Showers and the threat of storms did little to dampen the enthusiasm and attendance at the Men-in-Black sports event Thursday, July 11, hosted by the Vocations Office of the Diocese of Raleigh. The soggy field conditions altered the activity from a scheduled softball game to two simultaneous kickball games, affording the seminarians, college-aged men and high school students attending the event the opportunity to participate more fully.
One of the games matched a team of Diocesan seminarians against a team of students and young adults. The contest was spirited with the seminarians posting a 15-8 win, surprising some of the victors.
Christian Cook, who will be entering 2nd year Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia in August, said he thought the high school and college-aged team would have the advantage, given the fact they were younger. He said, he was pleased to see his “old knees hold out.”
Christian, who is assigned to St. Mary Parish in Laurinburg this summer, said it’s a wonderful experience. “It’s a pleasure to get to know the parishioners, who are so supportive to us through their financial support and especially their prayers,” Christian said. As far as returning to the seminary in a month, he added, “I’m looking forward to it. It will be my second year. Knowing the lay of the land and what to expect will be beneficial.”
Tim Ahn was another seminarian pleasantly surprised by the performance, not only of his teammates, but of himself. “I’m not an athlete,” Tim said. “I don’t know what happened out there, but I got into it and truly enjoyed it. This is a great opportunity for the guys to get together for some relaxation, especially in the Diocese, which is our spiritual home.
Tim, who will be entering 1st year Theology, is being assigned to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, along with fellow-seminarian Michael Schuetz. “I’m excited,” Tim said. “This will be a unique opportunity.”
Matthew McCullers, a rising junior at St. Thomas More Academy in Raleigh, was among the high school players who participated in the athletic outing. Matthew is involved in the Diocesan Quo Vadis program, coordinated by Fr. Ned Shlesinger, Diocesan Vocations Director. The program is geared to male high school students, designed to help them become a “virtuous Catholic man.”
“We gather once a month,” Matthew said, “have dinner and then talk about theological issues. As someone who has always attended Catholic schools, I know my faith, but find the sessions to be helpful in preparing me further to be able to talk confidently about my faith. “
Following the athletic activity, the players along with family members enjoyed a reception hosted by the Knights of Columbus. Twelve Diocesan seminarians were present along with four men who are entering the Diocesan formation program in August. Each introduced themselves to the gathering and two spoke of their experiences in seminary.
The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge acknowledged the presence of six priests who were able to be present for the “Men-in-Black” event. He expressed his gratitude to the people gathered and throughout the Diocese for their support of the Diocesan formation program, which makes it possible for the training of our future priests.
Addressing the young students, Bishop Burbidge said, “Keep your hearts open to God’s call. God wouldn’t call you to do something in which He would not provide you the support you need to fulfill it.” He encouraged them not to be intimidated if you hear His call. “Embrace it,” the Bishop said.
Fr. Shlesinger called the “Men-in-Black” event another opportunity to bring Vocations awareness to the people of the Diocese. “It’s also important for the faithful to get the opportunity to meet our seminarians. Many don’t get the chance to see them together and events as this provide that.”
Fr. Shlesinger said the Diocese is looking to create more opportunities like this for young men and their families to participate in and enjoy. Citing a statement from the Holy Father, Fr. Shlesinger said, “Family is a young man’s first seminary. It’s the primary place where vocations are formed.”
View Photo Gallery
Above: Seminarian Christian Cook delivering a kick in the “Men-in-Black” game pitting Diocesan seminarians against a team of high school students and college-aged men.
Below: Seminarians James McGee, Deacon Tom Duggan, Evan Waniewski, Christian Cook and Phil List watching the action.
Above: Seminarians, high school students and college-aged men who took part in the event with Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. Among the priests who attended and in the picture were Msgr. David D. Brockman, Fr. Ned Shlesinger, Fr. Scott McCue and Fr. Ryan Carnecer, CICM.
Below: Bishop Burbidge speaking to the gathering in the reception that followed the athletic event.