Immediately after walking into the standing-room only gym at St. Mary’s in Schwenksville on Jan. 20, I knew this would be unlike any other CYO basketball game I’ve ever attended. The DJ, dancing, 50/50 raffles, foul shot challenges – oh and the ice cream eating contest – proved this wasn’t just a basketball game; this was the place to be on a Friday night.

St. Mary’s eighth-grader Emily Ruddy said she looks forward to her Friday night games all week. “When your friends are here to cheer you on, it really pumps you up and makes you play better,” she said.

The atmosphere, provided by many generous parent volunteers, even made me want to run on the court and take a few shots for old times’ sake.

However, amidst the basketball action and festivities that any grade-schooler would surely beg their parents to take part in, there was one moment that undoubtedly displayed the intense faith and spirit of the St. Mary’s community.

Surprisingly, the highlight wasn’t a fancy fade-away shot or a buzzer-beating three; rather it was during an unfortunate circumstance.

Eighth-grader Ian Conwell hit the floor hard during warm-ups before the boys’ game, and it was apparent that he had been hurt badly. It was later determined that Ian had torn his ACL, broken his kneecap and needed surgery at CHOP. Yet, as he lay there in pain waiting for the paramedics, without the slightest hesitation, the entire gym broke the silence and erupted in prayer. “Hail Mary, full of grace,” they boomed, while entrusting Ian’s pain to the Blessed Mother. It was an extremely touching moment that truly exemplified our Catholic faith.

St. Mary Parish no doubt is proud to provide such a fun, inspiring and faith-filled atmosphere for their youths. I know I was proud to be a part of it – even if it was only for a night.

– Joanna Armandi