From swinging ‘fore’ vocations to outright pitching it

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Screenshot from DC Padres' YouTube video. The team plays local youth and young adults to promote vocations.

Catholics around the Phoenix Diocese may be somewhat used to taking a swing for vocations. The East Valley SERRA Club hosted its seventh annual Golf for Vocations Thursday — a sellout event that raised more than $11,000 for the diocesan vocations office. The Archdiocese of Washington is outright pitching vocations. The DC Padres, a team with priests and seminarians filling the roster, are playing St. Mary’s Ryken High School this weekend.

The local auxiliary bishop will throw out the first pitch. FYI, Phoenix’s auxiliary bishop threw out the first pitch on Xavier College Preparatory’s new softball field during a dedication ceremony in March.

The DC Padres — not to be confused with San Diego’s major league team — did well in their first two games last fall. The Padres beat Bowie All Stars 5-4; the opposing team was high school and college players. Someone decided the second game against a high school could ending in a 10-run tie.

Clearly, the aim was more about promoting religious vocations as something ordinary people pursue than it was about about following every rule of baseball. The team’s website has 18 links to vocation-related videos, essays and other resources.

Here are some video highlights from the DC Padres’ first game:

And a recap from YouTube:

During the “third inning stretch,” Fr. Carter Griffin, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Washington and vice rector of the new Blessed John Paul II Seminary, spoke to the crowd about vocations to the priesthood. “Serving souls is demanding work but incredibly rewarding, and we are always looking for young men who may be called to this beautiful vocation.” Fr. Dave Wells (originally from Bowie) and Mount St. Mary’s seminarian Shaun Foggo (from Hyattsville) also spoke at the third inning stretch.

Seems to me that this weekend’s game would be a blast from the stands. Just feel sorry for the announcer trying to give a play by play: “Smith hits it to centerfield. Fr. Jones picks it up and throws it to Fr. ____.” An announcer at Most Holy Trinity had a similar struggle several years ago during a “Saints v. Sinners” basketball game. The school’s eighth-graders challenged local priests to a game, also to promote vocations.

Retired baseball player Mike Sweeny is organizing a Catholic baseball camp this July in San Diego. Read Catholic News Agency article. It will feature regular Scripture, Mass and confession.

Whatever the methods of vocations outreach — religious or secular — they seem to be working. The Archdiocese of Washington has 73 seminarians this year. Twelve of them are in their first college year. Another 11 are in their third year of theology.

In Phoenix, applications to the seminary doubled last year and regular discernment events and Holy Hours for vocations commonplace. Members of the diocese’s three Serra Clubs pray for increased vocations and affirm vocations daily. Phoenix currently has 24 seminarians.

Moe than 25 priests, six religious sisters and both bishops attended Phoenix’s Golf for Vocations tournament.

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