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Mount St. Mary’s University Launches the Sport of Francesco Global Initiative

Donna Klinger

Mount College Experience Camp

Mount basketball players conduct drills with boys in the Mount College Experience Camp.

The Richard J. Bolte, Sr. School of Business at Mount St. Mary’s University has received approval from the General Secretariat for the Economy of Francesco in Loppiano, Italy, to launch and coordinate the Sport of Francesco initiative, which focuses on sport as a tool for positive human and social development and inclusion while also spotlighting sustainable cultures of sport that value the environment. It follows principles of the Laudato Si’ Movement, the Economy of Francesco and Farm of Francesco that seek to hear the cry of the Earth and the poor and to care for God’s creation and all people.

rugby-mozambique-2.jpgThis global initiative, being undertaken as part of the university’s commitment as a Laudato Si’ University, will be part of the activities of the Bolte School’s Center for Integral Ecology, Economy and iMpact, working in collaboration with international colleagues and organizations, the Laudato Si’ Movement and the Economy of Francesco.

The fledgling global initiative has assumed responsibilities for the Mount’s partnership with Rosemont Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, which includes the week-long summertime Mount College Experience Camp for middle schoolers who may not have considered their future yet as well as other programming throughout the year. This program is led by Associate Professor of Sport Management Corinne Farneti, Ph.D., and Director and Associate Professor of Human Services Tim Wolfe, Ph.D. Other  Sport of Francesco projects include developing post-disaster sport programming for Ukrainian refugees in various locations, and building a network of programming around the world that links sport and youth development to Laudato Si’ principles.

Laudato Si’ is the Pope’s 2015 call to action in which he explains our duty to care for the Earth and the poor through reshaping how we do business, how we interact with our world, and with each other. The Mount is participating in the seven-year Laudato’ Si Action Platform. In addition to Laudato Si’, Pope Francis has commented frequently on the significance of sport to the development of the human person and social interaction. In 2018, he published Giving the best of yourself: a Document on the Christian perspective on sport and the human person, from the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, which presents his thinking and that of the Church on sports.

“We are a network of global practitioners and scholars who promote sport and sporting organizations that adhere to the principles outlined by Pope Francis,” said John Nauright, dean of the Richard J. Bolte, Sr. School of Business and co-coordinator of the Sport of Francesco. “For true integral human development, sport and movement cultures are essential. For human dignity, the opportunity to play is vital, and indeed, is a fundamental human right as outlined by the United Nations.”

The primary partner in Sport of Francesco is Sportmeet, a worldwide network of sports and people who work in sports. Motivated by the desire to make a contribution through sports to a more united world, Sportmeet sees sports as an important and positive reality that allows people to challenge themselves and others. Sportmeet, a nongovernmental organization with General Consultative Status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council, is represented at the United Nations through its membership in New Humanity.

Additional partners working with team members in the Mount’s Sport of Francesco initiative include the Economy of Francesco; Power to Play Period (international); International Working Group on Women in Sport; University of Ghana; John Paul II Foundation for Sport; National Organization for Women in Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation (NOWSPAR), Zambia; Women’s Rugby Land of Freedom in Muzumuia, Mozambique; Rosemont Schools, Baltimore; University of Sydney, Australia; Women in Sport Aotearoa (Aotearoa/New Zealand); and Wecho Trust in Botswana which helps vulnerable people through sports.

The Sport of Francesco initiative brings together scholar practitioners to meet the university’s mission and support a new academic concentration in sport and youth development while coordinating activities of Sport of Francesco internationally. Associate Professor of Sport Management Sarah Zipp, Ph.D., who recently joined the Bolte School faculty, will be the undergraduate coordinator of the concentration and co-coordinator of Sport of Francesco.

rugby-mozambique.jpgThe work focuses on research, outreach, assessment, experiential learning, and human capacity building through sporting and educational experiences with the viewpoint of harnessing sport for sustainable futures that build human capacity among the poor. For example, Leandro Conde, co-founder of Women’s Rugby Land of Freedom led a rugby program in Muzumuia, Mozambique in which children were introduced to rugby’s values and how to care for the Earth while learning to play the game. The program is designed to inspire participants to “believe in themselves and create a better future,” Conde said.

“Our primary aim is to validate and analyze programs in our region and around the world as best practice sport organizations or programs that promote the Sport of Francesco and Laudato Si’ values,” Nauright explained. “Our secondary aim is to leverage our scholarly and community engagement presence in the sport and youth development space for greater good. We especially leverage our Laudato Si’ mission to hear the cry of the poor through promotion human capability and ethical and moral values through youth sporting programs.

Through a review, analysis and evaluation process, the initiative’s team of academics and practitioners plans to deliver Sport of Francesco awards/badges to sport and youth development programs that meet Laudato Si’ principles as well as to work with local communities in developing new programs based on Laudato Si’ principles.

Students will be engaged in service-learning projects, experiential learning activities around local and global projects, and research on and evaluation of best practices that meet the aims of Pope Francis in his writings on sport and in Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti.

Donna Klinger