrick Devine.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of athletes at all levels of sports in the news for a number of unlawful activities like sexual assault, armed robbery, D.U.I., drug possession, etc. It’s getting to point where some players are better known for their transgressions off the field or court than for their athletic talents.

Where does it all begin? What can be done to reverse this pattern?

I recently heard about a junior high school football coach, who not only instructs his players about the game, but is also molding them into virtuous young men. The coach is Brian Moscona of Holy Spirit Preparatory School, Atlanta. Moscona, a 2003 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, is also the lower school’s assistant principal.

Moscona arrived at Holy Spirit in 2006 after completing Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program and one year of seminary formation with the Congregation of Holy Cross, the religious community of brothers and priests who serve and teach at Notre Dame. Moscona started the junior high school football program that same year.

It’s been a steady progression. The first season the team went winless. The second season they finished at .500 (3-3). Last year the team was undefeated at 8-0.

But Moscona is about more than wins, losses or ties. He is teaching his players the important lessons of discipline, humility, selflessness and working hard to be your best. “We emphasize both charity and humility. Yes, we are playing a physical game, but it should never be the intention of any player to hurt or to humiliate another person. Football is a great game and it is an arena in which we can cultivate virtue. We should strive to glorify Christ in all that we do, both on and off the football field. I encourage my players to strive to give God glory with our words and actions. Stepping onto the gridiron is not an excuse to forget about being holy and charitable,” says Moscona.

Two things occur at the end of every Holy Spirit practice. First, they say a prayer thanking God for the gifts in their lives. They also pray for their families, friends, and opponents. Then they implore the Intercession of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Mary, Our Queen of Victory. Secondly, they recognize "studs of the day." These are players Moscona and his coaches lift up as great models for their efforts that day in practice. It’s often for hard work, positive attitude, virtuous actions, overcoming mistakes, affirming teammates, etc. “This year we have allowed players to recognize one another as studs of the day. This is a powerful way of building up the players and creating a culture of affirmation and positivity,” says Moscona.

“Coach Moscona promotes virtuous character on and off the field. He expects us to avoid trouble in school, keep our grades up and be an example to others,” says eighth grade center and linebacker Andrew Vincent.

Nate Guyton, a second-year player who plays tight end and fullback, commented further about his coach. “He (Moscona) tells us to rise above the trash talk and the unsportsmanlike conduct. He wants us to become the type of Christian football player that ignores it and doesn’t allow such negativity to affect us,” says Guyton.

Tommy Curtin has served as Moscona’s assistant coach for the past three years. Curtin, a Latin and religion teacher who also directs the school’s liturgical choir, was a classmate of Moscona at Notre Dame. He describes his friend and colleague as a great communicator with both parents and students. “He is also very even-tempered, which is an essential quality of both good teachers and good coaches. I think he has developed exceptional instincts about what one can expect from junior high students in terms of execution, attendance, and focus. He also truly understands how football fits into the mission of the school, and that helps him keep everything in perspective,” says Curtin.

“The kids really respond to Coach Moscona. They see that he is a teacher on and off the field and they respect him. They know that his number one priority is forming them into successful young men, not just good football players. The players feel genuinely loved by their coach,” says Curtin.

"Virtue Boys" is an informal name that Moscona and his coaches began using last year when referring to the group of kids on the team who are frequently recognized as "studs of the day" for their virtuous actions during practice. They were seventh-graders at the time. This year the eighth-graders have been playing well, but their greatest contribution to the team is the way they consistently model virtue for the other guys. They play hard and live out the school motto, ‘To Serve, Not To Be Served.’ They set up before practice and clean up after practice. They are polite and respectful. They are good students in the classroom. They are prayerful, frequently attending daily Mass and making chapel visits during the day. They represent Holy Spirit Preparatory well and model what the younger guys should try to emulate.

Currently the team stands at 3-1-1. That puts them second in the divisional standings. The top two teams from each of the two divisions will make the playoffs. They need to win their next two games to be guaranteed a spot. If they lose both games, their season is over.

But win or lose, it’s hail to the virtuous!

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Monday, September 27, 2010

Amazing Race Review

An Atlanta area Catholic parishioner and her birth daughter are competing in this season’s “Amazing Race,” so I’ll be watching this fast-paced Sunday show as my journalistic duty.

Read about Andrea DeKroon and birth daughter Jenna Sykes as they attempt to win $1 million on the 17th edition of the series here. And here’s their introductory video.

My posts will be my own biased observations. Of course, all of it is Monday morning quarterbacking, so naturally I’ll be much smarter and wiser than the contestants are in the heat of battle.

My first observation. Booyah. Good for them to agreeing to this endeavor. The duo hadn’t had time to develop a relationship before the series so they will be seeing each other's faults and strengths for the first time in a pressure cooker.

New England Fishing Boats

This season started with the 11 teams arriving by lobster boats to the port of Gloucester, Mass., one of the oldest seaport in the country. It is also the place from which the fishing crews from "The Perfect Storm" sailed, but I digress.

All the teams raced in tiny cars from Gloucester down to Boston’s Logan International Airport to try and make the first flight to England.

The drive can be terrible – I know because I lived the area for several years – so I thought point for Team Andi/Jenna, hereby dubbed Team A/J, who are likely familiar with driving in Atlanta, which as we all know is notorious for traffic snarls.

The team made it on to the second flight to jolly old England from Boston.

Cars became a problem for Team A/J in England. Andi was behind the wheel, which meant she changed gears with her left hand and drove on the left. Ugh.

Not a shining moment for the team. Andi’s gear grinding eventually helped kill the engine in the middle of busy English roadway.
But they kept their cool. Point for Team A/J.

They found Stonehenge and then moved on to Eastnor Castle, for a series of challenges, like “storming a castle” up ladders while doused with dirty water and crossing a river on a turtle-looking boat. Jenna took up the challenge to fire a watermelon using a giant slingshot to knock over a suit of armor 50 feet away.

Team A/J arrived at the pit stop in ninth position, despite the car setback.
The eliminated team included friends from Los Angeles.

Here's a video of them arriving at the pit stop and talking about working together:

The global scavenger hunt’s second leg sends the remaining 10 teams to Ghana.

Did you think the car breakdown was a sign of grace under pressure? Suggestions for a better team name?

Staff Writer

Friday, September 24, 2010

Social Media on the brain

It is a social media bonanza here at the Georgia Bulletin.

Thursday night at Taco Mac near the Perimeter Mall, several folks involved with the new media gathered. It was the meeting of the Catholic social media users group in the Big Peach. There were podcasters, 'tweeters,' writers, leaders with Star Quest Production Network and others.

A ring leader was Greg Willets, of
Catholics Next Door, who wanted to see if there was interest in sharing ideas, learning from each other and set up a sounding board for the pro and novice alike.

Answer: Yes.

There's a Facebook page to keep up with news.

Today is also a second social media event. It
is a Web-inar hosted by the Catholic Press Association about "Using Social Media: Best Practices."

Helen Osman
, the secretary for communications for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is leading the discussion. A bunch of people here at the newspaper and others from communications at the archdiocese are attending.

If I get the green light, I'll share any tip sheets I come across.

Staff Writer

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mercy’s music festival sizzles and that’s not all

Kevin Wyglad & Chasing Grace perform the Beatles rendition of "Let It Be."

Last Saturday Our Lady of Mercy High School hosted its second annual MusicFest at their outdoor stadium. I missed MusicFest 2009, but from what I’m told this year’s was bigger. They doubled the length of the event (12 noon – 8 pm), the acts and the vendors. They also added a dunk tank, and over a six and a half hour period, 12 different teachers took a seat in the tank, including principal Danny Dorsel and new head football coach Mike Earwood.

MusicFest celebrates God through music and showcases the Fayetteville Catholic school to its surrounding community. The Christian and Gospel artists on hand included the World Changers Church International Youth Choir, Batiste, Kevin Wyglad & Chasing Grace, ManChild, Greg Ferrara, Robert Gould, Canton Jones, Cleveland, John Waller and Run Kid Run. Gould is an actor, recording artist, and a junior at Our Lady of Mercy. The master of ceremonies included Dr. Chris Griffith and WSB Channel 2 anchor Jovita Moore. Griffith is the father of Mercy junior Christian Griffith.

MusicFest was nearly 10 degrees hotter than last year’s too, as temperatures reached 91 degrees. Fortunately the music was a cool diversion to the heat.

A 10-member committee called the Mission Of Many worked tirelessly to coordinate MusicFest 2010. Some 150 parent volunteers shared their time during the day. The artists and major sponsors of the festival were also treated to food under the VIP tent catered by “Your Special Event,” which is owned by the parents of Mercy junior Julian Thomas.

Greg Ferrara and his band perform at
MusicFest 2010, Sept. 18.

As I was walking around MusicFest, I ran into Mercy track and field sprinter and football player Jordan Sartor. “It’s very good to get the community to turn out for MusicFest. They usually come to sporting events like football or softball, but it’s good to enjoy the company of each other at a different type of activity,” said Sartor.

MusicFest was not the only hot topic of discussion this past weekend. Our Lady of Mercy’s football team is 4-0 for the first time in school history. They also defeated cross-town rival Landmark Christian High School 42-35. It was Mercy’s first victory over Landmark Christian in the two teams’ nine meetings.

Landmark Christian had dominated Mercy. Just to put things in perspective, Landmark Christian had averaged just over 50 points per game in its eight previous victories. The largest margin of victory was 66-0 in 2002 and the smallest margin of victory was 33-6 in 2005.

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Does that face on TV look familiar? You may be sharing a pew with them.

Two Catholics in the Atlanta Archdiocese are hopefuls in national contests.

The first is Henry
Chandler, chef/owner of Henry’s Louisiana Grill, Acworth.

Out of thousands of nominations, he is one of 18 finalists to be named the “People’s Platelist" sponsored by "Nightline." The winner is to be an “authentic and creative chef” with a signature dish and cuisine. Votes are cast online here.
According to the Web site:
Over 1,000 of you wrote in to nominate a local chef for the Nightline People's Platelist contest. 20 finalists were announced on Aug. 2 and 18 submitted short videos. Now you can vote for which of the top 18 you think should win! The chef with the most votes from viewers across America will be featured on national television!
Click here to see the videos of the finalists.

The essay to nominate Chandler reads:
Take one little boy growing up in a Louisiana kitchen at his nanny's elbow. Mix in college in Lafayette, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Christmas Festivals in Natchitoches. Marinate for three years in European culinary schools. Return to the States for further seasoning. Observe carefully as ingredients ignite. Contain fiery mixture in small town restaurant and present: Chef Henry Chandler!
He attends St. Catherine of Siena Church in Kennesaw.

If you like Chandler’s message, go eat in his restaurant and vote for him. Or vote then go eat.
The online voting ends Sept. 26th at 11:59 p.m., ET.

(Disclaimer: The Georgia Bulletin has not gotten any jambalaya for this news items. Laissez les bons temps rouler.)

And the second local face on national TV is Andie DeKroon, a contestant on the “Amazing Race.” DeKroon's brother is Father Paul Willams, pastor of St. Joseph Church, Dalton.

A graduate of Marist School, DeKroon has her birth daughter, Jenna Sykes, 21, as a team mate in the around-the-world scavenger hunt.

The race features 11 teams traveling across four continents and 30 cities with first time visits to Bangladesh, Ghana and the Arctic Circle. It is the 17th season for the CBS show, which premiers on Sunday, Sept. 26.

The mother and daughter recently reunited. When the two stand at the start line it will be only the third time the mother and birth daughter have been together since Sykes was adopted more than 20 years .

“I'm definitely having a midlife crisis,” DeKroon says. On her lifelong to-do list is skydiving, bungee jumping and a diver’s certificate.

“I hope to get to know my birth mother through this incredible opportunity,” 21-year-old Sykes says. “It is my hope that we will be able to spend a lot of time together and become friends.”

See their video

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Small Town Honors 10 Who Died

I went home.

Home is where you sit down and the place itself speaks to you.

In my small hometown, what’s new always stands out because much stays the same.

As I walked around, I saw a new park with benches and a stone tablet in a semicircle, dappled with sunlight and shade, just off the main street and across from the railroad station where trains come and go into New York City.

The park is a memorial for those in the town of Pelham, N.Y., who were killed on September 11: ten people from a town of 12,000.

Two men, brothers, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, a global financial services firm which lost over 650 of its employees from their offices at the top of the World Trade Center.

Daniel Shea, 37, and Joseph Shea, 47, were fathers to seven children.

New York Fire Department Lt. Joseph G. Leavey was 46. One of the emergency responders, he reached the 78th floor of one of the twin towers. Radio transmissions identify his voice as one of the last to be heard taking and giving instructions to firefighters rescuing people and putting out fires on the upper floors. Those who’ve heard the tape remark that the firefighters’ voices are professional and calm. It’s meant a lot to their families to know that.

Lt. Leavey and his wife and three children belonged to the parish church of my childhood.

Robert C. McLaughlin, 29, also worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. His son was nine months old. Montgomery Hord also worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. He had three children. Robert Scandole, a graduate of St. Johns University, was 36, and a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. He was the father of two girls. Michael A. Tamuccio was 37, vice president of equity trading for Fred Alger Management.

Amy O’Doherty, 23, who grew up and went to high school here had just graduated from St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York and was working in her first job after college at Cantor Fitzgerald and living in a fifth-floor walkup apartment in New York City.

Michael Boccardi, 30, an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster was a vice president for institutional relations at Fred Alger Management.

Thomas Hynes, 28, had graduated from my high school. He was an account manager at Vestek Division of Thomson Financial. He proposed to his wife at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. In September 2001, she was expecting their first child.

I walk from bench to bench where their names are inscribed. The sadness and honor and dignity of this quiet park envelop me.

The park was dedicated in May 2007, six years after the tragedy. It took some time for the plans to come to fruition in this small town and for the funding to come about through grants and donations. A granite memorial stone bears a quotation from Charles de Gaulle. The benches surround an oval area with a single flowering dogwood tree. The tree was chosen “as a symbol of beauty that remains during and after sorrow.”

Each year a remembrance is held there.

As a daughter of this town, I am so grateful for what those who worked for this memorial park have done. Because when I come home the place speaks to me of ordinary people whose lives are cherished, remembered and mourned. Of ordinary people like Lt. Leavey who became heroes when that was unexpectedly asked of them one day when they went to work. Of fathers who took a train to work every day and were the bright light of their families every evening when they came home. And of the children through whom their brightness will still illuminate the world.

Gretchen Keiser, Editor

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

August's Top 5 local stories

Writers and editors in August were hard at work showcasing the Catholic events, from back-to-school profiles to a Hispanic 'Encuentro' evangelizing a parish.

Here are the top five local new stories in August that grabbed eyeballs at the Georgia Bulletin Web site.

If you missed them the first time, go back and see what others liked about them.

What was your favorite story in August?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Letters of the lawn

Yesterday I was on my way into Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, to take some photos for an upcoming story on the school’s 10th anniversary, when these large, painted letters caught my attention. They were not hard to miss because they were bright yellow. The letters, each spanning 26 feet in height, are cut to precision as they stretch 200 feet along the side of a hill on the backside of the football field’s home bleachers. The letters spell out the school’s mascot name, T-I-T-A-N-S.

Isidro Licon and Roberto Rodriguez first cut the letters into shape. Then it took them a couple of hours and 22.5 gallons of paint to cover the letters with a paint sprayer. I’d call it a titanic undertaking just in time for the school’s football home opener against Grady High School this Friday, Sept. 3.

Michael Alexander, Staff Photographer

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In the most unexpected of places

Last Sunday, as my wife and I boarded a plane scheduled to leave from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport heading to Atlanta, we arrived at our seats to find an older woman in the row, her head buried in a stack of documents. We did not exchange hello's as not to bother her and so we quietly took our seats, excited to head home after a busy weekend celebrating the marriage of my oldest brother to his lovely new bride.

During the flight, my wife Jacqui and I participated in our usual flying traditions: reading, listening to music, the occasional game of Yahtzee on my phone and general silliness. All the while, the woman next to us remained silent and we never shared a word. This is somewhat unusual for us as both my wife and I are always eager to make new friends.

The woman continued to review her documents throughout the flight and then, as the plane pulled up to the gate and we removed our safety belts, she leaned over to my wife and asked quietly, "¿Hablas espaƱol?," ("Do you speak Spanish?") to which Jacqui responded, "Un poquito" ("A little"). Jacqui then asked in Spanish if the woman spoke any English and she replied, "Nada." The woman smiled and we exited the plane, happy to finally be home after an exhausting (but amazing) weekend.

As we entered the terminal, I walked briskly towards the end of the corridor in order to quickly get to the car since we still had another hour or so to drive from the airport. Then I heard Jacqui call my name and I turned around. She said, "I'm a little worried about that woman. Maybe we should see if she needs help." I paused, reluctantly nodded and we returned to the gate to wait for the woman. She eventually emerged with a bewildered look on her face, visibly overwhelmed with the busyness and chaos of the Atlanta airport. We could certainly empathize with this woman, as Jacqui and I are both Atlanta residents, we both speak English, and sometimes we still have trouble getting around that place.

The atrium at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Photo by Michael Alexander.

We approached the woman and watched as a smile spread across her face, happy to see familiar faces. After several failed attempts to find out where she needed to go, we were able to ask for her boarding pass and found out she was traveling to Argentina, presumably from Spain since we both detected a strong Castilian accent. We picked up her bags and escorted her to the tram, which we rode to the other end of the airport, in the meantime picking up small bits of info as she happily spoke to us in a language we could just barely understand. She was heading to Argentina to visit her children and had been traveling non-stop for a while, as was visible by the stack of boarding passes she had and continued to review like she did throughout the flight.

All of us began to cheer as we found the gate and led her to the agent to check in. After everything was taken care of at the counter we led her to a place she could finally sit and relax. Her eyes teared up as she asked us our names and hugged and kissed us saying, "Mis hijos, mis hijos!" ("My children, my children!").

It was then that it hit me that this was not just a random encounter. What was originally seen as an inconvenience by me ended up being a powerful spiritual experience as I suddenly recognized the face of God in this lost, confused and seemingly helpless woman.

A weekend watching my brother enter into that sacred union of marriage with his bride was such an amazing blessing and witness to Love, but God graciously allowed us to have one more encounter with Him and one that was totally unexpected.

It seems that often God is right there with us, much like that woman on the plane, but we completely miss the opportunity to encounter Him as we are usually in our own world doing our own thing. It isn't until we take some initiative that He reveals Himself!

I'm sure many of you have encountered God in the most unexpected of places, and we would love to hear your stories! Please feel free to comment below with your tales!

Stephen, Staff Reporter