Epic Game 5 Coming Up as Priests and Seminarians Face Off in Basketball
Would anyone ever come to see a basketball game where priests play against seminarians? You bet your sweet rosary they would. At the inaugural event in 2017, an astonishing 2,600 spectators filled the stands at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School.
And an epic game No. 5 is coming up. On April 29, 2022, at 7 p.m., excited spectators will see the two holy sides face off at Rice University’s Tudor Fieldhouse, where seating can accommodate 5,900.
Lifelong athlete Fr. Preston Quintela of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. John the Apostle founded the annual game along with several others who had the vision and determination to see this event reach its fullest potential. The game is run by the Office of Vocational Discernment through the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston with Fr. Richard McNeillie as its director.
Fr. Preston plays for the priest team known as the Martyrs.
“This year is an epic game because it’s sort of a tie-breaker,” Fr. Preston said. “You see, priests won the trophy the first two years, and seminarians (no name for their team) won the last two years, so this game could suggest dominance.”
A win by the seminarians could send a message that the priests are starting to get a little long in the dribble, which is to say they are getting older.
The 43-year-old Preston admitted, “It’s going to be a challenge this year. Gravity is setting in. Our most senior player is 56. But we do have a few recently ordained players who could make a difference.”
Priests Are Athletes Too
What inspired the yearly game was two-fold. First, priests who are athletes still enjoy physical sports and want to keep it in their lives. But primarily, Fr. Preston saw it as a way to humanize the priesthood further and be more relatable to young people who “hear the calling.”
“At a game, they are not seeing us inside a church or on a hospital visit or in an office. Instead, we’re driving the ball, shooting hoops and getting fouls called on us. We want people to see that we are simple men who have struggles like everyone else who is seeking Christ. We would hope that people are uplifted by this recognition and pray for their priests.
Exciting Competition for the Whole Family
The 11 members of the Martyrs team represent multiple religious orders, and each publicizes the games through their parishes as exciting fun for the entire family. Attendance is amazingly multi-generational, and the language is fit for the tenderest young ears.
“At the 2020 game, it was down to the wire, neck-and-neck,” Fr. Preston recalled. “The crowd was so loud. We couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I knew it was all clean. And if the crowd had been listening, they would have heard us fervently requesting, ‘St. Sebastian, please make this ball go into the hoop!’”
Fr. Preston says it is remarkable to experience the beginning of a game that starts with prayer. And at the end of the game, he calls it extraordinary to see more than 2,000 people making the sign of the cross as they come onto the court to greet the players.
Remembering and Honoring Fr. Ryan Stawaisz
The April 29 game will honor a cherished priest and player, Fr. Ryan Stawaisz. He passed away due to cancer diagnosed right before he was ordained in 2019.
How to Get Tickets and Cheer for the Teams
Ticket sales begin on March 19. They range from $4 to $90 and can be purchased here. So, how close to the action do you want to be?
Proceeds will be used to pay for the venue. Any remaining funds will go to the Office of Vocational Discernment.
And what does the winning team get?
“A trophy and bragging rights for a year,” Fr. Preston grinned.
UST & St. Mary's Seminary in Houston
Since 1968, the Theology Department of St. Mary’s Seminary has served as the Graduate School of Theology at the University of St. Thomas.