Game between priests, TCA students teaches about sportsmanship, vocations
By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
The basketball season may be officially over, but the Iron Palace in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton, was far from quiet as priests from the Diocese took to the hardwood in a friendly but competitive game against TCA’s Iron Mikes.
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., was on hand to watch the game – which was also a motivator to teach students about vocations – and support his brother priests. All were greeted by a thunderous round of applause by both the Lower and Upper School students, many carrying signs of support for their school chaplain, Father Jean Felicien, parochial vicar in Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton.
“I’m so happy to be here with my God Squad, and I can’t wait to see how they do today!” Bishop O’Connell said before leading the students in prayer.
Photo Gallery: Priests vs. pupils at TCA
Father Felicien was part of the team that also included: Father Christopher Picollo, pastor St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Burlington; Father Michael Wallack, priest-secretary to Bishop O’Connell and diocesan director of vocation recruitment; Father John Michael Patilla, parochial vicar of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel and chaplain in St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel; Father Augusto Gamalo, parochial vicar of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Hamilton Square; Father Daniel Kirk, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Cinnaminson, and Father Gregg Leo Abadilla, parochial vicar of St. Clement Parish, Matawan.
The God Squad did well against the Iron Mikes, who were the eventual victors with a score of 29-26. Each slam dunk and three-point shot earned by the priests or the Iron Mikes elicited a roar of cheers from the students.
“I didn’t know priests had those kinds of moves!” a third-grade student exclaimed.
“I think God probably gave the priests some extra strength,” third-grader Germaine Bryson said.
His classmate Jadin Perez wasn’t so sure. “I didn’t think the priests were going to do that good because the varsity team has more experience, and they’re taller. A lot taller.”
Regardless of the score, both students and priests said they enjoyed the game.
“I am happy we’re all still here and we’re all still walking,” Father Picollo joked, adding, “It’s always fun to interact with the students. Yes, we’re priests, but we also like to have fun and it’s good for the kids to see that.”
Father Felicien agreed. “We’re here to promote vocations but to also show them that we can have fun together and to give them a little insight into what our lives are like.”
Father Abadilla was please to take part in another God Squad game in December when he and a group of brother priests played a half-court game against students from St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel.
“I am glad to participate in the vocation campaign. Its’ good for the kids to see that priests are normal people, too. We like to have fun and it’s great to be able to share in the moment,” said Father Abadilla.
Father Gamalo, who will begin his new appointment as TCA chaplain for the 2018-2019 school year, paused for a moment after the final buzzer. “We played half-court last time,” he joked.
The Iron Mikes also enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the exhibition game.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me,” Upper School senior Rodrique Massenat said. “It was nice to be able to talk to Bishop O’Connell about the priesthood. He mentioned maybe one day I’ll be wearing [a collar].I don’t know. Maybe.
“The game was fun, and the message behind it is important,” continued Massenat, a parishioner in Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony, Hamilton. “It speaks volumes that they came out to play.”
Bishop O’Connell was also pleased with the way his priests fared against the Iron Mikes of TCA. “I’m proud of these guys. They exceeded my expectations.”[[In-content Ad]]