Coach Joe Pisaneschi (left) stands with the 2009 seventh-grade girls St. John the Baptist basketball team. His daughter Lauren is number 15. (Clayton Smith/CYO)
Coach Joe Pisaneschi (left) stands with the 2009 seventh-grade girls St. John the Baptist basketball team. His daughter Lauren is number 15. (Clayton Smith/CYO)
" We are striving to have a purpose behind everything we do with kids and bring Christ to the forefront.

" Sr. Krista von Borstel
As they cap off a 75th anniversary, leaders of Catholic Youth Organization/Camp Howard have revised their vision, mission and values.

“We have spent a good deal of time working on our mission and vision and updating the organization,” said Sister Krista von Borstel, executive director. “I am most excited about how we help our youth grow in the Catholic faith in the presentation of our programs. We are striving to have a purpose behind everything we do with kids and bring Christ to the forefront.”

Sister Krista explained that the organization won’t be preachy, but will allow Christ’s presence to shine in everything. “We are going to be who we are,” she said.

Here’s the new tagline for CYO/Camp Howard: “Inspiring today’s youth to become faith-filled leaders.” Spiritual growth is the first of five core values for a reason.

Sister Krista offered an example of how this might play out. At camp, children can make bead bracelets. Now, the pattern will include a cross.

“Christ is in the design,” Sister Krista said.

That’s a good summation of the entire mission, vision and values project.

Spiritual growth seems to go in a pair with communal life, and community is the second core value. At camp, said Sister Krista, a strong community forms. Campers become fast friends, sometimes for life. At the same time, staff and parent volunteers rely on one another.

When it comes to confidence, the third core value, Sister Krista said she marvels each year when she sees athletes and campers grow in certainty and poise, trying new adventures and overcoming fears.

Leadership is the fourth core value. She observes with delight as young coaches build trust in themselves or camp counselors develop the moxie to lead. At camp especially, adult staff observe but try to stay out of the way as counselors run programs.

Joy is the fifth core value. At games, meets and camp sessions, Sister Krista often asks youngsters if they are having fun. Usually, the answer is an earthshaking yes. Sister Krista counts it a major success to provide youngsters with joy in a spiritual setting.

Brian Thompson, chairman of the CYO/Camp Howard board of directors, said the values are shaped for a new generation that is flooded with information and needs ways to make sense of the world.

“The core values are tangible things you can hang your hat on,” Thompson said.

When it comes to offering Christ, Thompson said a direct approach will scare many people away. “You need to build it into activities and meet them on their terms,” he said. “What is going to be able to reignite that fire?”

Thompson calls the core values “noble” and believes they’ll attract youths and parents alike.

Judy Winczewski, 2022 chair for the Champions of Faith annual fundraising dinner and involved in CYO since she was a child, said she likes the new tone. She describes it as making happy memories for kids under a Catholic umbrella. She appreciates that Camp Howard is frequented by women religious and priests. She loves that each CYO competition begins with prayer and a statement of Christian values and has witnessed CYO remove coaches who do not live up to them.

Winczewski said CYO and Camp Howard form a community of parents who see each other at Mass, games and benefit dinners, becoming friends across parish lines.

CYO has a powerful effect on one’s connection to Catholicism, said Joe Pisaneschi, who has played, coached, refereed and donated to CYO for decades. He believes that the organization has kept him in the church.

“I like the direction CYO and Camp Howard are going,” Pisaneschi said. “I firmly believe they will be around for another 75 years.”

Pisaneschi, 60, sits on the CYO basketball commission, is an announcer for CYO track meets and volunteered this summer at Camp Howard.

As for community, he’s still friends with half the players from his fourth grade CYO football team. Pisaneschi’s communal dreams for CYO trend toward inclusion. He’d like to see more public school students get involved, both Catholics and non-Catholics.

“My attitude is, the more the merrier,” he said.

Pisaneschi thinks CYO helps young people of all kinds develop confidence and a work ethic. Part of that is the notion that effort and growth surpass winning.

“You walk onto the court in CYO and of course you want to win, but you realize it’s a game,” said Pisaneschi, a rubber mill worker and member of St. John the Baptist Parish in Milwaukie. “Two minutes after the game you are shaking hands and laughing. CYO taught me that.”

Pisaneschi is a big fan of the core value of joy, which he has witnessed in CYO’s popular basketball leagues for high school students, kids who are not on their school teams but adore the sport.

“I love seeing the kid who is out of shape, playing and trying and making an effort and huffing and puffing up the court,” said Pisaneschi. “If CYO can inspire him to stay off the Play Station and go out for track in the spring, that’s all the better.”

He beholds amazing examples of sportsmanship during CYO contests. Some children in the youngest leagues help opponents score a hoop. “You won’t see that anywhere but CYO,” he said.


Core values for CYO/Camp Howard

Spiritual Growth – inspiring a desire to become more like Jesus Christ in faith, obedience and behavior, experiencing his unconditional love.

Community – establishing friendships, strengthening cooperation and teamwork together with creating a stronger faith community all built on trust and respect for others.

Confidence – believing that you are valued as a person who, through trying new activities, can overcome your fears to do your best.

Leadership – developing personal responsibility, discipline and commitment in both words and actions, gaining the trust and respect of others.

Joy – having fun by experiencing a variety of activities with friends as well as the deeper fulfillment in building new skills and social connections.