Catholics are often known as peacemakers, but they’re also decent fighters, especially for causes that are close to their hearts.
It’s the latter that has taken Melissa Veselovsky, a parishioner at All Saints in Mesa, on a unique path over the last eight years. She went from campaigning to build and open the St. Peregrine Cancer Shrine at Christ the King Parish in Mesa to director of patient advocacy at Ironwood Cancer and Research Centers in Mesa — working under Dr. Chris Kellogg, an oncologist who is now also a deacon at Corpus Christi Parish in Ahwatukee — to a style of fighting that’s much more public.
She couldn’t be more thrilled. Veseolvsky is now a number one ranked Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter plus a world champion according to her age group and weight, all in just four years of the sport.
It didn’t come easily. Veselovsky said she never had natural athletic talent. She admitted to being the last one running cross country in high school. Through self-imposed extra training — guided by a coach — Veselovsky climbed to the top three runners in state by her senior year.
Now, she’s a valuable member of her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team. Veselovsky earned gold in her weight and silver in the absolute division during a tournament at Phoenix College Feb. 20. Her whole team, which includes two daughters and her husband among others, took third in Kids and first in Adults.
DeuSFight Company, a faith-based fightwear apparel company, sponsors the team. Each athlete has a strong Christian faith — so much so that Scripture passages are embroidered on the official uniform, the Gi — and has character rooted in God’s grace and integrity.
Veselovsky’s work out tank top bears Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron” and Scripture on her Gi reminds Veselvosky of the source of her strength. The children’s line is named for heroes of the Bible. One daughter fights in an Esther Gi with a Scripture from the Book of Timothy on a patch.
DeuSFight Company designs certain lines of clothing around social causes and charities and gives proceeds from those sales to charities, Veselovsky explained. “So from fighting for cancer patients, I am now evangelizing and fighting for Christ and His people in need.”
A charity tournament in January had her fighting to help her coach’s family. His wife and two children have an incurable disease that causes tumors to grow throughout the body. Proceeds from the tournament helped them with medical expenses.
“Just like we said when we built the cancer chapel, ‘We can’t change the outcome, but we can change the journey,’” Veselovsky said. “[His] Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu family will make sure that they are there to help carry their burdens.”
Veselovksy turned to this type of fighting after her husband and kids joined. She thought it’d be a good way to keep in shape. She’s now a blue belt and plans to eventually work her way up through purple, brown and then black, but it goes far beyond fitness. The mother of three stayed after finding just how much training and competing deepened her faith.
“It challenges your mind, your body and the spirit,” Veselvosky told The Catholic Sun an hour or two before a tournament match Feb. 20. She repeatedly mentioned the community spirit of competitors both on and off the mat.
“You have to be good to other people,” Veselovsky said. “People who are in it for themselves don’t last very long.”
“People that are strong in spirit give back to others. They live the Gospel in their words and their actions. They help others to be better,” Veselovsky said. “In jiu-jitsu, if you give of yourself to make others stronger, you become strong.”