Priests, seminarians set to square off in third annual JP2 Classic

Despite scoring 45 points including some layups in the 2016 JP2 Clasic, the seminarians, playing as the “Phoenix Sons,” fell short by five points against priests of the Diocese of Phoenix. Seminarians hope to win this year. (Jesus Valencia/MEDIA MINISTRY)
Third Annual JP2 Classic

When: 7-9:30 p.m., Aug. 4

Where: Xavier College Preparatory, 4710 N. Fifth St.

Cost: $5; CLICK HERE to purchase tickets online

CLICK HERE for more information, or call (602) 354-2005 or e-mail mgonzal@diocesephoenix.org

A group of seminarians and priests from the diocese will be looking to score points for God not by a sermon or acing a test but by competing with one another on the basketball court next month.

The Church Fathers (parish priests) and the Phoenix Sons (the seminarians) will settle the 1-1 tie in the third annual John Paul II Classic at the Xavier College Preparatory gym Friday, Aug. 4 in a matchup that is as much about the game as it is about outreach to future priests. Young men considering a life of religious service are encouraged to attend the game, which will tip off at 7 p.m.

The players will be as serious about the competition as they will about discussing vocations, according to Fr. Timothy Seavey, a past seminarian player who will suit up for the priests this year.

“It shows seminarians and priests as real men through athletic competition. A lot of people think priests just walk around with their hands folded, praying. It’s a great witness to what the priesthood is.”

Diocesan vocations director Fr. Paul Sullivan leads the opening prayer at the beginning of the 2016 JP2 Classic. (Jesus Valencia/MEDIA MINISTRY)

Ian Wintering, a seminarian who organized the first game two years ago, noted there are some talented players among the group. And while the game is meant to be fun, each side will be serious about winning. “There’s those of us who do practice. We’ll meet together and talk strategy, we’ll go over different plays.”

The game will be followed immediately by an ice cream social, where those in attendance can mingle with the seminarians and priests and ask questions about the priesthood and vocations. Wintering said the personal approach allows young men an easy bridge to asking serious questions about the life of a priest and what seminary involves. The conversations can lead to further discussions as well, pointed out Fr. Seavey.

“We pick them out, ask them if they want to have coffee some time,” he said.

This year’s event will feature a few new wrinkles, noted Gary Wintering, Ian’s father and an organizer of the 2017 game.

“Instead of selling T-shirts, we’re going to do a T-shirt launch into the stands,” he said. Hot dogs will again be sold during the game.

The priests of the Diocese of Phoenix, playing as the “Church Fathers” won the 2016 JP2 Classic against the diocese’s seminarians. (Jesus Valencia/MEDIA MINISTRY)

The event also is a fundraiser for the diocese’s vocations office.

The Xavier gym holds about 1,000 spectators, and Gary Wintering said the game is expected to be a sellout. Tickets are $5 and available online.

Fr. Seavey said he believes the priests have the talent and experience to take the win, but there’s added incentive for the seminarians this year after falling to the priests 50-45 in 2016.

“The seminarians need prayers to win,” Ian Wintering said.

And yes, both sides admit there will probably be some good-natured trash-talk on the court between the teams as they compete.

“Yeah, sure,” said Gary Wintering. “The players are having fun. (But) there’s certainly
some moments of intense competition.”