The Legacy Continues (1960-1978)

The Legacy Continues (1960-1978)

With the appointment of Father Louis F. Meyer to the post of Executive Director, the CYC changed directors but not direction. Msgr. Meyer had been an important part of the CYC leadership structure, as the assistant director for over a dozen years when he was asked to serve as its 3rd Executive Director following the retirement of his great friend Msgr. Lloyd Sullivan. The 1960’s and 1970’s version of the CYC sports program was about to experience the dynamic and visionary leadership of a legendary friend of young people.

Monsignor Meyer, ably assisted by the CYC Sports Director Bob Guelker, would continue providing a wonderful recreational sports program. In addition the CYC would expand to offer more competitive programs such as the Junior District soccer leagues, sponsored in partnership with the Pepsi Cola Bottlers of St. Louis. This program featured the very best of St. Louis high school age soccer players and led to hundreds of scholarships that allowed so many young men the opportunity to continue their education.

The CYC’s Major Soccer league, a joint venture with our friends on Pestilozzi at the Anhueser Busch Corporate offices, provided first class Senior Men’s league competition. Each Sunday afternoon the public was given the chance to see the very best in men’s soccer at Mullally Field, on the grounds of St. Mary Magdalen Parish. The players from this league also formed the nucleus of our CYC All-Star soccer teams that played in the annual International soccer matches begun in the mid 1950’s.

Soccer Match in the 1950sThose International matches brought the very best teams from Europe, the British Isles and South America to St. Louis for a competition that provided a great learning experience for our young people and our CYC All-Stars. While victory was a rare commodity in these games, the 1964 match provided an exciting venue for CYC soccer when our All-Stars gained a draw against the first division team from Liverpool England. In fact, the English team had to score late in the game to register the tie. The result was considered a major upset in the world of soccer and drew headlines across the soccer world.

In 1965 the CYC established what was to become the most prestigious local soccer award, when it presented its first annual Gold and Silver Boots. The awards recognize the outstanding contributions to CYC soccer and the game of Soccer. The roster of awardees reads like a Soccer Hall of Fame list, with winners, the likes of Harry Keough, Pat McBride, Al Trost, Gino Pariani, Ebbie Dunn, Frank Borghi, Syl Raftery, Dent McSkimming, Bob Kehoe and a host of others.

The mid 1960’s saw several changes in CYC leadership and programming. In 1964 Bob Rastberger was appointed Associate Director to assist Msgr. Meyer in overseeing the operation of the area’s most active youth recreational program. His main focus was to direct the activities of the CYC’s camps Don Bosco and Mater Dei in Hillsboro, Missouri and work with the growing teenage and Catholic scouting programs. Bob, a man with terrific insight and abilities became a wonderful addition to the Catholic Youth Council. As part of the leadership team he helped continue the great traditions of the CYC and incorporate new and innovative programming.

Following in 1967, long time CYC Sports Director Bob Guelker, moved to Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville to become the men’s varsity soccer coach and school athletic director. Bob had led the St. Louis University Billikens to several national championships while a part time coach and was given the opportunity to devote his full energies to collegiate soccer. Bob Guelker’s impact on the youth of the Archdiocese through his years with the CYC remains evident even today. The high regard in which he is held and spoken of by past participants and by those he coached or taught is a fitting tribute to a man who first, last and always dedicated his life to young people.

Mr. Guelker was succeeded by another icon of amateur athletics in St. Louis, Joe Carenza. Joe came to the CYC after many years of directing the highly respected Khoury league program. Joe and the league’s founder George Khoury had established a great working relationship with the CYC in providing recreational athletic opportunities for the boys and girls of the St. Louis area. Joe brought a passion for his service to youth sports that may be equaled but will never be surpassed. Joe, much like his predecessor, Bob Guelker, was most identified with the game of soccer. However both men never shortchanged the other CYC activities. All of the sports and programs sponsored by the CYC under their direction received the absolute attention needed to provide quality programs.

Another important step in the development of the CYC youth program was the establishment during the 1960’s of CYC sports districts across the Archdiocese. The district organization would assist in the administrative responsibilities of our ever expanding program. Following the Florissant CYC district, established in the late 1950’s and acting as a basic model for those that followed,  these volunteer organizations were added in the North County, North City, Southwest City, Southeast City, South Central County, South County and the North Central County area. While some of the names of the districts have changed with the shifting dynamics of the area’s population, these local organizations provide a great service to the CYC and young people we serve in the CYC sports program. Over the years thousands of men and women have given of their time and talent (and, no doubt, treasure) to assist in keeping this amateur athletic program moving. Without the contributions of the volunteers in each and every one of the districts and our parish athletic associations we surely would have an insurmountable task facing us as an agency.

Track - Long JumpThe 1970’s was another decade of growth and expansion for the Archdiocesan program. New programs for the young people like boy’s volleyball, girl’s soccer and the broadening of the track program and the expansion of training leagues in all sports kept the numbers growing. Every year tens of thousands of children were offered the chance to participate. No player or team was refused a place in the CYC.

1971 saw the initial season of the CYC Major Baseball league. Senior men’s teams sponsored by St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Joan of Arc, Resurrection, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Philip Neri helped establish this league as one of the premiere men’s baseball programs in the region. The twice weekly games featured the talents of scores of local college and amateur players. During this same period the CYC recreational baseball leagues claimed the largest number of teams in the greater St. Louis area.

Also in 1971 the CYC along with St. Louis University and S.I.U. (Edwardsville) teamed up to present the first Bronze Boot match at Busch Stadium. This annual game featured two of the very best college soccer teams in a head to head competition that really can claim the title of the first St. Louis “Braggin’ Rights” game. For the next 15 plus years these two university squads, manned by countless All-Americans and mostly St. Louis and CYC products, faced off in one of the soccer highlights of the year.

1973 introduced another name to the leadership roster of the CYC when Father Larry Walsh was appointed to the post of Associate Director. Father Larry had been active in program activities for many years, most recently at Nativity of Our Lord parish on the north side of the city. Father’s main responsibilities would be centered in the sports and teenage sections of the Archdiocesan agency. Father Walsh utilized his abundant Irish wit and charm, his outstanding people skills and his “let’s get it done” approach to contribute to the expansion of the youth program.

In 1973 the annual CYC Sports Dinner added a new set of awards. With continued growth and impact of the CYC Sports Districts, we saw a need to recognize the men and women who held leadership positions in those divisions of the CYC. The districts had begun with the establishment of the Florissant CYC in the 1950’s. Following in quick succession during the late 50’s and throughout the 1960”s were the Southwest, Southeast and North City Districts as well as the South, North, North Central and South Central Districts.

Each of the districts served anywhere from 15 to 25 parishes. With dozens and then hundreds of volunteers, each was staffed to handle registration, scheduling, officials, discipline and all other phases of the rapidly growing athletic program. Certainly the Archdiocese and the CYC owes a deep debt of gratitude to the many thousands who have served so generously as volunteers at the district level. Since that time the CYC has honored those who serve the children by giving there time and dedication so freely at the annual Sports Awards Dinner.

Pele Meets Cardinal CarberryThat same year the CYC, with the help of a petition signed by over 15,000 young soccer players, received word that the man considered the greatest soccer player in the world, Pele’ would be coming to St. Louis to visit the CYC. Pele’s whirlwind schedule included clinics, a visit with John Cardinal Carberry that included an impromptu passing drill on the lawn of the Laboure High School featuring a Prince of the Church and the King of Soccer, speeches, a luncheon, autograph signings and more. All of the thousands of youth and adult soccer buffs who attended these events were privileged to see up close the very best player of his time.

Throughout the rest of the decade the CYC was hitting on all cylinders with a constant production of recreational and competitive youth and senior sports programming. Special annual events like the International soccer matches, the boy’s varsity soccer high school tournament, sports banquets, training programs and so much more fulfilled the mission of the CYC.

In 1978, the face of the CYC would be forever changed when it was announced that Right Reverend Louis F. Meyer, the Archdiocesan Youth Director for the past 18 years and part of this administrative staff since 1947 would be stepping down. While he no longer carried the title of Director, he continues to this day as the most recognizable of those who formed the foundation on which the CYC was built. Even now, 30 years after moving on to other challenges on behalf of the Archdiocese, he remains a great influence on this agency and the leadership that followed. All who participated in the CYC during his 30 year association owe a deep debt of gratitude to this priest. Monsignor Louis Meyer is a man whose leadership, vision, dedication and energy are the benchmarks by which all who follow are measured.

After thirty-seven years of service to the youth of the Archdiocese, the CYC could look back and record the contributions of thousands of volunteers, hundreds of thousands of youth participants and scores of dedicated leaders. The philosophy that has motivated this program and the enthusiasm in which it was carried out by people with names like Maxwell, Sullivan, Meyer, Walsh, Rastberger, Guelker and Carenza and so many others too numerous to list here are the things that have made Catholic Youth Council such an important part of so many lives in our community and our church.

Denny Handley is the Sr. Manager of Media, Marketing, and Technology for the Department of Evangelization and Parish Ministry Support in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He's a husband, father, musician, and a true coffee nerd.