Denver priests win first Colorado Priests Softball Game

Mark Haas

When shortstop Fr. Darrick Leier stepped to the plate in the first inning with the bases loaded, the former college athlete knew he had a chance to do something big.

“They were all playing way in, they were trying to feel everyone out to see how they could hit and I knew if I could get a decent one there it would go over their heads… and that’s what happened,” Fr. Leier said.

Fr. Darrick Leier hits a grand slam

Fr. Leier’s first inning grand slam was just the start of a big night for the bats of the Denver priests, as they outslugged the Colorado Springs/Pueblo priests 23-12 on Friday, July 15 in the first Colorado Priests Softball Game.

“You know we prayed hard before we showed up tonight…I bet they did too, so it couldn’t have been that,” said left fielder Fr. Mike Rapp with a laugh. “We were swinging for the fences, taking chances, a lot of hustle out there.”

The Denver team scored five runs in each of the first two innings (the max per inning), and when the Springs/Pueblo team made a rally in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Denver priests answered back with five more runs in the sixth inning to put the game out of reach.

“It was a nice break from the parish life and it was good to be with priests and the people of God,” said pitcher Fr. Nick Thompson. The game was played at the Colorado Sky Sox minor league stadium in Colorado Springs with over 700 fans in attendance at the inaugural event.

“They were doing the wave, cheering loud, and we heard some chants back and forth,” said Fr. Rapp.

Security Service Field (Colorado Springs)

The game was friendly, but also competitive. There was plenty of scoring, some highlight-reel catches in the field and only a couple of pulled hamstrings.

“I hope that everyone enjoyed seeing their priest in a different atmosphere,” said outfielder Fr. Scott Bailey. “So many people only see their priest at Mass and it is a formal setting, so to see us engaging each other – I hope they saw the human side of us that they sometimes might not get to see.”

The game was put on by the Catholic Radio Network to benefit and promote vocations.

“I think it is helpful for everyone to see the humanity of the priests, just like it is important for us to encounter the humanity of Jesus Christ,” said center fielder Fr. Ryan O’Neill, the Director of Priestly Vocations for the Archdiocese of Denver.

“If Jesus Christ is just this distant deity who is far away but we don’t have a personal relationship with him it is hard to engage your Catholic life,” said Fr. O’Neill. “But if you encounter the humanity of Jesus – he had a family, he wept, he was sad, he was happy, he slept, he ate, he worked – then you realize he is a human you can relate to, and the same thing with priests.”

Fr. O’Neill said that to see a priest playing sports, cheering for a teammate, hitting a home run, striking out and in general just having fun will hopefully make some people look at the priesthood in a new way.

“We don’t just sit around in an office all the time, working on sacramental records,” Fr. O’Neill said. “We like to live life to the fullest and that means having moments of fun and recreation and spending time with each other. So those things are a good opportunity for the world to see our joy, that when we are having fun they may say ‘wow, hey maybe the priesthood isn’t all doldrums.’”

And while the Denver priests walked away the winners this year, they say the event was a success regardless of the final score.

“We do it all for the Glory of God,” said Fr. Leier. “God has given us human bodies and free will and to use it for his glory is awesome!”

Archdiocese of Denver Roster:

Fr. Scott Bailey / Risen Christ
Fr. Darrick Leier / St. Clare of Assisi – Edwards
Fr. Ivan Monteiro / St. Thomas More
Fr. Joe McLagan / Holy Family High School
Fr. Ryan O’Neill / Director of Priestly Vocations
Fr. Mike Rapp / Casa Santa Maria
Fr. Roberto Rodriguez / Ascension
Fr. Ron Sequeira / St. Frances Cabrini
Fr. Nick Thompson / St. Rose of Lima
Fr. Chris Uhl / Holy Ghost
Fr. Brady Wagner / Formation Adviser
Fr. Jason Wunsch / St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Fr. Eric Zegeer / Risen Christ
Fr. Joseph Toledo (coach)/ St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

PHOTO GALLERY:

COMING UP: The priesthood is more than just a job

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In October, the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region will be held at the Vatican. On the agenda: a discussion on the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood in that region, due to a particularly dire lack of vocations. The news has reawakened discussion on priestly celibacy in general, and whether the time has come to relax the requirement on a wider level. And so, I figured it was time to revisit the subject here, as well.

To set the tone, I’d like to begin my discussion with a very short quiz:

Q: Why does the Roman Catholic Church require lifelong celibacy for ordained priests?

  1. Because sex is bad, dirty and evil, and our priests should not defile themselves;
  2. Because we don’t want to have to support priests’ families out of collection funds;
  3. None of the above; or
  4. Both of the above.

The correct answer would be C, none of the above.

So why, then? Why on earth would these men have to give up the possibility of marriage and children, just because they want to serve God as priests?

Priestly celibacy is a discipline of the Church, not a doctrine. It could change. The rule has already been relaxed in relation to married Episcopalian priests who convert to Catholicism. In this era of widespread priest shortages, and even wider-spread scandals, should we consider expanding that exemption, and remove the requirement of priestly celibacy entirely? Wouldn’t a married priesthood encourage more men, and perhaps healthier men, to respond to the call of God?

Perhaps. But at what cost?

Discussions about the elimination of priestly celibacy are not new. They’ve been around as long as priestly celibacy itself. One of the periods of particularly spirited discussion on the subject was in the late 1960’s. In response, Pope Paul VI wrote an encyclical entitled Sacerdotalis Caelibatus. In it, he explained the reasons for the Church’s long history of priestly celibacy, and he enumerated three “significances,” or reasons, for the tradition:

Christological: The priesthood isn’t just a job. It is a state of being. It encompasses his entire existence. It places a mark on his soul — a mark that will follow him into eternity. The priest is ordained by a bishop, who was ordained by a bishop, who was ordained by another bishop, in an unbroken chain that goes clear back to the apostles. And through that sacramental ordination, and the power and grace it conveys, the priest stands in persona Christi —  in the person of Christ. He has the power to consecrate the Eucharist — to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. He can forgive sins.  And so, standing in the person of Christ, the priest seeks to be like him in all things. He imitates Christ’s life, which includes Christ’s celibacy.

But, you say, Christ also had a beard. Does the priest have to imitate that, too? How far do we have to take this whole imitation thing? Well, the question we must ask is: What was integral to Christ’s ministry? Was celibacy integral? What would it look like if Christ had married and had children? He would have had to work to support them. He would have had to provide them a home.  No iterate preaching, moving from town to town. Jesus was not going to be an absentee husband and father. It was the freedom of celibacy that allowed him to give himself totally to the service of the Father and the Father’s children. So yes, I’d say it was integral. The beard, not so much.

Ecclesiological:  This basically means it is about the Church. Our understanding of a priest is not that he’s a single guy, a bachelor. He, like Christ, is in fact “married” to the Church. You’ve heard all that talk about how the Church is the “bride of Christ.” We really believe that. And the priest, standing in persona Christi, likewise becomes the Bridegroom, giving his life for the Church, and especially for the part of the Church he serves. He doesn’t just offer his “workday” to us, the flock.  He offers his life. He serves us as a husband serves his wife. (And we the faithful, as good “wives”, should likewise be going out of our way to love and care for our priests.)  His attention and affections are not divided between his bride, the Church, and an earthly bride and family. He has far greater freedom than a married man — freedom to not only serve his flock, but to pray and meditate and to grow closer to the Christ whom he represents on this earth. Which then prepares him for further service to the flock.

Eschatological: This means it’s about the next life. Remember my last column, about the Poor Clare Sisters who make the radical choice to live this life as if were already eternal life, focusing only on Christ? Well, priests participate in that too. Scripture says that, in Heaven, we will neither marry nor be given in marriage. (Mt 22:30) Priests and consecrated religious foreshadow that here, reminding us that everything that happens in this life is just a prelude to the life to come.

And so, for all of these reasons, I oppose the wholesale elimination of the requirement of priestly celibacy. I realize that we already have exceptions. I know several of those “exceptions,” and I think they are wonderful people and wonderful priests. But I think they would acknowledge the difference between the exception and the rule, and that the loss of priestly celibacy would change our understanding of the character and charism of the priesthood. The priesthood would be increasingly perceived as just another career choice — one to be entered and left at will.

And whatever the priesthood may be, it is definitely not just another job.

Featured image by Josh Applegate on Unsplash