UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Rev. John Joseph Mastandrea stands outside of Toronto City Hall. Photo by Merle Robillard

‘We’ll be a spiritual presence.’

With the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games starting July 10, Metropolitan United’s Rev. John Joseph Mastandrea worked alongside other religious leaders to develop a multifaith centre in the Pan Am Village, where they’ll serve competing athletes.

By Erica Lenti

On plans for the centre: We’re providing for people who are Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim — of all denominations. We’re attentive to differences in faith. For example, for those who are Muslim, to have visual images in the centre would be offensive. So if we had a cross, we’d bring it in for the [Christian] service and take it away.

The idea is to have structured and unstructured time. There will be formal services, but we’ll also just be a spiritual presence in the Pan Am Village.

On the importance of a spiritual area for athletes: Some people are people of faith, and some aren’t. But for the people of faith to have a place away from the business, away from the tension of training, to connect with what faith may be for them, to find what I call a “quiet centre” is of utmost importance.

One can only imagine the stress one has when competing in these games. It’s all about connecting with the inner core of sport and the inner core of spirit, and doing the best you can. And being far away from home, and away from their culture and language, it’s reinstating what is a norm for an athlete.

On nurturing body, mind and spirit: I’ve been working out religiously — pardon the pun — for over 28 years. It has less to do with looking muscular and more with my own core. I always feel better when I work out; the blood gets pumping and for me, that’s connected to my spirit. [Part of working out] is really about connecting with the athletes and being able to understand them.

I’m also a chaplain at 51 Division [a police station in Toronto], and that’s where I work out. My role at the multifaith centre will be somewhat similar to my work at the station. There, I don’t come as a Christian chaplain but rather as a presence, because some people may be atheist or agnostic or Buddhist. I’ve had spiritual discussions sitting on a workout bench with disco music playing in the background.

On the intersection of faith and sport: Historically, the Olympics were very much about competing for the gods in ancient Greece. Even the film Chariots of Fire is about an Olympian faced with a moral dilemma: whether or not to compete on the Lord’s Day.

Body, mind and spirit are so connected. Our body is God’s temple. Athletics is as much about competition as about doing your best at that moment in time — that has so much to do with your spirit, and likely your relationship with God. 

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image


David Wilson%


by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image


July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots


June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.


June 2017


by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.


June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.


April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart


March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image