- Chapter I – Founding Fathers: Dooley, Maxwell and Keaney x2 (1910-1941)
- Chapter II – This Could be the Start of Something Big (1941-1947)
- Chapter III – The Dynamic Duo (1947-1960)
- Chapter IV – The Legacy Continues (1960-1978)
- Chapter V – Turning the Page (1978-1985)
- To be continued...
The Catholic Youth Council (CYC) athletic program was officially established in 1941. This year marks our 67th year service to the young people of the St. Louis Archdiocese. However the roots of the CYC and the start of the Archdiocesan involvement with youth athletic programs extends back near the beginning of the twentieth century. Those early days of "The American Century" also saw the beginnings of what would become today's CYC. The first Sodality and Parochial leagues began around 1909-10 and were run by the Christian Brothers of the old Christian Brothers College Prep located at North Kingshighway and Easton. This site later became Sherman Park following the 1916 fire that destroyed the school. Three sports were premier at that time; baseball, soccer and the St. Louis invention and staple, cork ball. Sports such as tennis and golf were not generally available to the mostly poor immigrant parishioners. These leagues included many north side parishes like St. Matthew, St. Leo, Sacred Heart and St. Theresa. The success of these efforts was due in great part to the participation of the local parish priests.
The early days of these leagues were hindered by the unavailability of fields to play the games. Most games had to be played on vacant lots or parish land because the parks were just that, parks with grass and flowers and lots of signs telling everyone to stay off the grass and out of the flowers. Youth athletics, organized or not, were considered by many as a "nuisance". With the help of Dwight Davis, City Park Commissioner and future tennis icon, two fields were developed to accommodate the needs of the leagues. Soccer began in the fall of 1912 and proved successful leading to the first baseball leagues the following spring of 1913. To meet the needs of the post grade school youngsters the Muny leagues were formed by a group of interested St. Louisians. These leagues catered to high school aged athletes, wishing to play non-high school sports particularly soccer. 1916 saw the start of the basketball program followed in quick order by tennis, golf and swimming. Leagues began to flourish in both numbers and enthusiasm thanks in great part to the Catholic parish involvement. Later, in 1928, the old Sodality leagues affiliated with the Muny with their own special rules in order to keep their parish identity
The various leagues continued play in the 1930's and early 1940's with co-operation of City Parks, Catholic parishes, local business and the St. Louis community at large. The number of teams and players varied during that period as the city and indeed, the country battled through the Great Depression, the industrialization of the economy, the influx of tens of thousands of immigrants and of course the impending start of World War II.
In the spring of 1937 the administrative board of the National Catholic Welfare Conference established the National Catholic Youth Council. National approval followed in the fall of that same year in Washington DC. The Bishop of each (Arch) Diocese was to establish a youth program that offered a balanced approach through a program of spiritual, athletic, cultural, civic, social and physical development. In writings found from the early days of organization the athletic part of the program was encouraged to "concentrate on getting as many members as possible to participate regardless of skill or ability" Sports competition was to be utilized to" develop character, make a man courageous, a generous loser and a gracious victor."
The ground work for the start of the CYC Sports program was laid over the next few years using the vision and talents of men like Msgr. P.J.. Dooley, Father Bart Keaney , his brother Father Mel Keaney, John Cardinal Glennon and his successor Archbishop Joseph Ritter. It was Archbishop Glennon who selected the first Director of the CYC when he appointed Fr. Charles P. Maxwell in 1941. Father Maxwell was, at the time running the newly organized Boys Club of St. Louis which years later would become the Boys and Girls Club International. During that first year the total CYC youth participation was a modest 912. A start that most definitely belied what the next six decades would bring.
During the next several years Fr. Maxwell with the support of the parish priests began what would become an organization that 65 years later could claim to have reached over two million young people through its efforts for youth. During the period between 1941 and 1946 the CYC provided organized sports for grade school age children directly. The high school teams continued to play under an affiliation with the Muny league until 1946. During those first few years the involvement of the parish priest of the Archdiocese was outstanding. With so many of the fathers, brothers and uncles in service to their country during World War II, the parish priest provided not just spiritual guidance, but support to the children and families as they too dealt with the disruptive forces of war.
In the spring of 1946 an incident occurred that challenged the principals of the CYC and the Archdiocese of St. Louis. At that time the CYC Senior teams (over 18 years of age) played under an affiliation with the Muny league. When the CYC Visitation parish team attempted to play two early season games they were prohibited from doing so apparently because the team included five African-American players. Visitation Pastor and Team Manager Fr. P.J. Malloy and the CYC leadership fought the ruling noting that the CYC had always allowed all team members to participate. After an extended debate the CYC with the full support of all its nearly 60 teams pulled its support from the league and proceeded to form the CYC Senior and High School leagues. The principals of the CYC and its members had been challenged and they never blinked. As a result the CYC began providing a sports program for all ages, which set no restrictions based on the color of your skin. It might be noted that the Visitation incident happened one year before Jackie Robinson stepped onto a Major League baseball diamond. It should be noted that Globe Democrat sports writer Robert L. (Bob) Burnes provided the C.Y.C. with a voice to the public on this issue. Mr. Burnes would remain a friend of the Catholic Youth Council and of the cause of youth athletics for the remainder of his life.
The following year changes in the administration of the CYC came about as Fr. Maxwell was assigned to be pastor of the Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in South St. Louis. As he left for his new assignment the CYC had grown to a significant 7500 youth members, and the best was still to come. It is interesting to note that Fr. Maxwell who was instrumental in the formation of the Boys Club and the early success of the CYC was not an athlete. In fact, he knew very little about the games themselves and by all accounts never played sports. However in his vision and wisdom he saw all the positive influences and rewards of amateur athlete competition. He saw it as a vehicle for young people, not only to use as a way to develop their physical skills, learn self discipline and the values of teamwork and goal setting but perhaps more importantly as a way to keep our children close to the church. To keep them in the shadow of the church. He was intensely interested in providing for young people, to minister to them and to care for them. His work, dedication and perseverance set the benchmark that all in service to youth need to approach.
To succeed Fr. Maxwell Archbishop Joseph Ritter needed a man of outstanding abilities, vision and faith. He found him when he appointed Father Lloyd Sullivan as Director in the fall of 1947. Father Sullivan, who would also leave his mark as one of the builders of Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital knew the value of youth athletics. He was after all, a world class soccer player, who choose the priesthood instead of the "pitch". That following spring Father Louis Meyer, who was serving a the CYC's volunteer basketball committee chairperson, was selected to be the Assistant Director of the CYC. Thus was established a powerful one-two combination, that would be the heart and soul of the CYC efforts for the next dozen years. Fathers Sullivan and Meyer, were two men fiercely devoted to the Church, passionate in their service to young people and totally dedicated to their life as priests of God. These two men, along with the new Executive Secretary (actually Sports Director) Bob Guelker and a dedicated, though grossly underpaid and overworked staff, were destined to lead the CYC to new heights in providing an ever-expanding menu of youth programs, events and opportunities to the young people of the St. Louis Archdiocese. These unselfish men and women were destined to lead the CYC sports program to a position of preeminence in the St. Louis amateur sports community.
Dozens perhaps hundreds or even thousands of dedicated men and women can, no doubt, be given some of the credit for the success of the CYC. However in the eyes of this writer, no two people are more responsible for the good works of the organization than Reverend Monsignor Lloyd A. Sullivan and Reverend Monsignor Louis F. Meyer. This pair of parish priests established over the course of a dozen years the infrastructure of an organization that now reaches the majority of the Catholic families of this great Archdiocese. One needs to remember that this history is only part of the CYC story, the athletic program.
This agency has, over these past seven decades developed and executed hundreds of programs and events designed to reach children, youth, young adult and adult leaders. Catholic Boy Scouting, Catholic Girl Scouting, leadership development, youth retreats, resident, school and special camping, appreciation of the arts and personal and social development programs have been a part of the CYC menu since before World War II. These programs were designed specifically to bring awareness of societal and personal issues they deal with on a daily basis ranging from spiritual growth, drugs, race, cultural differences and community responsibilities and to a vehicle by which they strengthen their faith. The story of the impact of these CYC contributions will be told in later installments.
The good fathers; Sullivan and Meyer were at the forefront of major development and growth of the CYC through the post war era of the late forties and the 1950’s. With the help of dozens of the young (and young at heart) priests of the Archdiocese, literally thousands of adult volunteers and a few good “sponsors” and “angels” the CYC experienced terrific expansion over the bakers dozen years of their collaboration.
In addition to the staples such as baseball, softball, basketball and of course the “king of the hill” and every other St. Louis neighborhood, soccer, the CYC added volleyball, track, table tennis, bowling and ever-so-briefly boxing to their sports agenda. All of these programs were available to the parish youth and young adults of the St. Louis Archdiocese.
In the mid 1950's the CYC began sponsorship of International Soccer matches that brought world class teams from England, France and Scotland to St. Louis to play teams of CYC soccer All-Stars, made up from our Sunday afternoon recreational clubs. While usually outscored by 3 or 4 goals these matches presented a unique opportunity for our players, coaches and fans, both young and old to experience some of the greatest teams and individuals ever to play in the United States. Many of the staff and volunteers of the CYC had a deep rooted passion for the game and saw these events as a wonderful opportunity for our youth to learn from the best. These exhibitions helped spark a new and enthusiastic response for the game that had like no other become synonymous with the CYC sports program.
The CYC and young people throughout the Archdiocese lost a great friend and advocate on April 5, 1955 with the passing of Father Charles Maxwell. Fathers contributions to this program should never be forgotten and the program he set in motion can never to allowed to diminish. His vision, determination and devotion to the children and the church remain the very foundation of the CYC. His credo of " No one stands so straight as when he stoops to help a child" remains at the core of all we do at the CYC.
The CYC hosted it's first Sports Banquet in 1956 in connection with the International matches. This allowed the agency an opportunity to meet up close the international players and coaches while at the same time recognize the efforts of the parish volunteers. Sports awards named after some of our founders like Father Malloy, Monsignor Dooley, Father Maxwell and others were presented to coaches, parish leaders and members of the clergy who represented all of our great adult contributors.
It was during 1959 that the leadership of the Catholic Youth Council , which had been a member of Catholic Charities decided to join the United Fund of Greater St. Louis. The hope was that this move would allow for additional expansion of youth programs by providing some funding for non-religious based programs. The shift proved beneficial to both the CYC and the United Way as they began a 45 year partnership in providing for the youth of St. Louis.
In May of 1960 Father Louis Meyer was named as the new Director of the CYC, replacing his long-time friend and mentor Monsignor Lloyd Sullivan. Under their combine efforts these two men directed and overseen a tremendous growth in the program that had begun less than two decades before. At the end of their tour together the annual participation had grown from 7500 + to over 25,000 in athletics alone. All of this phenomenal expansion was accomplished under the umbrella of our Catholic faith and in the shadow of our Church.
With the appointment of Father Louis F. Meyer to the post of Executive Director, the CYC changed directors but not direction. Msgr. Meyer had been an important part of the CYC leadership structure, as the assistant director for over a dozen years when he was asked to serve as its 3rd Executive Director following the retirement of his great friend Msgr. Lloyd Sullivan. The 1960’s and 1970’s version of the CYC sports program was about to experience the dynamic and visionary leadership of a legendary friend of young people.
Monsignor Meyer, ably assisted by the CYC Sports Director Bob Guelker, would continue providing a wonderful recreational sports program. In addition the CYC would expand to offer more competitive programs such as the Junior District soccer leagues, sponsored in partnership with the Pepsi Cola Bottlers of St. Louis. This program featured the very best of St. Louis high school age soccer players and led to hundreds of scholarships that allowed so many young men the opportunity to continue their education.
The CYC’s Major Soccer league, a joint venture with our friends on Pestilozzi at the Anhueser Busch Corporate offices, provided first class Senior Men’s league competition. Each Sunday afternoon the public was given the chance to see the very best in men’s soccer at Mullally Field, on the grounds of St. Mary Magdalen Parish. The players from this league also formed the nucleus of our CYC All-Star soccer teams that played in the annual International soccer matches begun in the mid 1950’s.
Those International matches brought the very best teams from Europe, the British Isles and South America to St. Louis for a competition that provided a great learning experience for our young people and our CYC All-Stars. While victory was a rare commodity in these games, the 1964 match provided an exciting venue for CYC soccer when our All-Stars gained a draw against the first division team from Liverpool England. In fact, the English team had to score late in the game to register the tie. The result was considered a major upset in the world of soccer and drew headlines across the soccer world.
In 1965 the CYC established what was to become the most prestigious local soccer award, when it presented its first annual Gold and Silver Boots. The awards recognize the outstanding contributions to CYC soccer and the game of Soccer. The roster of awardees reads like a Soccer Hall of Fame list, with winners, the likes of Harry Keough, Pat McBride, Al Trost, Gino Pariani, Ebbie Dunn, Frank Borghi, Syl Raftery, Dent McSkimming, Bob Kehoe and a host of others.
The mid 1960’s saw several changes in CYC leadership and programming. In 1964 Bob Rastberger was appointed Associate Director to assist Msgr. Meyer in overseeing the operation of the area’s most active youth recreational program. His main focus was to direct the activities of the CYC's camps Don Bosco and Mater Dei in Hillsboro, Missouri and work with the growing teenage and Catholic scouting programs. Bob, a man with terrific insight and abilities became a wonderful addition to the Catholic Youth Council. As part of the leadership team he helped continue the great traditions of the CYC and incorporate new and innovative programming.
Following in 1967, long time CYC Sports Director Bob Guelker, moved to Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville to become the men’s varsity soccer coach and school athletic director. Bob had led the St. Louis University Billikens to several national championships while a part time coach and was given the opportunity to devote his full energies to collegiate soccer. Bob Guelker’s impact on the youth of the Archdiocese through his years with the CYC remains evident even today. The high regard in which he is held and spoken of by past participants and by those he coached or taught is a fitting tribute to a man who first, last and always dedicated his life to young people.
Mr. Guelker was succeeded by another icon of amateur athletics in St. Louis, Joe Carenza. Joe came to the CYC after many years of directing the highly respected Khoury league program. Joe and the league’s founder George Khoury had established a great working relationship with the CYC in providing recreational athletic opportunities for the boys and girls of the St. Louis area. Joe brought a passion for his service to youth sports that may be equaled but will never be surpassed. Joe, much like his predecessor, Bob Guelker, was most identified with the game of soccer. However both men never shortchanged the other CYC activities. All of the sports and programs sponsored by the CYC under their direction received the absolute attention needed to provide quality programs.
Another important step in the development of the CYC youth program was the establishment during the 1960’s of CYC sports districts across the Archdiocese. The district organization would assist in the administrative responsibilities of our ever expanding program. Following the Florissant CYC district, established in the late 1950’s and acting as a basic model for those that followed, these volunteer organizations were added in the North County, North City, Southwest City, Southeast City, South Central County, South County and the North Central County area. While some of the names of the districts have changed with the shifting dynamics of the area’s population, these local organizations provide a great service to the CYC and young people we serve in the CYC sports program. Over the years thousands of men and women have given of their time and talent (and, no doubt, treasure) to assist in keeping this amateur athletic program moving. Without the contributions of the volunteers in each and every one of the districts and our parish athletic associations we surely would have an insurmountable task facing us as an agency.
The 1970’s was another decade of growth and expansion for the Archdiocesan program. New programs for the young people like boy’s volleyball, girl’s soccer and the broadening of the track program and the expansion of training leagues in all sports kept the numbers growing. Every year tens of thousands of children were offered the chance to participate. No player or team was refused a place in the CYC.
1971 saw the initial season of the CYC Major Baseball league. Senior men’s teams sponsored by St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Joan of Arc, Resurrection, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Philip Neri helped establish this league as one of the premiere men’s baseball programs in the region. The twice weekly games featured the talents of scores of local college and amateur players. During this same period the CYC recreational baseball leagues claimed the largest number of teams in the greater St. Louis area.
Also in 1971 the CYC along with St. Louis University and S.I.U. (Edwardsville) teamed up to present the first Bronze Boot match at Busch Stadium. This annual game featured two of the very best college soccer teams in a head to head competition that really can claim the title of the first St. Louis “Braggin’ Rights” game. For the next 15 plus years these two university squads, manned by countless All-Americans and mostly St. Louis and CYC products, faced off in one of the soccer highlights of the year.
1973 introduced another name to the leadership roster of the CYC when Father Larry Walsh was appointed to the post of Associate Director. Father Larry had been active in program activities for many years, most recently at Nativity of Our Lord parish on the north side of the city. Father’s main responsibilities would be centered in the sports and teenage sections of the Archdiocesan agency. Father Walsh utilized his abundant Irish wit and charm, his outstanding people skills and his “let’s get it done” approach to contribute to the expansion of the youth program.
In 1973 the annual CYC Sports Dinner added a new set of awards. With continued growth and impact of the CYC Sports Districts, we saw a need to recognize the men and women who held leadership positions in those divisions of the CYC. The districts had begun with the establishment of the Florissant CYC in the 1950’s. Following in quick succession during the late 50’s and throughout the 1960”s were the Southwest, Southeast and North City Districts as well as the South, North, North Central and South Central Districts.
Each of the districts served anywhere from 15 to 25 parishes. With dozens and then hundreds of volunteers, each was staffed to handle registration, scheduling, officials, discipline and all other phases of the rapidly growing athletic program. Certainly the Archdiocese and the CYC owes a deep debt of gratitude to the many thousands who have served so generously as volunteers at the district level. Since that time the CYC has honored those who serve the children by giving there time and dedication so freely at the annual Sports Awards Dinner.
That same year the CYC, with the help of a petition signed by over 15,000 young soccer players, received word that the man considered the greatest soccer player in the world, Pele’ would be coming to St. Louis to visit the CYC. Pele's whirlwind schedule included clinics, a visit with John Cardinal Carberry that included an impromptu passing drill on the lawn of the Laboure High School featuring a Prince of the Church and the King of Soccer, speeches, a luncheon, autograph signings and more. All of the thousands of youth and adult soccer buffs who attended these events were privileged to see up close the very best player of his time.
Throughout the rest of the decade the CYC was hitting on all cylinders with a constant production of recreational and competitive youth and senior sports programming. Special annual events like the International soccer matches, the boy’s varsity soccer high school tournament, sports banquets, training programs and so much more fulfilled the mission of the CYC.
In 1978, the face of the CYC would be forever changed when it was announced that Right Reverend Louis F. Meyer, the Archdiocesan Youth Director for the past 18 years and part of this administrative staff since 1947 would be stepping down. While he no longer carried the title of Director, he continues to this day as the most recognizable of those who formed the foundation on which the CYC was built. Even now, 30 years after moving on to other challenges on behalf of the Archdiocese, he remains a great influence on this agency and the leadership that followed. All who participated in the CYC during his 30 year association owe a deep debt of gratitude to this priest. Monsignor Louis Meyer is a man whose leadership, vision, dedication and energy are the benchmarks by which all who follow are measured.
After thirty-seven years of service to the youth of the Archdiocese, the CYC could look back and record the contributions of thousands of volunteers, hundreds of thousands of youth participants and scores of dedicated leaders. The philosophy that has motivated this program and the enthusiasm in which it was carried out by people with names like Maxwell, Sullivan, Meyer, Walsh, Rastberger, Guelker and Carenza and so many others too numerous to list here are the things that have made Catholic Youth Council such an important part of so many lives in our community and our church.
With Monsignor Meyer stepping aside it was, of course, necessary to find yet one more leader to assume the role of Director of the CYC. The St. Louis Cardinal Archbishop John Joseph Carberry did not have to look very far. Sitting in his office as Associate Director at the CYC Office on Lindell was Father Larry Walsh. Father was just completing five years in that position when Cardinal Carberry, who was in his final year as the shepherd of the St. Louis Archdiocese, named him to the post of CYC Director in 1978.
Ordained in 1963 Father Walsh, had spent the succeeding 15 years working with the young people of the Archdiocese as a teacher, associate pastor, coach and assistant CYC Director. His energy and enthusiasm to advocate for and lead youth was second to none. His creativity and Irish wit served him well in connecting with the children and teens to whom he was so dedicated. As Director of the CYC, he called on his years of practical experience, added a touch of originality and personal charm to lead the CYC program for the next five years.
As Director he oversaw the continuation of the expansion of the CYC. Working with Sports Director Joe Carenza, they continued to administer the CYC programs as examples of positive productive programs. Both of these dedicated leaders knew the importance sports could play in the development of young people; always stressing teamwork, discipline and hard work to achieve ones goal.
All of the CYC programs flourished and provided the opportunity to thousands of St. Louis area children and youth to be a part of this outstanding exercise. Programs such as CYO club soccer, CYC Major Baseball and CYC basketball expanded. The soccer program added girl’s soccer and the boys became part of the CYC volleyball efforts. New parish sports associations joined the CYC from St. Charles, West County and the South County districts.
Additional expansion in the annual CYC Parochial Track Meet and the continued first class soccer competition each year in the CYC High School Soccer tournament was a constant reminder to the community of the importance and impact of CYC sports. Training leagues for thousands of pre-K through 2nd graders continued to spring up across the Archdiocese to introduce these youngest CYC’ers to the fun of sport.
While the CYC continued to thrive during this period, 1981 also provided us all with a tragic loss when CYC Sports Director Joe Carenza, died suddenly in an automobile accident in early October. This was truly a great man, who gave everything he had to provide the young people of the CYC with a positive experience in sports. Joe’s love for his family, his church and the CYC provide us with an outstanding example of what is really important in life. Those of us who were blessed to have known him will always be grateful for that gift.
Joe Carenza had, in his lifetime, become a true St. Louis soccer legend. His love of the game as a player, coach and administrator has left an indelible mark on the local and national soccer community. It also earned him a much deserved place in the National Soccer Hall of Fame, with his election in 1982 to the shrine. At that time Joe joined his long time friend and CYC predecessor Bob Guelker, who had been elected to the Hall two years earlier. So it was that the two men who directed CYC sports for 35 years, from 1946 to 1981, both attained one of the games highest honors. Their impact and influence on the young people of our community is impossible to measure.
Reminding us that the only thing that never changes is the fact the things always change; 1983 saw CYC Director Larry Walsh announce his resignation to accept a new role for the church. Father was appointed Pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in South St. Louis. Because of Archdiocesan policy, in order to accept that position he had to give up his role as CYC Director. His ten years in leadership positions of the CYC played a major part in the continuing success of the program.
Again the Archdiocese looked inside the CYC for its next Director. Bob Rastberger, who had served the CYC and its young participants for nearly 20 years, accepted the role of Director in April 1983. Bob had been instrumental in the CYC for those two decades in directing the Catholic Scouting programs, Camp Don Bosco in Hillsboro Missouri and the CYC Teenage programs. Those three major programs along with CYC sports and the Young Adult program efforts made up the wide ranging and comprehensive approach to our service to youth in the St. Louis community.
Under his leadership all of the Youth Programs continued with great success. Bob looked to expand the CYC by bringing the Ujima Youth Program into the CYC. The efforts of the Ujima program were concentrated on the city’s North Side and continued the CYC’s outreach to the entirety of the municipal area. He developed additional approaches to leadership development for young people throughout the Archdiocese.
On August 13,1984 the CYC staff and St. Louis community received word of the passing of Rev. Msgr. Lloyd Sullivan. Monsignor, who was just shy of his 79th birthday, had been instrumental in the early success of the CYC while serving as Executive Director from 1947 until 1960. His contributions in the formation of the CYC were significant and remain in place today. More information regarding his service to the youth of the Archdiocese can be found in Chapters II and III of this history.
1984 saw the re-introduction of the CYC Sports Service Awards. These honors were given to individuals and couples who had made significant contributions to the various CYC sports. The honorees were cited for their service at the parish, district and archdiocesan level. These awards had been previously given during the 1950’s and 60’s at the annual sports dinners.
Bob Rastberger’s aggressive leadership further expanded the CYC’s working relationships with surrounding Dioceses in Springfield-Cape, Jefferson City, Belleville Illinois and others. The CYC expanded its partnership with the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) by providing Archdiocesan presence in Ministry, Scouting and Youth Sports committees and programs on the national level.
Bob’s contributions to the CYC program were impressive and appreciated by the staff, adult volunteer leadership and the youth and young adult participants. Under his direction the CYC continued to provide outstanding opportunities to Archdiocesan young people. When Bob left his position as Director of the CYC, yet another page in the CYC history book was soon to be turned.