When Faith and Sport Face-Off: Guest Speaker to Visit SMCS

Working in youth ministry for more than 20 years has taken Dan Moynihan around the globe to speak to adolescents and young adults primarily about the often-overlooked intersection of faith and sport.

“The world of sport, professional sports, is just awakening to intentional reflection upon the impact of faith,” says Moynihan. “This movement had a light shone on it in 2016 by Pope Francis. In certain parts of the world, there is a growing trend to make faith a private matter. We are attempting to give young people the confidence and communication skills to talk about their journey of faith and in particular how it intersects with their participation in sport.”

Dan Moynihan, during a talk in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2018. He travels around the world to speak to youth about faith and sport.
Photo courtesy of: Dan Moynihan

Moynihan, who is based in southwestern Ontario, will be at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) this month to address several groups of student-athletes --- close to 200 in all --- who participate in winter sports teams at the school.

“I hope to engage the student-athletes in such a way that they can consider how they are utilizing their participation in sport to help them consider who they are becoming,” says the father of four.

“It is good to play sports to win,” Moynihan continues. “We give maximum effort to performing at a high level in the field of competition. At the same time, winning is not the ultimate end. Sport can teach us so much about who we are, who we are created to be and what it takes to give the best of ourselves on the field and in life,” he says.

SMCS Volleyball team playing in the gym


The continued conversation of respect and culture at SMCS includes growing in awareness and knowledge about the inherent responsibility student-athletes have in their role on the field of play, says James McKinnon, Principal at SMCS, who was instrumental in having Dan Moynihan appear at SMCS.

“We are called to be leaders in faith, character, and service,” says McKinnon. “We need to connect our passions and commitments to this call for the greater good. Sport and athletes are only the beginning as we grow the conversation to all aspects of school, family, and community life,” he says.

James McKinnon, Principal at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) has been long-involved in athletics at various levels.​​​​​

McKinnon, a life-long athlete at various levels and a coach himself adds, “I have always believed sport to be a microcosm of life. You try out, you do your best, you set collective goals with your team or your mentors, you work through the challenges of achieving those goals,” he says. “There will be successes and failures along the way, but we problem-solve together. No individual is greater than the team. Always for the purpose of doing more good. When I transfer that to my life in general, my faith vision is to do good, based on the life of Christ. Goodness is the pursuit. Discipline and knowledge allow me to do it well.”

For Moynihan, who has previously interacted with SMCS students during school retreats, reflecting on the relationship between faith and sport ultimately leads to the discovery of more connectedness than differences.

Student-athletes from winter sports teams will take part in separate interactive workshops led by Dan Moynihan, youth ministry.

“In the life of sport, we practice in private so that we can perform in public,” says Moynihan. “This is also true in our lives of faith. We practice our faith, praying, studying, considering in private so that when we are in public, intersecting with culture we can in a sense perform our faith in public,” he says.

“All of us, not just the SMCS community need to constantly consider how we are lifting up one another’s dignity in all areas of our lives. The nurturing of a deeper sense of empathy and solidarity in order to understand our interconnectedness and impact of our actions is necessary. I truly hope the students have an experience that encourages them to find their authentic voice and be inspired to speak of their faith journey.”

Dan Moynihan will be visiting St. Michael’s College School on Monday, November 18, 2019, to conduct multiple interactive workshops with student-athletes participating in winter sports teams.