Rough and tumble faith: Rugby team tough but impactful way to evangelize

January 1, 0001

The Arrows Rugby Football Club organized a high school rugby team of players from St. Pius X, St. Thomas and Strake Jesuit College Preparatory high schools that played on Easter Monday April 2 in a match against New York’s Fordham. Photo courtesy of Arrows Rugby Football Club.

HOUSTON — Blake Pellerin can be considered a dedicated evangelist, especially when he is playing with the Arrows Rugby Football Club in what may be the only men’s rugby club in the nation that is Catholic in mission and purpose.

Personally playing rugby for 16 years after learning the sport at St. Thomas High School, Pellerin said, “I have never felt as joy-filled in the game as I am in playing for the Arrows. Our patron Saint, St. Sebastian, is a perfect example of the unapologetic evangelizing upon which Christianity was founded.”

Originally a Roman soldier, Sebastian was responsible for converting many Romans to Christianity so Emperor Diocletian unsuccessfully attempted to execute him by tying him to a tree and shooting him full of arrows.

“St. Sebastian was a martyr of evangelization in an anti-Christian world to be sure,” Pellerin said.

In addition to taking a knee to pray before family-friendly games, the Arrows also abide by the club’s Code of Conduct that includes “I will seek to glorify our Lord with my words and actions both on and off the field…” and “I will speak kindly about women and their inherent dignity as daughters of Christ.”

Rugby is a form of football played between two teams of 15 members each in which the play is continuous without time-outs or substitutions. Interference and forward passing are not permitted, but the game features kicking, dribbling, lateral passing and tackling.

Although not required to be Catholic to be on the team, about two-thirds are practicing Christians and half of those are Catholic, Pellerin said.

“The bottom line is that inflicting pain is not part of the game as we play it today. We ask all players to abide by our Code of Conduct,” he said.

The Arrows play in the Red River Rugby Conference’s Division 3 governed by the USA Rugby, the national governing body of the sport. While they play against teams around the Houston area and travel to Galveston throughout the regular season, their season finale men’s match was scheduled for April 21 against the Kingwood Crusaders rugby club at St. Pius X High School’s Kubiak Field. But then they start up their abbreviated summer schedule that runs mid-May through late July with the regular season starting back up in September.

“The heat and hard Texas ground can be pretty brutal! But it’s an excellent way to stay fit,” Pellerin said.

He and his team members are also helping to organize a high school rugby team formed with players from St. Pius X, St. Thomas and Strake Jesuit College Preparatory. The combined high school team recently played its first game at the St. Pius X Kubiak Field on Easter Monday , April 2 against Fordham Preparatory School from Bronx, N.Y. The inaugural game went to Fordham Prep 28-10.

“As a team sport where unity and sacrifice of self-interest are required to win a game, it’s an excellent means to share the good news of Jesus and His Church,“ Pellerin said, “while focusing on enriching our own relationships with God, which we all absolutely need!”

An engineering consultant by trade, he and his wife are parishioners at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, where he is talking with administration about starting up a school team there.

“I’m hoping we’ll get that started in the next couple of years,” Pellerin said.

For the schedule and more information on the team, visit