Editorial: Bingo before basketball

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them from coming to me.”

That no-conditions spirit apparently did not weigh heavily in a recent decision by Westport’s Our Lady of Grace Church to evict young basketball teams from the church’s parish hall court.

The parish priest said he banned the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) teams from further practice there because he seldom sees their coaches or many of the players at Mass. He said the teams also create considerable work for the church because chairs and tables must be set up and taken down often to make way for bingo.

“The purpose of this basketball should be to bring the children closer to their church … but that doesn’t seem to be happening. It doesn’t bear fruit for the faith,” he said.

But by giving hoops the heave-ho, he loses any hope he might have had of drawing these young people into the fold.

Maybe they weren’t all at Mass (here anyway), but at least they were coming to Our Lady of Grace Church. While there they were doing good things — getting exercise, learning about helping teammates, making friends …

And their presence was an opportunity for this Church. By sharing its space, offering a warm welcome, cheering these girls and boys who proudly sported the church name on their jerseys, they sent a message that this is a place for all ages, a place where both faith and fun can be found.

Years ago, those who built a basketball court in the parish house must have realized this. Thanks to them, the church now has a facility that young people need yet would rather it be used for bingo.

Now would seem a golden teaching moment — about compromise, forgiveness, welcome.

These children need a place to practice. It’s not too late to work this out.

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