A showcase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life took a vastly different angle than usual at St. Teresa of Calcutta School in Adams County on a recent Friday night. The introduction of priests, seminarians and religious Sisters came not by way of an assembly with presentations, but rather through player introductions on the basketball court.
On April 8, the school hosted its inaugural “Crusader Cup” basketball game at its Conewago campus, pitting the “God Squad” team of area priests and seminarians from Mount St. Mary’s against the “Alley Oops” team of eighth-grade students.
The culmination of a weeks-long friendly rivalry between the teams, the event raised vocation awareness and funds for the school while bringing the community together for the competition, as well as live music, raffles, a food truck and a foul-shooting contest.
And since no lively basketball game is complete without cheerleaders, several Sisters of St. Joseph joined the Crusader cheerleaders in adding spirit from the sidelines.
St. Teresa of Calcutta School was established in 2017 from Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in New Oxford, Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Conewago and Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in McSherrystown.
Father Richard Lyons, pastor of Annunciation and associate pastor of the school, pitched the idea for the event. He told The Catholic Witness that the school where he grew up in the Archdiocese of Baltimore held a similar game each year, and he thought St. Teresa of Calcutta School could benefit from it, too.
“It definitely adds a different dimension to priesthood and religious life – a human dimension the students don’t often get to see,” he said of the game.
Weeks of friendly banter with the eighth-grade team preceded the game, with the “smack talk” being mostly one-sided from the students.
“We had a bit of back-and-forth,” said Father Lyons.
During Mass the day of the game, Father Keith Carroll, pastor of Immaculate Conception, offered prayers for both teams, that the players would have a safe game, and that the best team would win.
Prior to tip-off, Father Michael Rothan, who works in Hispanic ministry in the Hanover area, spoke about vocations, and reminded the students and parents of God’s particular call for each one of them.
The game was spirited from the get-go. The crowd that filled the bleachers carried signs and pompoms and cheered as both teams ran onto the court through lines of cheerleaders. Father Dwight Schlaline, pastor of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Conewago and executive pastor of the school, supported both teams from the “God Squad” bench.
The team of priests and seminarians won the inaugural game, 51-44. Principal Laura Mull presented the God Squad with the Crusader Cup, created, along with a runner-up trophy, from the school’s 3D printer.
“Everyone’s been very excited and enthusiastic for this, and we’ve had a great turn-out,” Father Lyons said, “It’s just a great way for people to see us in a different way.”
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness