It's a different kind of athletics.
When Al Vargo of Ransom Twp. decided to strengthen his Catholic faith in December of 2010, he decided to create a Facebook page so that he could meet other people on his journey.
"The page's name is 'Cathletics,' which is a merging of the words 'Catholic' and 'athletics,' he said. "St. Paul says that we need to stay strong and run the race to the end and that we need to strengthen our spiritual muscles to do that."
Since 2010, Cathletics has welcomed more than 1,150 fans from 20 different countries and, recently, was nominated as a finalist in Catholicism.About.com's Reader's Choice awards, where it finished second place overall.
Vargo explained that he researches all of his posts on trusted Catholic websites, such as the EWTN television network and various Catholic theologians, so that they are in line with church teachings. He also includes notes on apologetics, which are defenses and explanations of the Catholic church, for people to learn more about why Catholics believe what they believe.
"The sources of my posts vary," he said. "I share many of them that I see online or on Facebook. For the notes on apologetics, I usually wait until the Holy Spirit inspires me with a topic, then research it on respected and trusted apologetics websites for material, and then I try to write it in a common man sense that will show that teaching or topic in a clear way."
Vargo also sees his site as a way to instruct practicing Catholics about the basic tenets of their faith.
"I do try to at least get the lukewarm and cafeteria Catholics to see the beauty and fullness of what the church teaches and why," he said. "All I can do is lovingly show them why Christ teaches what he does through his church and hope that their minds and hearts are opened."
Vargo has also brought Cathletics off of the Internet and out into the real world, namely as a part of the Abingtons-based parish of Our Lady of the Snows/Church of St. Benedict.
"I print coloring sheets for children based on each Sunday or holy day's readings so the parents can help their children follow along with the Gospel," he said. "We put them in the family room at St. Benedict's church and I also share them on the Facebook page for our followers. I also have a small 'Praystation' box set up in the family room with free rosaries with instruction booklets for the kids."
While Cathletics has helped Vargo become even more convicted in his faith, he admits that its true role is to create a dialogue not just between Catholics but between people of all faiths.
"Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that there are not 100 people in America that hate the Catholic Church but that there are millions who hate what they think is the church," he said. "Social media can hopefully bring people together in understanding and dialogue. Through a website, Facebook or Twitter, a single evangelist can reach thousands of people that he never could have reached otherwise. Such communication can help to dispel misconceptions about our beliefs."
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/cathletics4u.