Seminarian journeys from collegiate basketball competition to good, old camaraderie

| Matthew Davis For The Catholic Spirit | May 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

Chris Miller began his college journey playing NCAA Division III basketball for Augsburg College in Minneapolis. But his journey took a much different route than most student athletes.

He found a different and higher calling. Miller moved on from NCAA ball after one semester, but once a year, he joins his brother seminarians at St. John Vianney in the annual Priest-Seminarian Basketball Tournament at Guardian Angels in Chaska.

Miller helped the SJV team win this year’s tournament with victories over the St. Paul Seminary and the Priests of the Archdiocese at Guardian Angels School on April 29. He had 13 points in the 30-26 win over SPS.

“It’s nice to beat them because it turns out to be a bigger rivalry than most people realize,” Miller said. “Msgr. [Aloysius] Callahan doesn’t appreciate it when we win.”

Msgr. Callaghan, rector of SPS, said the team let SJV win, of course.

Although the priests and seminarians compete hard in the tournament, they ultimately look at it as an opportunity for camaraderie and promoting the seminaries and vocations.

“Here’s what makes a good game: nobody gets hurt, everyone has fun and success,” said Father Corey Rohlf, pastor of Holy Redeemer in Montgomery.

Although the priests had the advantage of a cameo appearance by Bishop Lee Piché, who made a pair of shots at the free throw line, they came up shy in the 30-27 contest.

“It’s good, healthy guys having fun together,” Father Rohlf said.

Father Rohlf has played in the tournament a couple of times, and he occasionally takes part in a men’s basketball league at St. Olaf College in Northfield. He joined 12 other priests from around the archdiocese to compete in the annual tournament.

The priests kept the game close, playing zone defense and forcing the seminarians to take outside shots, and never allowing the lead to go beyond six points.

Father Patrick Barnes pulled the priests within two points a couple of times by connecting on free throws. He also gave the priests the lead at 16-15 with a lay-up.

Then, Adam Isackson of SJV buried two of his three baskets from three-point range for a 21-16 SJV lead. He later nailed his third three-pointer for a 24-20 lead.

“Adam’s a good shooter,” Miller acknowledged.

The priests went on a 3-0 run with about a minute remaining to tie the game at 26-26. But, SJV iced the game at the free-throw line for the 30-27 win.

“It was fun, well-reffed and good sportsmanship,” Father Rohlf said about the game. “Vianney has an awesome team and good attitudes.”

The seminarians from SPS also gave SJV a close contest, 30-26. Aaron Schroers led SPS with 15 points, which helped SPS stay within eight points of SJV throughout the game.

Trailing 28-20 in the final five minutes, Nick VanDenBrocke sparked a rally for SPS with a steal, which lead to a basket. That started a 6-0 run for SPS.

Miller drove the lane and drew a foul in the final 30 seconds. He then nailed a pair of free throws, which sealed the game.

More than 150 people came out to watch the tournament at Guardian Angels, which tipped off the parish’s annual inter-parish basketball tournament. St. Mark in Shakopee took the inter-parish division for the third consecutive year, defeating St. John the Baptist in Excelsior.

“It’s a good, healthy rivalry,” Schroers said of the seminaries. “We don’t get to see each other much during the year, so it’s a great way to do so.”

Schroers spent three years at SJV before entering Theology I at SPS this year. Like Miller, Schroers began to feel a call to priesthood during his freshman year at Minnesota State-Mankato. He decided to transfer to the University of St. Thomas to discern God’s call.

The seminarians at SJV and SPS said the schools have deepened their faith and helped them discover God’s plan for their lives through study, prayer, community life, service and formation.

“Grow in your relationship with God, and He will tell you what he wants you to do,” Miller said.

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