September 17, 2021

Evangelization & Catechesis Supplement

Faith leader shares the love of sports to help parents deepen their appreciation of a child’s baptism

(Editor’s note: While teaching and helping others to embrace a deeper appreciation of their Catholic faith, catechists throughout the archdiocese have found their own relationship with God has deepened through the experience. Here are several stories of that transformation.)

By John Shaughnessy

Tom Yost considers it as one of the great privileges and passions of his life.

For most of his 39 years in ministry, Yost has led a class for parents whose first child is being baptized in the Catholic faith.

While trying to lead others to a better understanding of one of the foundations of their faith, he has continued to have his own faith deepened.

“I have never lost my passion or enthusiasm of sharing what the sacrament of baptism means to me and could mean for them and their child or children,” says Yost, the pastoral associate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany.

As part of his efforts, Yost constantly searches for connections of the sacrament to other parts of life. One of his favorite ones involves the world of sports.

“My vision—and question—is this: Is it possible that a baptized Christian can have the same kind of relationship and enthusiasm for Jesus Christ and the Church that the biggest fan has with his/her sport and team?”

In his conversations with parents, Yost tells them that baptism has two purposes—salvation and initiation. Most people understand salvation and God’s offer of it in the sacrament, but many parents struggle with the concept of initiation, Yost says. That’s where he introduces the connection to sports.

“I describe initiation in this way: Initiation is identifying with something or someone. It is belonging to something or someone. And it is becoming like something or someone. For the baptized Christian, the something is the Church and the someone is Jesus Christ. I believe sports offer one of the best examples of how people are initiated in our culture, and I illustrate this in my baptism class.

“Most people are invested fans of a sport and a sports team. If not, they usually know someone who is. An invested—initiated—fan is one who identifies with their team. They know the history, the players and the coaches. They follow their team through all kinds of media in and out of season.”

Even more, Yost stresses in his classes, “an invested fan is one who belongs to their team.”

“They will never give up on or change their team. An invested fan becomes like their team. They wear team apparel and watch or attend all the games. They introduce family and friends to their team, hoping they will join in their love and excitement.”

Yost experiences that love, excitement and investment in his faith.

“Hosting these baptism classes through the years has deepened my own appreciation of the potential and power of initiation in my faith life. I have come to realize all the Bible studies in the world will not likely deepen my faith if I am not invested in or have a relationship with the word of God.

“Christian initiation has taught me that my attachment to God is infinitely more joyful than my attachment to my beloved Boston Red Sox major league baseball team.” †


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