Jackie Anzivino has every reason to be a very proud mom. Her eldest son, Tony, is second in his sophomore class at Pinkerton Academy, runs track and plays guard for the JV State Champion Basketball Team, but it isn’t his scholastic or athletic achievements that make her beam with pride for her son. It is his declaration that all he does, he does for God.
Tony, a thoughtful, well-spoken young man, gives the credit for his steadfast faith to the example his mother sets for him, the solid foundation his Catholic school education provided, and the renewal he experiences attending Mass and Steubenville East Youth Conferences during the summer. Parable recently caught up with this busy family in their Derry, New Hampshire, home to talk about why Tony “runs for God.”
“Two years ago I went to Steubenville and it brought out a lot of different thoughts about God. I started thinking, ‘Why do I run?’ It’s what I love to do,” Tony says. “How can I make this something that I do for God? [I decided] that’s what I’ll do — all of my races — it’s not for me anymore. I’ll do it for God; for His plan.”
According to Tony, it was his mom who influenced him the most about God and what it means to keep a love for God the primary reason behind all of his choices and actions.
“Mom is the standout. She always wears a Holy Spirit necklace and she’s got a special relationship with Him,” he says. “The important thing is she hasn’t pushed me to love God. She’s showed me and let me experience it myself. Which I think is really special.”
Jackie, a part-time physical education teacher and Athletic Director at St. Catherine School in Manchester, admits her hands-off approach was a risk, but it definitely paid off.
Tony says that his peers, coaches, and teammates are all respectful of his faith (one coach holds his crucifix for him during races) and a few friends have even expressed their wish for a similar upbringing.
“One of my friends told me that he wished his parents had shown him a faith. He says he sees that it works for me!” Tony recalls. “I have a lot of friends who complain about having to go to church on Sundays but I don’t feel like that. It’s something I’ve grown up with and it’s become something important. It’s something that we need.”
There have been some challenges for Tony in high school, especially the initial transition from St. Thomas Aquinas School, which he attended through eighth grade, to the secular environment at Pinkerton Academy. Suddenly everyone he knew wasn’t Catholic and many of the students he met were making choices that Tony knew were not the right ones. It isn’t easy, as a teenager, to set oneself apart, especially by talking about God, but today Tony is very comfortable with his path. Despite what he sees other kids doing, he knows his motivation is different. “I love to play; I love the game. I just don’t want any part of drinking, drugs, or parties.”
One of the ways Tony centers himself and keeps his focus is with daily prayer. Tony gives thanks to God every day for what the day brought and he asks God to let people see Him through his example. He also uses the family’s weekly Mass attendance at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Derry as a chance to reflect on the larger picture.
“It keeps me on track. It gives me a chance to thank God for the week. I thank God at the end of every day for the good things that day,” Tony explains, “but church gives me a chance to look back and thank Him for the bigger things like my family and my abilities. God is the one who gave me the talents. I just try to use them.”
In addition to school and sports, Tony is an altar server at St. Thomas Aquinas, something he intends to keep up throughout high school. He also plans to attend more Steubenville East conferences in the future, this time with his younger brother Mitchel along. Beyond that, he is willing to let God point the way for him. A bright future awaits, but Tony is a young man alive to the present and the blessing it offers. “I don’t need to think about colleges yet,” he says, “I’m just a sophomore. I’m just enjoying the moment.”
Printed with permission from Parable, magazine for the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire.