Just prior to the closure of its parochial school year, the Archdiocese of Detroit announced a new policy that athletic events affiliated with the Catholic High School League and the Catholic Youth Organization will not take place on Sundays, beginning this fall.
The decision impacts approximately 6,500 CHSL student-athletes and 7,000 CYO athletes in six counties and is an effort to make more time for worship and family, officials say.
“Implementing this policy has been an intentional process involving many key constituents over the last two years,” wrote Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron in a lengthy and wide-ranging pastoral note. “Beginning in June 2017, all seasonal meetings with athletic directors included notification of this upcoming change in policy. Next, we created a task force with diverse representatives including pastors, coaches, families with and without children in sports programs, principals, representatives from the Catholic High School League (CHSL) and the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), and the Office of Evangelization, Catechesis and Schools.”
Vigneron added that “[w]hile the new policy is deeply rooted in our calling to reclaim Sunday as a day of rest and worship of our Lord, practically speaking, it is a matter of rescheduling. The Catholic High School League and Catholic Youth Organization have already been working carefully to ensure teams enjoy a full line-up of practices, scrimmages and games, taking advantage of a Monday through Saturday schedule.”
He also reiterated that youth and high school sports remain important to the archdiocese for the values of perseverance, discipline and teamwork they instill, as well as for the physical activity they require. “In shifting away from sports on Sunday, we simply reclaim this holy day as one for worship, rest and family time – not one for rushing to various sporting competitions,” Vigneron noted.
According to a news release obtained by the Detroit Free Press, the decision for the policy stemmed from Synod 16, an archdiocesan-wide gathering “of clergy and lay faithful in 2016 to discern how to transform the local Church into a band of joyful missionary disciples.”
“It definitely impacts [the Catholic Youth Organization] more, and it’s a facilities issue more than anything,” Vic Michaels, director of the Catholic High School League, told Catholic News Service. “Over the years, the CYO has doubled, sometimes tripled the number of teams each school has. For example, where schools used to have four teams playing in the parish, a couple for boys and a couple for girls, they now have eight. They’ll be affected by this, but it’s nothing we can’t work around.”
The new policy comes as membership in Michigan’s Catholic parishes dropped from 2.2 million in 2000 to 1.8 million in 2018, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), which collects annual data from U.S. Catholic dioceses.