Mary O’Keefe just finished watching her grandson Declan win his cross-country race and was enjoying a fall morning on the picturesque campus of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie.
CYO New York is calling St. Joseph’s Seminary home to its cross-country meets this fall.
“Being here at the seminary means everything,” said Mrs. O’Keefe, a parishioner of St. John the Baptist in Yonkers, who walked to the Oct. 8 meet from home along with her husband, Frank, and Declan. “The facilities are gorgeous. The course is really nice. The kids seem to like it. There is plenty of parking for the parents and it’s very accessible for everyone. I think it was a brilliant idea moving it here.”
She added, “It’s the center of our archdiocese. All of our priests, who we’ve known through the years, have mainly been trained here. So there certainly is a strong connection that we have to our faith at the seminary. It’s a special place.”
Stefan Anikewich, the director of the CYO cross-country program, has been involved in the program’s activities for 10 years. He contacted Father William Cleary, the seminary’s vice rector, about using the seminary fields for the 2022 fall season.
“We spoke about CYO and the opportunities,” said Anikewich, who is also the freshman cross country and track coach at Fordham Prep. “He’s an incredible human being, and he granted us permission to use these fields. We’re blessed, we really are.”
St. Joseph’s Seminary opened in 1896 with 96 seminarians on Valentine Hill, which once served as a headquarters for George Washington during the Revolutionary War. The seminary hosted Pope John Paul II in 1995 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.
“St. Joseph’s Seminary heard our call and delivered,” said CYO director Seth Peloso. “They listened to the needs of the children and came through in this important period of time for the CYO. As the CYO continues to rebuild from the pandemic, it is a blessing when the seminary and fellow Catholic institutions see the importance of what the CYO is meant to do: serve the children in our communities.
“The CYO and St. Joseph’s Seminary, in partnership, have a long history of serving the children and families together. I'm sure that parents and grandparents coming back to the St. Joseph’s Seminary campus will feel nostalgic, bringing back memories from their CYO days. This is just the beginning of great things to come for the people that need it most, the children, and perhaps keeping those nostalgic CYO memories going for generations to follow.”
On Oct. 8, 132 runners competed in the six races for boys and girls in kindergarten through eighth grade. Renya Glab coaches Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scarsdale, which has about 40 runners registered to run this fall.
“I’m so happy we have a beautiful place like this,” she said. “We’re really thankful for everyone who helped us with that.”
Ms. Glab’s daughter, Emilia Plawiak, an eighth-grader at Immaculate Heart of Mary School, has been a CYO runner for eight years.
“Running is a building block for most things that you learn in life,” Emilia said. “It teaches me self-discipline to get up in the morning, work hard and the results are going to come.
“CYO is a great community. I’ve been raised with the same people my entire life. I met so many amazing people and so many amazing friends, teachers and mentors.”
Declan O’Keefe, a 9-year-old parishioner of Holy Family in New Rochelle, sprinted across the finish line to complete his 1,500-meter run in 6 minutes, 28.5 seconds to take first place in the race for boys in grades three through five.
“I start at a medium pace and go fast at the end,” said Declan, who was enjoying the Twizzlers licorice offered to all runners at the finish line. “It was a tough course. The hills were pretty steep. When I go down the hills, I go flying down. The hills make me go faster, and it gives me more speed for the end.”
Scarlet Fairweather, 11, is a parishioner of St. Augustine in Larchmont and a sixth-grader at The Ursuline School in New Rochelle. She and her brothers, Jackson and Luke, are all CYO runners.
Scarlet finished first in the race for girls in grades six through eight, completing the 2,000-meter course in 8 minutes, 49.3 seconds.
“It’s really fun,” she said. “I just like how everybody is here. It makes nice memories.”