John Paul II Classic

Priest vs. Seminarian Basketball Tournament

When: 6:30 p.m., Aug. 5

Where: Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 7655 E. Main St., Scottsdale

Cost: Free, donations accepted to fund
seminarian tuition

What do a basketball tournament and a vocation to the priesthood have in common? They are both chances to create a “slam dunk” for the Lord.

Nowhere will the plays be more on fire than at the upcoming basketball tournament Aug. 5 between priests and seminarians of the Diocese of Phoenix, men who are afire for the love of God.

Ian Wintering, a seminarian from the Diocese of Phoenix and organizer of the event, explained the tournament will provide not only a great game, but also an excellent opportunity to promote awareness for vocations. “As a player, I’m really looking forward to the excitement of the game… but also as a seminarian, I’m really looking forward to young men being able to see another side of the priests and seminarians, this competitive, very masculine side of us,” Wintering said. “For them to realize that we’re men and we love to play basketball, we love to play sports, and for us to evangelize in that way is really awesome.”

Wintering proposed the idea of holding a basketball tournament in Phoenix after seeing the success of this event in another diocese.

“When the seminarians in Indiana showed me the promo video they made for their tournament, I got really excited and showed it to another seminarian from our diocese,” Wintering said. “We kind of came up with the idea of doing it for the Diocese of Phoenix as well, because we knew there were a lot of priests who are good at playing basketball.”

Fr. Matt Lowry, chaplain at Holy Trinity Newman Center at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and associate director of vocations, is one of those priests. “I’ve always enjoyed playing basketball and one of my fears when I entered seminary was that I’d never be able to play basketball again,” Fr. Lowry said. “What I learned from that is that God never takes anything good away but He only makes it better. I’ve actually been able to play basketball more than ever as a seminarian and now as a priest.”

Young men considering a vocation are especially encouraged to attend but everyone is welcome at the tournament, called the “John Paul II Classic”, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 5 in the gym at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Scottsdale. There is no admission fee but free-will offerings will be accepted and used to fund tuition for seminarians.

Fr. Lowry noted that basketball can be a powerful tool when trying to reach souls and evangelize.

“I know that on campus at Northern Arizona University through basketball, I have encounters with men who would never set foot in church but they’ll come play basketball,” Fr. Lowry said. “Maybe some young men will come to the tournament who love basketball but aren’t too open to God and maybe God will do something… Maybe God will touch their heart.”

Tournament participants will include 11 seminarians and nine priests, including Fr. Lowry, Vocations Director Fr. Paul Sullivan and Fr. Fernando Camou, the diocese’s newest priest.

Who will walk away with the glory? “I think the seminarians will come away with a narrow victory,” Wintering said. “We’re younger, we’re stronger and we’re faster. Although the priests do have good talent, we play basketball all the time in the seminary and we take it very seriously.”

However, Fr. Lowry had a different opinion. “It’s pretty certain that the priests with their wisdom and experience will take it easy on the seminarians, and they will show them who the better basketball players are,” Fr. Lowry said. “The seminarians have seen our signs of the Cross, now it’s time for them to experience our