Mary Solberg

Faith Editor Mary Solberg does her small part digging outhouse
holes during last summer's diocesan mission trip to Kentucky. 
The students pictured around her really did all the work.

          The sports story of the year, and probably the best human interest article, too, involved lessons of teamwork, diligence and faith.

          It took all three, if you recall, to successfully rescue the 12 youth soccer players who were trapped with their coach inside a flooded cave in Thailand last summer.

          People around the world watched as Thailand’s Navy SEALs and other international diving experts conducted the daring rescue mission through the cave’s flooded pathways. After 18 days, the team members and their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, emerged.

          What mostly captured my attention were the details about what happened inside the cave while the team waited to be rescued.

          Chanthawong, 25, had spent nearly 10 years as a Buddhist monk. He shared with the boys some important aspects of meditation that would hopefully calm them during their period of isolation.

          The kids — ages 11 to 16 — obviously trusted their coach. But they also drew upon what every athlete, including my own sons, have learned on the field of competition: support your teammates, keep focused, do your best and never give up.

          In sports, as in life, these lessons can get you through a lot. A rabid soccer fan himself, Pope Francis has said, “We need to deepen the close connection that exists between sport and life, which can enlighten one another.”

          In this issue of Faith, teenagers representing each of the seven high schools in the Diocese of Erie share with readers their private prayers before competition. I love reading the connections they make between their athletic endeavors and God’s presence in their lives.

          They don’t believe God magically helps them win, but they do ask the Lord to be at their side, to walk with them — or run, if you will.

            Making connections is helpful in nurturing our faith. It’s what this whole magazine is about.

          As I take over as editor of Faith magazine, beginning with this edition, I hope to help readers make connections between their Catholic faith and the world in which we live. Our stories may inspire readers to live an authentic Christian life, reaching out to others, particularly those on the fringes of society.

          Not long after last summer’s cave rescue in Thailand, I traveled with Father Mike DeMartinis on the 47th annual diocesan mission trip to Kentucky. It is just one of many examples of mission outreach by teenagers in our diocese.

            Teamwork, focus and faith carried these students through their week-long service to the needy and disenfranchised in Vanceburg, Ky. Like any journalist, I embedded myself in their community, thinking I’d get a few pictures and a few quotes to make a good story.

          Instead, they pulled me into their orbit of joy and love of service. What else could make teenagers want to spend summer vacation digging holes for outhouses?

          Their youthful resilience, their zeal, their desire to do good will undoubtedly lead this age-old church of ours into the future.

          That would be the best story of all.