More than Gold: Catholics representing in more ways than one at the London Olympics

Today, across  the Atlantic in one of Europe’s most storied cities, marks the beginning of the 2012 Olympics, where crowds are cheering, blind archers are making history, and the US flag is being carried by an alum of my school, the University of Notre Dame.

Olympic Fencer Mariel Zagunis, representing the USA and ND at once.

Zagunis’ selection as Team USA’s flagbearer is definitely an honor for Zagunis, and for Notre Dame — still the preeminent Catholic school in the US.  But in a sense, it also symbolizes the imprint the Catholic Church is making on these Olympics.

Catholic schools, for one, are being represented well.  A pair of teen swimming prodigies from Guam and Maryland are students at Catholic high schools, while a Brazilian vollyeball star says she learned many of her values from her Salesian education.

Pilar Shimizu, 16, a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School, is the youngest ever-athlete to represent Guam.

Katie Ledecky, 15, who will be a sophomore at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart this fall, has broken Olympic Trial records.

Maria Antonelli, 28, graduated from the St. Joseph Institute in Resende. She and Talita Antunes da Rocha are the 5th-ranked women’s volleyball pairing in the world.

Across the world, Catholic athletes are invoking patron saints to guide them as they compete, like the Filipinos, who are carrying San Pedro Calungsod as their intercessor for the Games.

The Catholic Church is sending more than just athletes to the Games, though.  Not only do the competitors have Sports Bibles offered to them and former athletes as their chaplains…The Catholic bishops of London, in a program called “More than Gold,” are urging Catholic families to open up their homes to the families of athletes in an effort to keep Olympians’ families close and together — certainly a refreshing and welcome effort to support families, after news that the London Olympics Committee provided athletes with 150,000 condoms (with more to arrive upon demand) for the duration of the Games.

Fr. Hilton, a former badminton, rugby, and soccer player, and a current professional bowler, will serve as a chaplain to the Olympians this year.  Who says the Church isn’t into sports?

Keep an eye out for these Catholics as the Games progress.  The Olympics — a worldwide competition — shows how the Catholic Church is indeed still a worldwide institution.

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