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Seminarians, students hoop it up

It was a seat-clenching and eye-opening game for students.

The St. John Vianney Theological Seminary men went head-to-head with the Bishop Machebeuf High School students in a Catholic All-Star Basketball game Oct. 25 at the Denver school.

“We all got together for the love of sports and God,” said seminarian Joe McLagan.

The game between the seminarians and high school students was held during Machebeuf’s end-of-day pep rally.

In the first period, the Seminarians led the Machebeufs but the score was tied 8 to 8 before the buzzer rang. A series of steals and masterful layups had the teams neck and neck for the win before the Machebeufs closed the game at 26 over the Seminarians’ 23.

From the stands, junior Joseph La Rosa said, “I thought it was great to see the two schools come together to play.”

The game raised school spirit and introduced the seminarians to the students. Cheerleaders led the crowd in chants and prayers were said together.

“Pray for these seminarians that one day they may be your priests,” Father Jim Crisman, coach for the seminarians, said to students lining the gymnasium bleachers.

The game was the first of its kind in the Denver Archdiocese meant to promote vocations and discernment while showing students that seminarians, and priests, are real people.

“I want students to see seminarians as normal guys,” said Father Crisman, who is also the director of the archdiocese’s Office of Vocations. “To also show these guys are fun, they’re interesting, they’re athletes and some are not.”

Some students may see religious or priests and be unaware of what a vocation means or feel uncertain about approaching them. Father Crisman said the world gives a message about vocations that is contrary to the truth.

“The world preaches these guys are not normal. It’s not a natural life. Correct. They’re living a supernatural life,” he said after the game. “And supernatural life looks like a wonderful option.”

Heidi Grandon, a senior at Machebeuf who played on the team, said jokingly she didn’t think the seminarians would be in shape, but was impressed at the challenge of the game.

“I think this showed vocations aren’t boring,” she said. “I think it’s still a normal life, but a life given to God.”

All high school juniors in archdiocesan schools are required to attend FOCUS 11, a retreat to introduce them to vocations and religious life. Several students said attending a Catholic school has helped them learn more about vocations.

“My freshman year was spent learning all about priests and religious,” said player Connor Vaughn, a Machebeuf senior who had attended public school.

Principal Jessie Skipwith said the game was “a wonderful way to show young people seminarians are just like them.”

The school works to increase exposure to vocations by weekly visits from St. John Vianney seminarians who help tutor and evangelize students. A religious sister and two consecrated men from the community of the Servants of Christ Jesus also work on campus, Skipwith said.

Introducing seminarians to the students is also a way to increase community and support, Father Crisman said.

“You cannot love who you do not know,” he said.

Playing on the Seminarian team was Kirby Longo, Matt Thomason, Blake Stork, Chris Considine, Nate Brachle, Matt Magee, Jacob Schneider and McLagan.

Representing the Machebeufs was students Mussie Gebremedhin, Torie Huddleston, Ciara McAdams, Thomas McCarty, Keara O’Toole, George Sandoval, Matt Timlin, Stephany Vazquez, Grandon and Vaughn.

Father Crisman said he hopes the Seminarians can play Holy Family High School students in Broomfield.

“I want them to know these are normal guys, generous guys and open guys who say ‘yes’ to the Lord,” he said.

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