A Love for Sports and Faith

Have you ever met a senior visionary that was able to bring together his two loves of sports and faith to his university’s campus?

Senior sports management major Jesser Boulnemour is the former starting kicker for the Griffins football team and a current defenseman on the soccer team. For him, it was a game of persistence, patience and simply faith that brought FCA to Seton Hill University. In what will be their fourth year at Seton Hill University (SHU), Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) has made great strides.

Before coming to SHU, Boulnemour attended Western Michigan University and was actively involved in FCA and sports.

Boulnemour found out about FCA when he was in high school, stating, “I had an intern in my gym class who ended up being one of my football coaches, and he brought FCA to my high school. It was cool to see how much bigger it is in Pennsylvania than my hometown of Michigan.”

After meeting Griffins head coach Isaac Collins, he said, “He was a big man of faith, and we kind of worked together to get some sort of sports ministry here at SHU. With both of our knowledge of FCA, we kind of focused in on it and made it happen.”

Collins ironically hired FCA Chaplain, Denny Hyland, that same day for their football bible studies. This was the starting point of Hyland and Boulnemour’s work to expand the movement towards different teams, players, students and coaches on campus.

“After about 10 minutes of meeting Jesser I can remember clearly him telling me that he was going to lead FCA at his previous school the year before he transferred over to SHU,” said Hyland, a Penn Trafford alumni. “Once he told me that, I knew right away that this was God’s plan coming together.”

Since bringing FCA to Seton Hill, there are now weekly “huddles” or meetings that usually have about 50 students attending each week. One might notice the signs of FCA in the halls on campus and may have even been to an event, whether it was an actual weekly session, an ice cream social or the latest guest speaker – Landry Jones, quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL – just last week.

Boulnemour said that the overall goal of FCA on campus here is to, “Help people’s relationships with Christ grow through sports. One thing we hope to grow in is our group of people who are Christian athletes and aren’t afraid to say it.”

Over the next few semesters, FCA hopes to bring in more community involvement and awareness about their program through supporting missionary trips and different sporting camps for our youth in today’s society.

“Since FCA has started here on campus, we’ve come in contact with over 300 students through our many different outlets,” said Boulnemour.

Although FCA is geared toward athletes, anyone is welcome to attend the meetings, regardless if they participate in a sport or not.

“I remember when FCA was only for athletes and I used to get so frustrated because I would hear the feedback about the messages from my friends and I would want to be there,” said Raven Murphy, a senior computer science major and forensic science minor. “When it became open to the whole campus I was excited because that was a missing piece for me in college.”

Another aspect of FCA includes active work outside of SHU and in different communities. Boulnemour’s favorite part of FCA is, “Being able to go to camps in the summer and see 50+ athletes from all different levels of schools doing the same thing we are doing here at SHU.”

While Boulnemour is going to pursue his MBA after graduation, he looks forward to continuing his contributions with FCA in some way, shape or form.

“Whether I’ll be a full time employee, or a part time employee, or maybe just lead a huddle somewhere. I’m honestly unsure if I’ll be in Pa. or not, but I will definitely look to continue FCA after I graduate my undergrad,” said Boulnemour.

For those who are interested, campus huddle meetings are held on Tuesday nights at 8:45 p.m. in Admin, for all student-athletes, coaches and even non-athletes.

Hyland encourages newcomers with open arms to experience it for themselves rather than simply hearing about it.
“Just come and plug into our huddles. Give it a few weeks to get a feel for what we do. At FCA we focus on playing for an audience of One,” said Hyland.

In addition, women studies are held on Thursday nights at 8:45 p.m. in the new campus ministries room located in Maura Hall, which is for all women athletes as well as non-athletes. These sessions unlike the football and campus-wide huddle meetings led by Hyland, are actually led by Haley Morgan an Elementary Education (PreK-4) and Special Education (K-8) major at SHU who is also a pitcher on the Lady Griffins softball team.

“Our women’s study came about a year after FCA became a campus-wide ministry,” said Morgan. “We realized that the women on our campus needed a time away from the men to talk about what it meant to be a woman of God.”

The women’s study this past semester focused on the studybook Bold and Beautiful, which included topics of confidence, body image and control.

FCA gives those who attend an opportunity to develop spiritually by understanding how to incorporate their faith whether on the field and off.

“Knowing that our following of Christ isn’t something that can only happen at a Catholic university has really put into perspective of how many student athletes we can reach as an FCA family,” said Boulnemour.

60 years and counting, FCA has the same mission statement, “To present to coaches and athletes, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church” (https://www.fca.org/aboutus/who-we-are/vision-mission).

Boulnemour is a senior visionary who was able to bring together his two loves of sports and faith to his university’s campus.
If anyone wants more information on FCA or to get involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes, contact Jesser Boulnemour at
j.boulnemour@setonhill.edu. Or be sure to visit the FCA official Western Pennsylvania website: http://fcapittsburgh.com and even check out their twitter handle @FCA_SHU.

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