CYO athletic director honored, three teams are regional champs

BRIGHTON -- Receiving an award at the Basketball Hall of Fame would normally garner nationwide news coverage but Peter Williams has yet to receive such broad acclaim.

Williams was recently honored for over 40 years of service as a director of athletics for the Archdiocese of Boston’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). The award was presented at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield during the New England CYO Championship basketball tournament on March 25.

In addition to Williams’ recognition, three teams from the Archdiocese of Boston won their regional championship games that day. The teams are St. Anne Parish in Dorchester intermediate girls, St. Agnes School in Arlington 7-8 grade boys and Gate of Heaven Parish in South Boston junior boys.

After receiving the award, Williams told those gathered that he has gained so much in his years with CYO athletics.

“One thing that I’ve learned is that you cannot outgive God,” he said.

Williams added that he has met lifetime friends through the program, friends who have helped him with the work of CYO. Williams specifically mentioned coordinators J. Kenneth Foscaldo, James Barrett, Kevin Lally and Frank Suma who were recognized at last year’s youth ministry awards for the Archdiocese of Boston. Each has served for 30 years or more.

“You can’t do it alone. I learned that a long time ago,” he said. “I’m not a big one on awards, but with any award it’s usually very, very humbling.’’

Williams has been involved with CYO since he was nine years old. He played basketball and baseball for St. Kevin School in Dorchester. After he turned 18 in 1964, his pastor, Father Joe Kierce, quickly recruited him as the director of athletics.

“[Father] Joe was always a mentor to all of us as we were growing up,” he said. “When I first started doing it, it was a ‘thank you’ to him for everything that he did for us as kids.”

Soon, Williams began to understand CYO athletics as a way to serve the Church and young Catholics. He saw children grow, compete and learn teamwork through their involvement. They also became involved in their parishes, which is the purpose of CYO, he said.

“The main reason we exist is because we can reach out, welcome and invite them to be close to the Church,” he said. “It’s an avenue, sort of a pre-evangelization tool, where we can reach out and welcome them into the Church, let them know that the Church cares about them and that the Church loves them.”

Steve Colella, archdiocesan coordinator for youth ministry in the Life and Family Office, said of Williams, “Peter truly deserves this award because many people take CYO as an athletic ministry for granted, and they don’t realize the deep effect it has on our young people.”

CYO activities -- games, practices and retreats -- help young Catholics learn to be part of a team and part of parish life. Williams alone has reached thousands of children, he added.

“It’s people like Peter who then become the parish coach that is not only the ultimate role model for the sport they’re coaching but an incredible role model of the faith,” he said.

Colella added that CYO will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year, the archdiocese will host the 50th New England baseball tournament, and the archdiocese will celebrate its bicentennial.

“Anytime you have a ministry that lasts 70 years, there’s merit to that ministry and the people who have given their time, talent and treasure to it,” he said.