October 19, 2018

Schooners, sport, and the Holy Spirit – it’s not just cricket

The Papal Bulls cricket team. PHOTO: Supplied

I love my cricket but the best things that happen in our team are off the field.

I’ve played with the Papal Bulls cricket club as soon as I was old enough, at 16, as part of the NSW Church Cricket competition.

It’s an organisation of teams across greater Sydney that represent their local churches.

Founded in 1999 by brothers Anthony and Chris Gordon, the Papal Bulls started out as a Catholic cricket team representing St Michael’s Belfield. Since 2008 we’ve represented St Peter’s, Surry Hills.

We take our cricket seriously and last season was a very successful one for our team.

We get out there and arrive at the game keen and ready to play, but win or lose what we value the most is the camaraderie that we have formed over the seasons and years.

Colm McCaughan. PHOTO: Supplied

After each game we go to the local club and have a couple of beers. It’s the most important aspect of playing cricket with our club; having fun with your mates.

Playing together week after week, season after season, has helped us to form really close friendships. I’ve got brothers in the team, John, Cormac, Criostoir, and Finbar, and it’s certainly helped me to form deeper relationships with them than I probably would have otherwise.

A lot of us are committed Catholics and members of the parish. But not all of us are, which is part of the genius of our particular club.

Spirituality is an important aspect of what we do. St Peter’s parish priest, Fr Bill Milstead, comes along to support us at games and it’s a club tradition to pray before each one ‘for the glory of God and the honour of the Church’.

One of the guys is a seminarian in the Wagga diocese who comes up in his holidays during January. We’ve had numerous seminarians who are now priests play with us over time which helps to keep the spiritual side of things intact.

The whole cricket competition opens up friendships with people under the banner of the different churches; it unites us though a common interest in the sport. So the Papal Bulls’ has been an excellent ecumenical tool.

The captain of our team is agnostic and I consider him one of my closest friends.

Playing in our club has given people like him a much better understanding of what the Catholic Church is all about.

Another aspect of outreach occurs when there’s a shortage in the team and we send out a message on Facebook to all our friends to see if anyone’s interested in playing cricket with us.

We usually have one or two takers and it’s helped them to come into a healthy community of young men. We’ve even had the odd one or two women join us sometimes and they’ve become great friends.

Sport can bring out the best and worst in you. We’ve got guys on the team who have got flaming tempers and that can sometimes be exacerbated on the cricket field.

Playing together has helped us to identify issues like that which involve mental health and band together as teammates to try and encourage whoever’s going through something difficult to get the help he needs.

Our families, wives, and girlfriends, are all very supportive of the team and we try to return the favour; hosting an annual ladies day for the ladies in our lives who let us out to play each Saturday in summer.

We sometimes take trips down to Bowral and play on the Bradman Oval there which is always good fun.

A couple of years ago we did a Papal Bulls’ old boys day. A lot of guys took the trip down and brought their whole family along and it was a great day for forming and reinforcing community.

It’s a great cricket team to belong to and we have lots of fun, but it’s also way of life that fosters healthy relationships and connection with God.

Colm McCaughan is a teacher at St Patrick’s Brothers, Blacktown. Story as told to Marilyn Rodrigues.

National Men’s Health Week 2018 runs from 11-17 June. This year’s theme is Men and Families: Making healthy connections. For more information visit www.menshealthweek.org.au

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