Students come back with great memories after trips abroad

York Catholic students participated in various trips abroad this spring. A group of students from St. Maximilian Kolbe's ruby program toured Italy; as did students from St. Theresa's Soccer club, while other students from St. Theresa of Lisieux CHS spent March Break providing various services for an indigenous community in Costa Rica.

St. Maximilian Kolbe CHS – Rugby Trip

This past March, the St. Maximilian Kolbe Rugby Program toured Italy with a varsity team of 25 boys led by coaches Frank Ienna, Madeleine Brens, Michael D'Aiuto and Matthew Pontes. Over the course of 9 days, the team played great rugby and explored sites in Florence, Rome, Vatican City, and Venice, coming back with memories of great athletic and cultural experiences.

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St. Theresa of Lisieux CHS - Service Trip to Costa Rica

On March 12, a group of 19 students alongside 3 supervisors departed for sunny (and humid!) La Fortuna, Costa Rica.  The main reason for the trip was to serve  at La Fortuna Orphanage and with the Maleku, an indigenous community.  The students fundraised throughout the school year in order to bring several large suitcases of educational, craft and sport items to share with the groups during March Break.  The STL students made new friends with the children at the orphanage while engaging them in play, art activities, and music.

While at the Maleku Reserve,  the STL students were able to view the office addition that was built with funds from the STL. community.  They assisted in the levelling of a floor, reforestation, garden weeding & planting, tree tagging and trench digging.  They demonstrated to our new found friends throughout La Fortuna that St. Theresa's Little Way is alive and well! The STL students learned about the medicinal properties of plants in the jungle as well as why we need to preserve the Amazon rainforest. They were taught about tribal sustainability. On our last day on the reserve, the Maleku showed their appreciation to the STL group with a special ceremony in traditional garb and presented the school with a hand painted mask.

The students also had some time to experience some of the many things Costa Rica has to offer.  They completed a 5km volcano hike and went on seven thrilling ziplines! They enjoyed organic food grown and prepared on site at Finca Oasis. The group sampled the local cuisine. The students also volunteered at Proyecto Asis Wildlife Sanctuary, a facility dedicated to the protection and rehabilitation of wild animals.

The week was full of laughter, singing and gratitude for the many blessings that were received.  The supervisors on this trip are so proud that the STL students did so many little things with extraordinary love.   This trip was a life-changing one and hopefully the start of many more to come.

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St. Theresa of Lisieux CHS – Soccer Trip

It is commonly said that "of all the books in the world, the best stories are found in between the pages of a Passport". This quote truly came to life for the group of kids from St. Theresa of Lisieux Catholic High School that got the chance to go on a overseas journey to a country of magnificent culture and history, Italy. Principal Joe Servidio and Coach Gianluca Saggese took the STL Lions for the fourth straight year to experience the enormous swaths of heritage Italy has to offer and showcase their soccer skills. This year marked the 5th annual March Break Italy tour. We visited beautiful UNESCO world heritage sites such as Naples, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Vatican City, Florence and Verona.

Aside from the soccer component of the trip, the itinerary gave the boys insight to the history and culture of Italy. This is definitely a lesson that cannot be taught in the classroom and one that they will cherish for many years to come. The Lions travelled by private coach to their destinations and visited breathtaking Amalfi & Positano with a private ferry from Salerno. The boys also experienced three days in the heart of Naples in a beautiful 4 star hotel overlooking the island of Capri, the bay of Naples and the volcano Vesuvius. There was a perfect fusion catering to the students' passion for soccer, love of Italian food, culture and history. The travellers continued their journey to the small hillside town of San Gregorio Magno where they stayed in a state of the art sports complex operated by the Italian Soccer Federation. The team played a total of 5 games against serie A and B youth academies such as Chievo Verona, Salernitana and Napoli with two wins two losses and one tie. Showcasing the soccer abilities of Canadian players was a key focus in this trip and the players got the chance to display their skills at the state of the art Inter Milan training facility along with former Italian National team centre-back, Salvatore Fresi. Striker, Robert Tomasone described the session as "an opportunity to show our talent to people who have been at the highest caliber of the game we love."

In the past some of our players had the privilege of being invited by the Italian scouts and coaches to participate in a tryout. Scouts from professional clubs also attended the games and expressed interest in certain players who are going to go back in the summer for further evaluation. Midfielder Sepehr Talebi said, "Being submersed into the Italian culture for two weeks and being given the chance to play world class sides such as Chievo Verona and others was an unforgettable experience."

The 24 exuberant students spoke so fondly of their memories in Italy. Among the many great experiences talk focused around the best pizza they've ever had in Naples, playing briscola cards with locals in San Gregorio Magno, attending mass at the Basilica in Naples and playing soccer in the piazza with the Neapolitan kids, visiting the Vatican, being mesmerized by the Renaissance capital Florence, and feeling victorious after a tough match against a professional youth club. The bonding between the boys was another positive aspect of these trips. They learned to work and live collaboratively with each other. The friendships turned to brotherhood.  These relationships are going to last them for a lifetime. Many Canadians do not leave the boundaries of their town or Province much less the country. "To go to Italy, play against the best teams I've ever been up against, to celebrate mass in the place it all started, to meet the pros and all in a safe environment is just too amazing an experience for any student" said team co-captain Donovan Watson who this year marked his 4th consecutive trip with STL. ¨Standing with my brothers before the start of the game and singing our Canadian National Anthem together was an experience I will never forget¨ said centre back James Wagner.

Another highlight was meeting with some professional players such as the Serie A star Dries Mertens and Canadian born pro Jonathan De Guzman. Visits from an Italian Senator and the President of the Italian Football Federation (FIGIC) were also great honors for the STL Lions. The live match at the Stadio San Paolo between Napoli and Crotone was also an incredible experience for the boys.  "A dream come true" said the 15 year old STL goalie Anthony Gurrieri and 17 year old co-captain Lucas Magnifico who were able to watch their childhood favourite team play live.  Defender Matteo Imbrogno said "the passion for the beautiful game runs through the veins of the fans here, it's truly mind boggling".

To celebrate the strong bond created between St. Theresa of Lisieux and the local authorities in Italy, the team was invited to city hall where they received an award and special recognition. Team captains Donovan Watson and Lucas Magnifico were given the opportunity to deliver a message, in Italian before the mayor in the City Hall of San Gregorio Magno. By now after years of visiting this captivating town of San Gregorio Magno, the inhabitants look forward to the boys coming each year and treat them like family!

The pictures posted online through the official STL LIONS SOCCER instagram account @stllionssoccer captured not only the soccer element but just as important, the cultural experience that the boys took in which they will no doubt cherish for years to come.

It was also pleasing to see the amount of thank you e-mail that flooded in from parents expressing their gratitude and satisfaction with this enriching, well organized, positive, and life-enhancing program, now going on to its fifth year. We would like to thank the parents who came on the trip to support the team as well.

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