If you’re a basketball fan, then you know that the recent Priests vs. Seminarians basketball game was the big game of the season. Forget that Magic Johnson’s Lakers, with media favorite Lonzo Ball, just won the title in the Las Vegas Summer League. What’s more newsworthy, right here in the Diocese of Orange, is that the Seminarians finally took home the trophy in the third annual Priests vs. Seminarians basketball game, this after losing to the Priests for the last two years.
Some 500 fans came out to the main court at Mater Dei High School Friday evening, July 21, to cheer on their favorite priest, seminarian and parish as the two teams met in the center court at the Meruelo Athletic Center. A family with three little boys who sat just behind me in the bleachers had a sign that read “Go Priests” and the boys cheered for Fr. Brendan of St. Edward the Confessor throughout the game. And while the Seminarians had a significant early lead, by the end of the first quarter the Priests came back to tie the game and then to take the lead. Kudos go to announcer Caesar Mendoza who entertained the crowd as he called the game. Ultimately, the final score was Seminarians 76, Priests 64.
According to the Diocese of Orange Vocation Director Fr. John Moneypenny, last year’s event brought in about $7,000 that helped fund the education of seminarians. More than that, however, the game helped bring the clergy closer to their flock. Clad in basketball shorts, jerseys and court shoes, rather than their vestments, they seemed somehow a little more like the rest of us.
Prior to the game, when asked how the Priests prepared, Fr. Brendan joked, “We’ve been doing a novena in lieu of practice.” He added that just before showing up, “I had three sliders at the burrito truck and I’ve held off on all practice to save my energy, so we’ll see what happens!”
Young seminarian Ian Gaston said of the annual court contest: “It’s really to get exposure for the seminarians and, hopefully, to show some young guys in the crowd – young Catholic men – that, hey, being a priest is normal, and being a priest is cool. I’m going to be a human who does extraordinary things, veiled in sacramental rites.”
I’m thinking this annual game isn’t enough. Maybe the Priests and the Seminarians should have their own summer league, just like the NBA. I’d get in line to buy the season ticket package.