By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T

At 9 a.m. on July 25, approximately 100 young men aged 16 to 30 representing seven different parishes attended Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Bensalem, Bucks County, before participating in a soccer tournament sponsored by archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry in the Office of Youth and Young Adults (OYYA).

At 4 p.m., fatigued after having competed in numerous soccer games, they all returned to their normal lives.

But during those seven hours in between, Maria Reyes said almost all of them developed an immediate camaraderie and most definitely forged new friendships.

“We started out with Mass and went from there,” Reyes said. Although the participants were competitive, “the day was centered around Christ. It wasn’t just about who played well and who won games. It was just a really great day,” she said.

As coordinator of Hispanic Ministry for OYYA, Reyes organizes events that allow Catholics to exercise their gifts in various forms. Taking a page from the young adult group at South Philadelphia’s St. Thomas Aquinas Parish that hosted a similar event last year, Reyes was able to secure Our Lady of Fatima as host for a soccer tournament.

The turnout was outstanding. Philadelphia parishes included St. Thomas Aquinas, Annunciation B.V.M., Visitation B.V.M., spanine Mercy and St. Veronica. Our Lady of Fatima and St. John Bosco, Hatboro, were represented as well.

A total of nine soccer teams (three from Our Lady of Fatima and one each from the other six parishes) comprised the competition. After a round-robin format, one of the Fatima teams emerged as champion. And to the victors went the spoils, as each member of the winning team received a T- shirt and ticket to a future Philadelphia Phillies game. The champs were also given a trophy to proudly take back to their parishes.

“Seeing the spirit of the parishes and how they played together was great,” said Reyes, a 2001 alumna of Little Flower High School and graduate of North Philadelphia’s St. Veronica School. “Soccer is such a big sport in the Hispanic culture, so it wasn’t surprising that the players took the competition seriously. They all wanted that first-place trophy.”

The enormous amount of preparation Reyes put in paid off, and she said the tournament was a rousing success. In October, she is attempting to arrange a festival that will celebrate Hispanic youth.

She has faith that everything will run smoothly, and eventually come together.

“If there is one thing I have learned through my faith, it’s that when you put Christ first and let Him lead the way, He will take you to where He wants you to go,” Reyes said. “That’s what happened with the soccer tournament. It was definitely worth all the effort. Bonds were forming there. You could tell that from the start. That’s what it’s all about.”

John Knebels can be reached at